Whisper of the Divine Child
Here she is holding the Christ Child.
She stands at the turning point of ages; her robes are blown back by the wind of change: salvation is born, rejoice Israel.
In this divine masterpiece of high Renaissance art, by the Urbino master Raphael, known as “the Sistine Madonna”: we see the virgin holding baby Jesus, flanked by Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara, standing on clouds before dozens of obscured cherubs, while two unique winged cherubs rest on their elbows beneath.
They say the connection between the beauty of art and Christ is like the connection between sunlight and the sun…. And this altarpiece of the Benedictine abbey church of San Sisto in Piacenza, is of no exception: it acts as a light that has been flashed to point out some spiritual facts.
The arm of the Virgin forms by its position, along with the body of the child, a base, from which two other lines rise, tapering to the top of the head; the child's head lies right in the course of one of these lines. Thus mother and child together form a single figure, the two united in one.
This composition anticipates the golden words of venerable Bishop Sheen centuries after: “at Christmas you cannot separate the babe from the mother, if you do you will soon separate Christ from Christmas.”
Yes, we must beware lest we set Mary at a distance. There is no gap between Christ and Mary, for her task is to show unto us, the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.
Mary shows us the way.
Christ does not show us the way, simply because: He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Raphaello’s painting can go further into spiritual meaning: there is no gap between us and Mary either, for we can all find Mary within ourselves, if we are Christians. Mary is “the archetypical Christian.”
Once we receive the water of baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit. Dr. Kreeft articulates it magnificently, once born again by the water of the spirit we will have “something immaculate in us that can endure the very light of heaven and the gaze of God: a share in divine life.”
Christ’s expression is a bit heavy ….. He looks anxious; his eyes and pose betraying an almost adult awareness and seriousness.
Here He is:
Returning our gaze and deliberately engaging it….He seems asking each of us:
are you willing to speak Mary’s’ word??
Are you willing to have in your soul “God’s word”??
If yes, then rejoice: What happened in Bethlehem happens in your soul….And in the Eucharist in your heart: It is the Incarnation.