Advent Reflection: Caravaggio’s Madonna of Loreto

Two pilgrims, an old man and an old woman, kneel on stone steps hands nearly clasped but more rightly said to be cupped, walking sticks resting on their shoulders.  They kneel in front of Mary and the baby Jesus, Mary appearing as though the two had just caught her attention and she has turned suddenly to look at the them, perhaps brought out of some personal rumination.  The Christ child looks down on the pilgrims, chubby, naked, index finger pointing.

What kind of fights did Mary and Joseph have with each other?  Did Joseph ever feel insecure about the Virgin Birth?  Did he, in moments of weariness and weakness (perhaps Jesus never slept completely through the night) lash out at Mary?  “He’s not mine, anyway!”  yelled out in a fit of impatience and frustration, knowing full well he just lost it, the immediate apology forthcoming, but:  Did Mary ever leave?  Run off to clear her head of an argument, perhaps taking the Christ child with her, the one entity she felt completely bound to, and was it during this walk that she came upon the two pilgrims?  And perhaps, after hearing the clatter of sticks falling and the cries of praise for her and for Christ, after turning and seeing glistening eyes and weathered faces, after seeing her newborn point to the old couple and smile, did she think of her argument with Joseph?  Of how petty it all was in the face of what Was to Come, and all of her anger slipped away, pity and compassion returned to her face, and the faintest glimmer of a halo returned encircling her and her Babe’s head?  Was Joseph just out of frame, witnessing this?

Does our anger of the present blind us to what or who we hold in our hands for eternity?


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