Last May as my husband and I were leaving St. Peter’s Basilica with our group, someone whispered, “There’s the Pieta.”
My heart skipped a beat and I looked around quickly, eager to spot one of my favorite works of art before we’d left for the day. I glanced to my left and saw it: Our Lord and Lady captured in that heartbreaking moment for all time, bathed in light in a side chapel. It drew me and the rest of our group in and instantly we were at the railing in front of the statue.
Our Lady’s face was so beautiful and so young, untouched by the stain of sin, as she gazed on the body of Our Lord lain across her lap. Jesus looked so strange, his limbs seemed too long on her lap. It was a mistake—it should have been an infant that she was holding, not a fully-grown man at the peak of his youth and strength. Mary sat underneath the weight of it all, serenely cradling him with one arm and turning up a palm with the other in a gentle appeal to Heaven. The whole scene was so beautiful and looked so wrong.
The mother in me couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Mary wasn’t supposed to be holding her dead child—no parent is supposed to. Without faith the moment would appear to be the pinnacle of despair, yet Mary’s expression is one of peace.
This morning I’m looking at a little replica of the Pieta that’s sitting on my coffee table, a treasure we brought home from the Vatican museum store. I don’t know where to put it, though swapping out our nativity set—that’s still up—for it is one idea as Lent begins. There it would be by the window that I’m endlessly looking out of, a beautiful reminder that there is always hope, even and perhaps especially at the moment when it appears that there is none.
Copyright 2013 Meg Matenaer
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