The Virgin and Child (The Madonna of the Book / The Madonna del Libro),
Painted by Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (c. 1445-1510), known as Sandro Botticelli,
Painted between 1480 and 1481,
Tempera on panel
© Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan / Wikimedia

The Virgin and Child (The Madonna of the Book / The Madonna del Libro),
Painted by Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (c. 1445-1510), known as Sandro Botticelli,
Painted between 1480 and 1481,
Tempera on panel
© Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan / Wikimedia

Gospel of 20 May 2024

Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church

John 19:25-34

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said, ‘I am thirsty.’

A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water.

Reflection on the painting

Today is the Feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. This feast was established in 2018 by Pope Francis, to be celebrated every year on the Monday following Pentecost. Although the feast day is relatively new, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of ‘Mother of the Church’, is very ancient. When he created the feast, Pope Francis said he wished to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful”.

This maternal sense is beautifully portrayed in our painted panel by Sandro Botticelli. Mary gently gazes on her son. As a symbol of his future Passion, the Christ child is holding the three nails of the Cross and the crown of thorns. The right hands of Jesus and his mother are placed on a book. Some words are visible, revealing that this is a Book of Hours, the Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis.  The presence of the book also symbolises Mary's role as the Mother of Wisdom. The left sleeve of Our Lady’s blue cloak has small embroidered flames emanating from a small burst of light, the Holy Spirit (whom we celebrated yesterday).  The vellum pages of the book, the bowl of fruit and the transparent veil of Our Lady have a powerfully tangible quality to them.

The elegant and intimate painting depicts delicately how Mary is the foremost example of what it means to fully say 'yes' to God. Our new feast day is an invitation for each of us to receive more from Mary's example of holiness and to give the same resounding 'yes' to all that God asks of us. As the Church's mother, Mary continues to accompany and nurture us, offering us comfort, protection, and intercession with her Son.

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Marilee Pittman
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Marilee Pittman
1 month ago

Such a beautiful painting. I can’t help but wonder why so many paintings of Mary and her child Jesus were painted with blond hair, when most likely they had dark hair.

Pk
Member
Pk
1 month ago

I have wondered about that too.

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
1 month ago

I think it was all about artist interpretation. The Gospel took such hold of Europe that many religious paintings had a European influence. Many artists at the time probably didn’t travel outside their culture so they painted what they knew and experienced. We are a little more educated today because of technology and the Internet. Back in the day people worked with the limitations that they they had and still produced beautiful works of art.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago

Wonderful painting today, we all have to agree. Our Lady and the Child Jesus look not unlike ol’ Sandro himself. He was one superb artist.
John is ‘the one Jesus loved’ – I wonder if Our Blessed Lord acu said that, or he decided it for himself? John’s writings are always full of mystery…

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

Don’t get Thimas started! Lol!

Will Howard
Member
Will Howard
1 month ago

Yes, good question Patricia
I think it is helpful to understand many of the books of the bible as ‘attributed’ to their authors, or in other words, actually authored by a ‘school’ of persons who take it upon themselves to write ‘a gospel’ as disciples of ‘John’. In this case making the clarification that was well understood in line with the tradition being handed on by the Apostles themselves … who all understood that the ‘youngest in Jesus’s inner circle was very endeared to him.’

BLESSED FEAST OF HOLY WISDOM’S MOTHERHOOD.

I want to suppose that di Vanni Filipepi’s somewhat contorted Christ figure suggests a prefiguring of the the adult on His cross.
…life very much a process of birthing through death.
Just as, the church fathers so clearly and eloquently saw the Church born from the pierced rib of the new Adam.

Thimas@
Member
Thimas@
1 month ago

Well to be fair tradition says that John the gospel writer was the disciple that Jesus loved. However all the Gospels were written anonymously and John would have been about 77 years old if he was 20 years old as a disciple, and writing in Greek. Nevertheless it could be! Maybe he was much younger. As you say it’s a mystery.

Thimas@
Member
Thimas@
1 month ago
Reply to  Thimas@

Great painting by the way I’m so familiar with it on the wall of my parents my whole life. Never thought about it or knew it was Botticelli!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

Apart from being utterly beautiful physically, this painting is full of emotion. Mary, with her contained foreknowledge, all tenderness and wisdom. Jesus, still vulnerable and dependent, all trust and adoration of His mother. They are held in an idyllic moment of communication with each other.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us NOW and at the hour of our death.” May we make the now count today and every day “till in heaven we take our place”.

Pk
Member
Pk
1 month ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

I like that, NOW, Noelle. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago
Reply to  Pk

Hello Pk. It suddenly struck me….like things sometimes do when they’ve been very familiar for a long time….

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

A beautiful painting illustrating a feast day that I didn’t know about. It is most important to have a female element in our faith and Our Lady, who plays a big part in the Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox Churches) Church.

Jesu, Maria pray for us when we come to die. I’m still overwhelmed by my experience at The Dream of Gerontius last week.

Monica Doyle
Member
Monica Doyle
1 month ago

What a beautiful painting and Our Lady’s blue is divine! The baby Jesus is like a lovely pudgy cherub but so sad to see He’a already aware of his mission. Indeed Moira, may Our Lady give all those working for and with Jesus a huge hug today 💓..Fr.Patrick I see you’ll be in Knock soon! I love it there.. alas I won’t be there but I know some people who will. Our Lady awaits you!!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

I know a couple whose son received a miraculous healing at Knock. It was out of the blue as well…

Moira Cunningham
Member
Moira Cunningham
1 month ago

This painting is very familiar but the details in it are new to me so thank you for that. It’s a beautiful feast day and the painting ties in with psalm 86 perfectly. Mary, Mother of the Church pray for your children,especially those suffering for their faith today.

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