For anyone who knows the story of “The Fall” (in Genesis 3) as we’ve come to describe it, and “The Annunciation” (in Luke 1), this is a particularly moving piece of art. I don’t know who made it, I don’t know when they made it, and I don’t know why they made it. But I am so glad they did.
This picture absolutely took my breath away. What a wonderful picture of the significance of Jesus Christ’s birth. The death curse introduced to humanity by Adam and Eve would be undone by the birth of the “second Adam,” Jesus Christ. Eve and Mary are forever linked. Eve’s first born son, Cain, would be the bringer of death for his brother Abel, and introduce unnecessary violence and murder to the world. Cain would also come to represent humanity’s larger and increasingly darkening fall farther and further away from God. But Mary’s first born son, Jesus, would be the bringer of life for all His brothers and sisters. By his own violent death, a murder at the hands of others, Jesus would change everything.
While Eve held sin and death in her hands in the form of forbidden fruit, Mary carried redemption and hope in “the fruit of [her] womb.” And the ways in which their experiences are intertwined and how they impact each other (Jesus’ birth to Mary would have brought her pain from Eve’s curse; the promise of restoration related to Eve was fulfilled in Jesus’ birth, for example), I’ve wondered what a meeting between the two women might look like. Somehow, this work of art seems to capture it perfectly, whether possible or not.
Frankly, the symbolism cannot be overstated.
Jesus is the blessing wrapped in the curse. In this way, Mary brings comfort to Eve. When God pronounces His Great Curse on the devil and humanity, God declares (Gen 3:15) that an unnamed male descendant of Eve will engage in some sort of violent exchange with the devil, one that will result in a symbolic minor wound for Eve’s descendant, but a symbolic mortal wound for the devil. After this pronouncement, God curses the whole of humanity. But when Mary writes her song of response to God’s announcement that she would give birth to the Messiah, the Biblical concept of the Savior, Mary, the descendant of Eve, makes the statement that God has “remembered” to be “merciful” (Luke 1:54). Though Mary may have thought this in the immediate context of the Jewish understanding of God’s covenant with Israel, the deeper connection to The Fall is unmistakable. Jesus is, without question, a male descendant of Eve, and is, by prophecy, the One who will deliver the mortal wound to the serpent, the devil.
The story of Christmas is a beautiful story of Hope, of an epic Curse undone by a more powerful blessing. The early church understood Jesus as symbolizing a “second Adam.” In a similar sense, Mary symbolizes a “second Eve.” In the midst of eternal life, one woman helped bring death into the world. And yet, in the midst of all this death, another woman helped bring eternal life back into the world. The blessing… wrapped in the curse.
I can’t imagine just how much comfort Mary must bring to Eve.
(My thanks to the person who captured all that truth, beauty and power in a simply elegant work of art. Amazing.)
UPDATE: Apparently, this was made by a Roman Catholic nun from this order (http://www.monasterycandy.com/About_Us). They also make special kinds of candy. I’m not at all surprised. The picture felt contemplative and sweet. Like the handful of nuns I met as a protestant punk rock musician back in the day. Might have to order some of that candy, too. This is from their website: “We keep our customers, and all who receive our candy, in our prayers…” Candy-Making-Nuns… if this isn’t a Hallmark Christmas Special waiting to happen, I don’t know what is! -Joe, Pathmakers Church