On Marian faces

IMG_2921By request, I’m adding a brief interlude/tangent in the Lourdes trip to address one of the “Don’t let me forget” comments, this one coming from the discussion about the icon of Mary.

When St. Bernadette met the Virgin Mary, she was all in white, and she indicated that the icon of Our Lady of Cambreé reminded her most of her.  image12While in Lourdes, there are many representations of Mary, most often in white, with a Western European look to her, light brown hair, etc.  This got me thinking, what do you think Mary looks like?

I’ve always wanted to know, to be honest.  There are 2000 years of history between my time and hers, and 1000’s of pictures, paintings, drawings, and statues.  There are also mystics who have seen her face to face, including at Lourdes, but also Fatima, Guadalupe, Knock, Rue du Abc France, Laos, Wisconsin, Belgium, Ecuador, etc – you know what they all have in common?  Not the messages, but what else?  That she is a beautiful lady.  That’s it!  Impossible to describe.  The only self-portrait we’ve ever seen is Our Lady of Guadalupe, and we know there she looks like a web3-our-lady-of-guadalupe.jpglocal Aztec heritage.  We only know that beauty, internal and external, is also fluid from culture to culture.  What could be seen as beautiful in Paris could be not as beautiful in London, etc.  Even the mosaic in the Rosary Basilica is beautiful but very French.

Beauty though, is one of the “transcendentals” (Thank you, Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast!)  Which means that across all cultures, all boundaries, the concept and inherent recognition of “beauty” is universal.  I don’t know if it means every culture will recognize true beauty or that things that are beautiful are universal or what.  (e.g. I don’t like certain architecture, yet some people think those buildings are beautiful).  I do know that in any culture, God will show forth His beauty as a way to lead people to goodness and truth.  And I learned that from Hans Urs Von Balthasar (well, Fr. John Nepil talking about it.)

The answer in light of this, I think, is that Mary will look like the most beautiful lady in any culture or place she appears – by virtue of her being glorified already.

So am I the only one who wants to know what historical figures look like?  Am I the only one out there scouring pictures thinking “no, no, no…”?  I hope not.  To me, wanting to meet someone, see someone have an image of something tangible, this is part of our humanity.  We crave community (yes even introverts, and hermits), we are bound by our human nature to share that humanity with each other.

What say you, reader-land?

Pieta, Michelangelo
El Greco, “The Coronation”
Da Vinci, chalk, “Head of the Virgin”
Our Lady of Czestochowa, attributed to St. Luke

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