Mary was born without sin to old and barren parents. Seeds can stay in the earth for many years before they germinate. Celebrate Advent, new beginnings with the birth of Mary
The text from the Apocryphal Gospel of Mary inspired the icon. In the icon, every participant has a place to serve. Two women are entering the scene to offer assistance. Two other maidservants test the bathwater temperature for the infant, Mary. One servant has her head covered by a Jewish prayer shawl. Their postures reveal only a hint of anxiety over this peculiar event, Mary’s birth is the Advent, a new beginning, a birth for new potential.
The maidservant is holding the newborn Mary wrapped in white linen. This depiction is identical to the icon of the Dormition of Mary. Here, Christ appears at her death and bedside to collect her soul, also tightly wrapped in white linen. Repeating a visual feature of being wrapped in white linen, highlights a theological teaching. In this case, the cyclic relationship between life and death / transformation or metamorphosis, complement one another throughout biblical stories.
New Beginnings conceived
The Season of Advent is a season of vigilant waiting, we experience a new beginning with the mystery of the Word Incarnate. Mary is the vehicle through which comes the ‘Light’.
Mary’s mother, Saint Anne, is reclining, recuperating from the delivery. Her aged husband, Joachim, is by her side. Mary was born to old and barren parents making her birth miraculous. Over time, this teaching gave validity to Mary’s immaculate conception which legitimized Jesus as born without sin. The idea grounds a theological principle which emphasizes the perfection of God incarnate with no forewarning, explanation, or proof. In theory, the idea was invented to fit the theology.
As the church formed, debates arose concerning the nature of original sin, and the dogma associated with Mary’s Immaculate Conception had to be defined. Augustine, 400 AD, identified male semen as the means by which humanity passes original sin from one generation to the next. Jesus Christ was believed to be conceived by God without semen, and, therefore, free of sin. Later, a debate surfaced over Mary passing her biological sin onto Jesus. The dogma in the church taught normal human conception is sinful. In the early part of 1300, St. Bridget of Sweden had visions of Anna and Joachim, and their sexual union. Her visions forged the way for Mary to be sinless because her parents’ union had no sexual desire.
There is no scriptural mention of Anna or Joachim.
The Council of Basel in 1431 declared Mary’s immaculate conception a “pious opinion” consistent with faith and Scripture. The Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563, affirmed Mary’s freedom from personal sin. Pope Pius IX, in 1854, dictated that through God’s grace, Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin and, consequently, maintained a blessed role as the Mother of God. This is mentioned to keep the reader alert and aware that religious doctrine changes, the value of dogma is to teach and convey a consensus as change occurs or is politically needed.
Divinity is not written in stone; it is understood through the heart and spirit.
The mind is the part that articulates and protects its assumptions. The value of iconography is its potential to take us beyond thinking and open a window into the realm of mystery. Whatever the viewer deduces is personal and valuable in the moment: when gazing at icons there are no doctrines or creeds to bind our mind.