In Mary’s Heart

This last couple of days has been… not very fun, to be completely honest. We’ve been passing a cold back and forth for several weeks now, and this week was my turn to be knocked out by this darn cold. And my son’s turn. And my daughter’s turn. And the baby’s nose is a bit runny too. So. Not very fun.

Anyway, in honor of my voice finally returning to my body after a couple of days of living in silence, I would like to present this artwork to you of Mary, looking incredibly tired:

'But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart,' by Alice Havers, c. 1888. Norwich Castle, Norwich, United Kingdom. Via
‘But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart,’ by Alice Havers, c. 1888. Norwich Castle, Norwich, United Kingdom.

And doesn’t Mary look tired? Sure, Jesus is the perfect son — literally! — and He’s sleeping in this picture, which probably means that she has some time off. But, nope. She’s sitting there, looking off in the distance with a quiet, yet remarkably intense, look on her face.

When she made this picture, the artist was going through a turbulent period in her life, and this turbulence definitely expresses itself in Mary’s expression. One year later after painting this piece, Alice Havers would divorce her husband, whom she had two children with — two sons and one daughter. One year after that, she would die unexpectedly at the young age of 40.

As an artist, she didn’t paint many religious artworks. Mostly just scenes from country life, with a special emphasis on a woman’s perspective. For instance, she made this lovely art piece that dealt with a mother tending her sick child. However, this artwork must have been a special one for her that she felt a special devotion toward.

The title? “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

The phrase “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” is an interesting phrase that is repeated several times in the Gospel of Luke. Scholars seem to agree that it is the way that Luke signified that the stories from Jesus’s infancy were recollections by Mary that were transcribed directly from her words to Luke’s pen. After all, tradition holds that St. Luke spent time with the Virgin Mary!

But, as a mother, the phrase seems to carry more meaning than just a way to authenticate Luke’s Gospel. From the very beginning in which you realize that you’re pregnant, your mind focuses on the child and wonders and marvels at the child. What will this child be like? What will you be like, as a mother? What will this child grow up to be? Then, the child is quite literally a part of you, even while being separate, and you become totally focused on the child!

Then, the child is born, and from that point on, it’s a very gradual process of becoming separated from your child. At first, the baby needs all of your attention and care — sometimes driving you to the point of utter exhaustion. But, as they get older and as you teach them the rules of life and how to think on their feet, they become more independent. But even still, you still wonder and marvel at the child as you watch those little, seemingly insignificant moments that transform and deepen your child’s character.

How much more so would Mary ponder about Jesus, her son! After all, Jesus is God Incarnate. And she, being a devout and holy woman, meditated on God’s word, both in scripture and in the form of her son. While we know that she understood scripture — tradition states that she stayed at the Temple as a little girl and sewed garments for the priests — she must have wondered how those scriptures were to take place in the form of her son.

And perhaps she too, while she was tending Jesus and maybe even exhausted, stayed up just a little longer and wondered all the more.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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