The Statue of Mary before St. Phillip’s Church
They made her look about 13. As if she had never been called upon by angels. Never visited by their King. Never delivered a child who two thousand years later still haunts the souls of millions.
That’s alright with me. It’s just nice to look at an innocent young thing in this age of premature sexuality, though this one’s made of stone.
She’s about three-quarters the size of a real teen. She wears a hood, but her flowing tresses spill out on either side of her sweet face. Below the hood there’s a modest gown that barely shows a hint of female hills and dales. And her hands are spread, palms out, at the ends of her straight arms in a gesture that could mean, “What more do you want from me? I gave up a normal life for you. I gave you my son. To this day I plead mercy for you in the cold winds of eternity. Yet you call upon me and call upon me, and because I am super-humanly compassionate, I am wrenched by every cry. ”
But after all these years of gazing at her, I’m still not absolutely sure of what the hands mean. Some days I think this, and some days something else. But that too is alright. Ambiguity and I are becoming closer friends as time passes and I trust certainty less and less.
But now here’s something else. Beneath the two dainty feet peeping out from beneath Mary’s gown, a snake is being crushed! So this gentle, sacred girl is killing one of God’s creatures! Or is the snake The Evil One in disguise, since it has an apple in its mouth still attached to a branch with several leaves on it? If so, I’d guess this fruit represents the very one plucked by our naked great-grandparents in the Garden of Eden against God’s stern warning, thus causing the mess we’re in today.
Or is the mess we’re in today actually created by the crushing of the snake? Of course this lovely little sculpture portrays the blessed feminine component in Christian Heaven, some say the latest in a line of goddesses stretching back to dim antiquity. But at the same time it does seem to demonstrate how far our species has drawn away from almost every other living thing outside it. How in fact our race has dominated the rest of nature to near-death with murderous, suicidal efficiency. I mean, if the Immaculate Mary can kill a snake, how much easier it must be for the rest of us soiled mortals to kill everything else.
In any case, how disturbing it is to see the Virgin Mother being used as a weapon!
And one more thing. Though Mary’s eyes are modestly downcast, the snakes’ glare straight at the beholder with an expression that says – to me anyhow – “Never mind her and her feet. I’m getting out of this somehow, and then I’m coming for you, fella, and everybody else!”
Even on the sunniest day, those stone sinister eyes can bring on a chill. It’s a blessing to look up from Mary’s feet to her young, pained, ever-loving face.