There was a massive stature of Mary sitting in a throne holding baby Jesus at the convent I was at this weekend on retreat. When I say massive, I mean life-size. Their eyes were human-looking. Perhaps they were prosthetic. They looked real. Both Mary and Jesus looked a little sad though. They were right in the front, facing the door as you enter. You had to pass by them to get to the chapel or the dining room. There was a triangle tile area in front of them too, which set off that area even more. The rest of the area was carpet.
I spent a lot of years in a medieval reenactment group, so seeing this human-looking statue that looks like royalty kind of messed with my head. She’s in a throne. She’s wearing a crown. She looks real. Do I bow? Do I at least pause? How close can I walk to her? She was kind of in the way. There was no easy way to get around her. To just walk by like she wasn’t there felt a little rude. So I at least paused.
Here’s what you see when you come in, showing the statue and the tile area.
Here’s a little closer.
Here’s her sad face.
I was fascinated by her, and a little creeped out. Mid-way through the retreat I had run out of things to write and I was getting a little bored. I’d thought earlier about drawing her. But drawing her meant getting in the way. The best way for me to draw her was to sit in front of her, at the tip of the tile triangle. And that meant that I’d be sitting in the middle of everything.
I’d be obvious. I’d be in the way. People would have to go around me. They would know what I was doing.
Would this annoy the nuns? Would they be upset with me? They might get annoyed that I was in the way. They might get annoyed that I was drawing their statue of Mary and Jesus.
I thought about it some more. It was the middle of the day. Most of them spent their time in their rooms. It wasn’t supper time or chapel time, so there was a good chance that I’d have the hall to myself. And if they didn’t like me doing it they could tell me to move.
I’m working on this part of my internal dialogue. I’m trying to be mindful of other’s feelings, but also mindful of my needs. I’m trying to not let imagined censorship make me stop doing something. All too often I make up what people say before I even start something, and I assume they are going to say no so I never start. I’m pushing past that and finding out that they rarely say no.
Turns out, while I was drawing, the nuns smiled at me. A fellow retreat member admired my work. Sure, I was in the middle of the hall, but I wasn’t completely in the way, and I wasn’t there long. So I kept drawing.
Here’s the picture of what I drew. My paper isn’t big – maybe 4 inches by 6. I didn’t have space for faces.
I used watercolor pencils, but I’ve not added the water yet. This looks like regular colored pencil this way.
After I drew it, I sat there for a bit, and I talked quietly to Mary. “Should I draw your face? You look so sad.” And she answered. She told me to draw her the way a child would draw her Mom, if her Mom wasn’t around. She told me to not look at the stature of her, but see the image of her face in my heart. Imagine if you are in school and the teacher tells you to draw your Mom. You have to draw her from memory. But in this case, I’m drawing not my Mom, but Jesus’ Mom, but by extension, sort of my adopted Mom. It is hard to explain. Sometimes I realize that I didn’t get comforted by my Mom in the way I needed, and I’m realizing that Mary is there to comfort me. It is very soothing.
So I drew. I drew her the way I see her looking at me. She doesn’t look like any images of Mary I’ve ever seen before, but she does look beautiful and kind. And that is what I needed to see.
She said “My child, I am giving birth to you too.” She is nurturing me like my mother couldn’t. I sat there, in tears, drawing her, washed by her love and compassion. Her arms are wide enough for me too.