One thing that is frustrating about older, sacred images is that the photographs of the images just don’t look right.
Often, the artists who made these icons used gold and other precious materials in the paintings to give them that extra sparkle so that they gleam when you look at them — especially for icons, which are especially sacred and revered in the Eastern Church. In person, these are stunning works of art that dazzle and reflect the glory of Heaven and remind viewers of the sacredness of the people and the scene inside the painting. A special focus of gold and precious materials? Jesus Christ… and Mary, the Mother of God.
The problem? Often cameras can’t catch the glimmer of the precious materials used. This means that either the gold or the colored paints look dull in the photographs, unless care is used to make the colors stand out.
This is one of those special paintings that is so hard to photograph. A scene of the Wedding of Cana, the wedding guests are dressed in gold clothing. Mary, the mother of Jesus, looks especially stunning as the Queen Mother. To make the painting shimmer even more, mother of pearl was encrusted into the painting so that the entire painting shimmers and gleams. It’s a difficult painting to photograph and there many versions of this photograph. After all, even a small change of lighting can throw back the light to the camera in a different way!
As Queen Mother, Mary plays an important role in this scene. The Queen Mother, who was known as Gebirah in Hebrew, literally meaning “the Great Lady,” had a huge role in biblical times. In the Old Testament, the Queen Mother often was the voice of the people who would remind her son, the king, of his duties as king and advise him on matters of running a kingdom. She often urged to be more empathetic and merciful to his subjects. One of the most interesting displays of this relationship in the bible is the relationship between King Solomon and Bathsheba. Though King Solomon was famed for his wisdom, he still listened to his mother’s advice. And, though everyone bowed to the king, the king bowed to his mother.
So it’s this role that Mary comes to Jesus and tells Him that He needs to do something about the lack of wine. Here, she reminds Him of His duties and urges Him to act in the best interests of the people– even though He tells her that it’s not His time yet. And, with her urging, He does act — and thus, He first takes on His kingly duty as the King of Kings.
Yes, the painting may not be completely realistic. After all, Mary is a carpenter’s wife and Jesus is a carpenter’s son. Likely, the wedding was not this magnificent. Yet, this is one of my favorites, for it captures the royal nature of these two people — a carpenter’s wife and a carpenter’s son — and makes the glory of Heaven shine through them.
And, who knows? We are the children of God — which makes us princes and princesses of the Kingdom of God. And maybe — just maybe! — lowly as we are, this may be the way God sees us as we do His will on earth.
Thank you for showing us how the lowly can become gloriously triumphant through Your great mercy and the example of Your Life. Transform us into Your Image so that we may bear Your Glory and do Your will.