In the book, The Black Madonna: Journey of the Human Heart, I aim to explore many of the consistent themes of the Black Madonna. As an art form expressed in paintings, statues, stained glass windows and Icons which date from the 3rd Century AD to the Renaissance in Europe, we can see many similarities. One of the more striking qualities of these images which set them apart from the White Madonnas, is their faces are very somber, scarred and sad.
The main thesis of the book is: art is a method of communication between the human and divine world, that the symbolism of art can convey messages from the Spiritual world. There are many messages that I look at, the color, the size and position of the hands, where the Black Madonna's are found and the narratives behind their discoveries and miracles associated with them.
But the faces, those somber sorrowful faces, are so different from the cherubic Madonna faces we see on so many Christmas Cards. What is the message in the dark faces?
One of the first documented conversations of Mary happens in the Luke 1:35, when the Angel Gabriel informs Mary of the impending birth of the Saviour. "See I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May your word be fulfilled upon me."
Mary in essence was the first human being to say yes to the Christ, and the first human being to literally have the Christ Within. This was not an easy experience, she was counter culture from the get go, conceiving literally out of wedlock, while betrothed to another. She walked her entire life in faith, because there was no blueprint, no how to book, no mother to daughter advice she could rely on to be part of the incarnation and ministry of Christ Jesus. Ultimately, she had to witness his very public and unjust execution by a ruthless and oppressive state. She in some way may have been aware of the inevitability of this execution from the beginning. The rest of Christ Jesus's earthly peers, whom really did not understand the cosmic nature of his ministry, knew him as a leader. Mary loved him as a mother loves her son, with many memories of childhood, of the immense amount of work, from labor to all that goes into raising a child under difficult circumstances.
In earthly terms, the execution of Jesus must have been an extremely bitter pill to swallow, because it was carried out in a completely unfair manner, with no recourse, no argument, just bitter acceptance.
The faces of the Black Madonna representations I feel embody this reality. They signify the difficulty of being alive, of the human earthly sojourn. Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland has slash marks on her cheek, made by a vandal. What is so interesting is that these scars are reported to reappear even after they have been painted over.
Pain is an unpleasant reminder that there is suffering. These works in my estimation, show that the Spiritual world knows, understands and companions us in our despair. Even the "Mother of God" did not escape the piercing agony of the immense loss of a child, murdered before her very eyes. There is no more helpless feeling than not being able to protect your children. She must have been so despondent, thinking, this is the Son of God, how can this happen? Where is the Justice? She probably felt more alone than any other person in the history of humanity.
To me, the face of the Black Madonna is a message that the Spiritual World knows our pain and sorrow, that the biggest players in the entire drama of The Mystery of Golgotha, know and companion us in our suffering. For those of us in the Christian Community, we know the end of the story that is ever unfolding, that out of the greatest of agony, hope and renewal is not only possible, it happened, it happens. Resurrection happens.
The other message of the Black Madonna is that our will, our deeds are up to us to create the possibility of birthing the Christ within, of creating a culture that can contain the Cosmic Christ, the Beloved Community.
As so many of our brothers and sisters are in agony, that they do not feel their children are safe. One way we can can carry out the mission of Christ is to be loving and respectful to one another, to listen to the pain, to not dismiss the centuries of agony and injustice with platitudes about law and "I didn't do that."
We are all one family, with different faces and purposes. We have a mess, it does not matter who made the mess, we all need to clean it up. A great start is to listen, to reach out and to honor different visions.
"May your word be fulfilled upon me." The Black scarred sorrowful faces are watching, what are you doing with your heart, where are you storing your treasures, how are you working to make all peoples feel like they are part of the beloved community?
The Black Madonna waits to hear your answer.