In Your Midst

A Meditation on Cathedral Art

March 2004

DiBicci has left us a serene, veiled, tranquil blond Madonna, enthroned in majesty. Her red garment and blue mantle are spangled with stars. The baby Jesus, by contrast, is wholly naked but for a slight, semi-transparent veil in which his mother has encircled him. His pose is energetic; he seems to be taking his first step across his motherís lap, while with one arm he reaches for her breast.

His expression is serene like his motherís, but very far away. Mary looks at him, but he seems to be dreaming; he gazes off thoughtfully into the distance, perhaps into the future, wondering what God has in store for him. The long white veil which winds about the infant Christ suggests swaddling clothes, but it also suggests the shroud in which Christ was wrapped after his death, and which he left behind in the tomb as a sign to his disciples.

It is significant that this wrapping is continuous with the Virginís veil: it twines around her head, about the infantís shoulders, continuing around him to where it is held gently in the Virginís hand. It suggests how closely entwined the Virgin is in the life of Christ, how inseparable she is from the suffering and the glory that will be his. The hand which supports him as he stands in her lap is tender and natural; the other is drawn back playfully.

The naked and vulnerable baby reminds us of the Eucharist, where Christ is wholly present, utterly given up to the hands of human beings. Our faith (like the hand of the Blessed Virgin) draws the veil aside which conceals that miraculous presence from our eyes.


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