Who prepared the young heart and mind of Mary to respond to God in humble faith with a fiat, her yes to the Archangel Gabriel? Where did Mary, the Mother of God, learn to listen attentively to God’s word?
The beautiful painting The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, by Italian artist Andrea di Bartolo in the first decade of the fifteenth century, offers insight into Mary’s life through one pivotal moment in her youth. This event, of course, is known largely from early apocryphal writings. In this masterpiece, the Sienese artist brings to life, in vivid detail, the hidden moment that prepared Mary to take her unique place in God’s plan of salvation. Striking in its simplicity and beauty, this image draws us into the mystery of Mary’s life, a life that always leads to her divine Son, Jesus.
Full of Grace
“Hail Mary, full of grace!” These words of the Archangel Gabriel spoken at the Annunciation are familiar words of Christian prayer. They teach us an important truth about the Mother of God. Long before the Annunciation, Mary was filled with grace. From the moment of her Immaculate Conception, Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin. She was “full of grace” from her conception in the womb of St. Anne to her glorious assumption into heaven.
Andrea di Bartolo was commissioned to paint a large altarpiece dedicated to scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This panel was one of three small panels that depicted the domestic church in which Mary was raised. Two other panels show the birth of Mary and the generosity of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, in their almsgiving and care of the poor. In this scene, the artist shows Mary at her presentation in the temple when she was consecrated to God within the devotion and faith of her family.
The Family of Mary
“The family is the basic cell of society. It is the cradle of life and love, the place in which the individual ‘is born’ and ‘grows.’” These words of St. John Paul II remind us that the family has a fundamental and formative role, both in society and in the life of each person. This is true of every Christian, and it is exemplified in a special way in the life of Mary.