Recently I put a lovely framed picture of Mary and the baby Jesus up in my bedroom. It is hanging over the changing table, so I see it often. I've been wanting such a picture for months. I searched the internet for art prints of Madonna and Child, looking for one that captured a sense of reality and peace. This is the one that I found. Isn't it beautiful and restful?
I wanted it to serve as a reminder, throughout my day, to try to be a good mother. Although I don't know much about her day to day life, I do know that she must have been a holy mother. And so I want to pattern my life after hers.
Such were my expectations. Visual stimulus as a reminder to pursue holiness. But it isn't working out quite the way I thought it would. Instead, this picture has become an icon for me.
I'm not generally a fan of icons, although I have a basic understanding of their purpose. And I find much of Marian theology to be somewhat disturbing. So why does it seem that I have a friend in the room? Why do I find myself talking to her (and quickly converting it into a "no no, I mean please God help me to be a good mother") sort of prayer? Why does this seem like a very true reality, although all my protestant training cries out against it?
I spent some time in college studying the idea of praying to saints. Eventually, I decided that I understood the reasons behind the concept and didn't think there was anything wrong with doing so. I didn't think there was any clear reason to think that they could hear us and/or interced for us; then again, there was no clear direction that they couldn't. I was drawn to the thought of prayer to saints being like talking to our friends, since death is no longer a barrier to those in Christ. But I never felt any real desire to talk to them - they seemed remote from my life.
Mary doesn't seem remote anymore. She seems like a friend, like Jessica or Ashley, who has worked her way through this life that is motherhood. She knows the joys and the sorrows of raising boys. I don't believe she was born without sin, so I think she probably knows the difficulty of being patient with whiny children, and the frustration of wishing for silence when it is nowhere to be found. She spent hours doing laundry, and making meals, and breastfeeding her children. And since God found her worthy to be the mother of his Son, I think she probably did it all with grace, and love, and patience.
I want my life to look like that. And if this picture can be a prayer window for me, if talking to Mary can help me become more like Jesus, then I think I'm glad my picture is an icon.