Mary, Star of Evangelization

Written by Brother Claude Lane, OSB – Spring 2003
Commissioned by the Archdiocese of Portland
Blessed and received by Archbishop John G. Vlazny – April 7, 2003

An icon is written, because in the earliest days of the Church, the word used to write and to create an image was the same. One used the pen and the brush to convey an important message. Tradition says St. Luke, who wrote his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, also wrote icons.

In the icon of Mary, Star of Evangelization, we see three dominate images Mary, the Star of Bethlehem and the almond shaped background. As one contemplates the icon consider the image from three hills or three levels:

· The image is rooted in scripture. In the Gospel of St. Luke, Mary, pregnant with Our Lord “rises and goes to the hill country” (Luke 1:39) to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth. This is the first evangelization journey. Mary brings the Word of God, flesh incarnate, to her cousin. Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist, the one who goes before him.

· Mary comes to the new world as Our Lady of Guadalupe and appears on the hill at Tepejac to St. Juan Diego, a member of the indigenous people. This appearance is truly a sign of evangelization in the Americas.  It was one of the most incredible conversions in the church.  The conversion of the whole country of Mexico began after her apparition in 1531.

· Mary, daughter of Zion - out of Zion will come forth blessing and refreshment. God’s Word will come from the hill of Zion.

Iconographers tell their story through color. The colors in our icon offer us insight into Mary, the Star of Evangelization. Traditionally icons clothe Mary in a mulberry, dark red outer garment.  That color is not used here, nor is she wearing dark blue. Instead Mary’s garment is a turquoise green. God chose this garment color when He made her appear on the cloak of Guadalupe.  In iconography turquoise green is the color of the Holy Spirit, so Mary is veiled in the Holy Spirit. When you look at Andrie Rublev’s fifteenth century icon of the three persons of the Trinity, the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah, the Holy Spirit on the right hand side is wearing a kind of a green color. Mary is conceived of the Holy Spirit and she conceived the Lord by the Holy Spirit. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, goes to Elizabeth wearing the color of the Spirit. The garment underneath is sort of rose in color, not necessarily red. The rose color is used by Rublev to identify God the Father.  So Mary, daughter of Zion, also puts on the color of God the Father.

The “mandola” is the almond shape in the background. This symbolizes the rending of two realities - the spiritual and the corporal- and opens up the heavenly realm.  It literally is pulling apart. You can also think of it as two spheres or two worlds coming together. You have the shape of the almond created before they are completely merged. In this view the spiritual and the material or corporal realms are coming together. We are witnessing this vision or coming together.  We are able to see Mary because of a certain kind of rending of the invisible world.  The background is dark because it represents the uncreated light and the spiritual light that is in the invisible world. The spiritual light is so bright that it is not really perceivable to our eyes – to us it would be darkness – we just don’t see anything.  Ordinarily we don’t see this realm, as it comes closer to us it becomes lighter and lighter, therefore the gradations of color from dark to light. Through Mary’s intercession the uncreated light is becoming visible to our eyes.

Finally, the writer identifies Mary with Greek letters in the upper left and right. The title used in all traditional Marian icons is Mary, Mother of God

Brother Claude Lane, OSB, the icon’s writer, summarizes the image, “there are the three apparitions of Mary – three visitations of Mary – this is a visitation icon.  She visits her cousin, she visits the people of America in an actual apparition, and now she is visiting us. The daughter of Zion is made visible.” Mary, Star of Evangelization, becomes a visible model for us as the Archdiocese and other members of the Church strive to become more complete Disciples in Mission.

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