In this article, we reflect on the painting, Christ Appearing to His Mother, by Juan de Flandes, Netherlandish ca. 1496.
There is a tradition from the thirteenth century of Jesus appearing to his mother after the Resurrection. It is not mentioned in the New Testament, but as devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mother increased, her absence in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances raised the question. Is it likely that Jesus would have visited his mother, with whom he lived, as far as we can know, for all but the last three years of his life? And is it possible that the Gospel writers might not have chosen to mention such a filial, poignant and intimate meeting even if they knew about it?
In this painting, the artist imagines Jesus going to meet his mother immediately after he has risen from the dead. In the Gospel accounts we are told of Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, that Jesus gave John to his mother and John, “from that hour . . . took her to his own home” (Jn 19:27). Without doubt, Mary would have gone to John’s home and “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
In and with Mary, our Holy Mother the Church has done the same, and her pondering has produced traditions and images that are not in the Scriptures, but which can help us appreciate more fully the depths of the immense mystery of our salvation.