Musings on a statue of 'The Mother and Child'

This image of Mary and the Child Jesus is a photograph of the Statue on the left side of the Sanctuary in St Mary’s Church, Derby as viewed from the pews. The photograph has been used on the front cover of a recently published book written by Fran Wicks: “The Story of St Mary’s Catholic Church Derby.” This is an absorbing read and a very fitting accompaniment to the celebration of the Restoration and Rededication of the Lady Chapel held on 13th October 2016.

The close up view of the Stature, which the photograph affords, is a totally different experience from that of viewing it from the body of the Church. I have found myself fascinated and very moved by the photograph. While musing on it I suddenly thought that the statue’s message would be a good subject for our ‘Christmas Reflection’ this year.

Most images and statues of the Mother and Child, in my experience, portray Mary with Jesus on her knee or in his cradle looking outwards on the world; Mary symbolically, presenting Jesus to the world.

This image is entirely different. It portrays a very intimate moment between Mother and Child. Here, Mary and Jesus are entirely engrossed with each other. Mary gazes on her child with love, mingled with wonder and awe. Perhaps she is constantly asking herself ‘How can this have happened to me’? Why me? She has no answers. But the child is real. He is a human baby who needs her and is entirely dependent on her, his mother. He is needy like any child.

In this statue Jesus is not a new born infant. He is old enough to recognise and love his mother. He is depicted here affectionately fondling her face, his eyes locked in hers, totally relaxed, secure and unaware of the fears and anxieties of his parents in those early years of his life.
As I ponder on this image of Mary and her Child it seems to provide an insight into the hidden life of Christ. He was cherished, protected, nurtured in love by Mary and Joseph, and we assume by other members of the extended family and their friends and neighbours.Bringing Jesus to birth was not and end but the beginning of the process for which Mary and Joseph had been specially chosen.

If we were fortunate enough to have been born into a, loving, stable family situation, we can appreciate something of the responsibilities that Mary and Joseph undertook as Jesus grew older. I suppose that love, stability and example were of the essence. We wonder if those feelings of awe and wonder were always present and if it they were inhibiting in their relationships. We wonder too was Jesus aware he was different. Did other children and adolescents experience him as different?

With regard to the latter question his treatment in Nazareth in his public life would suggest that he was not experienced as being different by his friends and neighbours. He was just the ‘Carpenter’s son.’

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power”’? Mat 13:54

I imagine that periodically in quiet times these feelings of wonder and awe would always be present but once the family were settled among friends and neighbours in Nazareth life would assume a normal pattern. Probably Jesus as he grew older would spend his time with Joseph learning his trade. In fact thinking about the incident of Jesus remaining behind in Jerusalem, the anxious three day search for him, and his strange response:
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Luke 2:49,
one wonders if this was a message from God. Perhaps in the rhythm of life they had established over the years they needed to be reminded that Jesus was no ordinary child.

However, this loving intimate relationship between Jesus and his mother continued throughout his life. It was she who launched him into his public life at the marriage feast of Cana when he hesitated about when and how to start his mission. She was there too at the foot of the cross, the prophesized ‘sword of sorrow’ piercing her heart as she helplessly watched his agonising death.

She was there also at the birth of the ‘Church’ when her Son’s great ‘Mission’ came to fruition, on that first Pentecost Day. She was left behind on earth for a while to nurture that infant Church as she had nurtured her Son. Finally she was gloriously reunited with him in heaven from where she unites with Him in, as we believe, in his ongoing watchfulness and concern for his Church on earth.

Yes I feel that this statue has much to teach us about Mary’s significant nurturing role in the life of Jesus on earth  and its continuation in the Church today.

Sr. Camilla Hunt

Statue: St. Mary’s Church Derby; photograph Jenny Welch,
From: “The Story of St Mary’s Catholic Church Derby.” Written be Fran Wicks, Parish Catechetical co-ordinator