He greeted me with a warm smile beneath an all too familiar mask. The brightness in his eyes revealed a welcome grin under layers of cotton. “May I help you?” he asked. When I pulled out the item which I had brought into the little shop, he nodded approvingly. “I’d like to reframe this sketch…it’s special,” I said. He agreed that the image was lovely and that the old, clumsy frame did nothing to accentuate its delicate lines and simple beauty. “I purchased it many years ago at a yard sale on Cape Cod, with my mom. She loved this image too. The picture has been hanging in an unseen corner of my home but it’s time to bring it out into the light – where all can clearly see it. He smiled again and proceeded to gently undo the tattered frame from the precious image – a graceful black and white sketch of Michelangelo’s Pietà, by an unknown Italian artist.
The gray of a long New England winter can cause unwanted despair and stress for many folks. By the time March rolls around, many have forgotten what it feels like to bask in the healing rays of a warm summer sun. Just last week, my weary soul brightened a bit when we were treated to a few days of unseasonably warm weather. The bright blue sky and glowing sunshine assured me that hope is on the horizon. The cold of winter will soon be replaced by the warmth and beauty of spring, I thought. This unexpected joy also reminded me that God senses our unrest – he sees the desires of our heart. When we are low, he reaches out to lift us up, like any good parent would do. And sometimes he even sends a little gift to assure us of his presence – like a few brilliant days in in the midst of a cold March.
I had been driving around for weeks with the the image of Mary, cradling her crucified Son, in the front seat of my car. It was easy to make excuses not to exit my car during the frigid cold days of February thus Mary became my companion for many more days than planned. Her presence had at an interesting effect on me. Every time I gazed over at her in the magnificent, yet sorrowful scene of the Pietà, I saw a peaceful acceptance. After many days of contemplation, I concluded what I thought Mary must have been thinking in this scene. Mary understood her Son was destined to rise for the salvation of all people, thus His story had not really ended with His earthly death. Her strength as a mother was as strong now – holding her Son’s broken body – as it was when the angel invited her to become the mother of God. Her faith sustained her. She knew that God’s will was the only path to freedom and lasting happiness thus she willingly followed it, even to the point of losing her only son.
Thinking about Mary in this way was such a gift for me. When I glanced around my home, I looked at photos and statues of her in a new way. Over the years my beloved mom had given me many beautiful images of Mary, which I cherish. When I looked at them now, I saw clearly that something was different in Mary’s face – peaceful acceptance. Perhaps like Mary, I was being called to accept God’s will for my life – not just the joyful moments but the pain and struggles too. This was such a refreshing revelation for me even though it was something that I’ve tried to master for years. Mary was helping me to desire God’s will more deeply. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that beauty can be a powerful path to holiness. Images of our Blessed Mother were helping me to see more clearly by drawing me closer to God, who wills my goodness in this life. It’s funny how God works – again, sensing our needs and responding in the most unexpected ways.
As I left the little frame shop, I looked back to thank the man for his kindness. Before I could utter anything, he said, “I’m going to give you the best glass for this piece – it deserves to be seen clearly without any glare.” I smiled and thanked him profusely. Walking down the old stone steps I thought about the events of the past week. “Thanks to Mary, I’ve actually seen more clearly.” I said. I could not help but think of my mom who would be thrilled to know that Mary – her favorite saint – has been an integral part of my faith journey, as she was for her own. Mary does help us to see clearly – not for her own glory, but for the glory of her Son. Mary draws us closer, as a loving mother, and brings us directly to her Son. I encourage all readers to go to her, pray to her and seek her. She will help to ease your pain and to lovingly accept God’s will in your life – which is designed for your flourishing. You will see.