In the course of all of my liberal arts studies I never have taken a course in art appreciation. I would like to though. That’s all the more incentive for me to keep striving to get to heaven. Maybe in heaven I can spend a few thousand years just learning about and marveling over sacred art.
My interest in art has become piqued as I have been paying more attention to the Postal Service’s Christmas stamps with each passing year. Each year the Post Office issues another “Madonna and Child” stamp. It’s remarkable that every year it’s the same subject – Mary and Baby Jesus. Yet every year the stamp expresses the mystery of the Incarnation in a new way.
This year’s stamp is by Jan Gossaert, a 16th century painter from the Netherlands. I did a little research and I learned that Gossaert is known for placing his subjects in peculiar poses. The painting on this year’s stamp is no exception. Look at the way the body of the baby Jesus is contorted – as if He is trying to squirm away. His sight is fixed on something. This is a child with a mission – and He won’t rest until He has accomplished it.
Then look at Mary. Despite the fact that her child is wriggling and obviously very difficult to hold onto, Mary shows no sign of struggle or strain. Her head is resting comfortably in her hand, gazing upon Him, as if she is contemplating in loving wonder. She is at peace. There is forceful movement from the child, but there is no worry, no fear of harm from His Mother. Her posture is one of openness – as if she is simply content to let Him be what He will be and do what He must do.
It’s Advent. It is the season in which we wait for that same child to come to us. Can we be at peace to let that child do what He must do in our lives? Or will we worry and resist what He is trying to accomplish? Will we try to control the mystery – or will we let Him be what He must be? Be at peace and contemplate in loving wonder.
In the painting the baby Jesus has something in His right hand too. I can’t tell what it is, but it has the same curl and color of His mother’s hair. I thought maybe it was a rosary – representing the mysteries of His life. So I did a little research and one commentator said that Jesus is holding a bunch of red currants to foreshadow His future suffering.
One of the best aspects of the stamp is that it is a Forever stamp. Forever and ever, amen! Say a little prayer as you are affixing them to your Christmas cards this year.
Come, Lord Jesus.