Saturday, December 09, 2006

A disappointed Madonna.

I was browsing at Barnes and Noble and found some beautiful Madonna and Child cards. Those are my favorites, usually. Whether or not you're Christian, who can argue with the beauty of a mother and child?

Then my mind wandered to the movie Enchanted April in which one of the characters, played by Miranda Richardson, is told repeatedly that she looks just like a "disappointed Madonna." It's a funny idea, but it made me wonder if Mary was somewhat disappointed. We know from Luke that she observed the unusual occurrences around the birth and pondered them in her heart, and I have no doubt that she believed what Gabriel had told her, but there's believing and then there's Believing. In many ways I'm sure the experience of bearing and caring for the small Jesus was very similar to that of mothering any other child, and fully as exhausting. That's why I love the Spanish Christmas carol "Los peces en el río" in which the miraculousness of the event exists side by side with the dirty and hand-roughening task of washing Jesus's diapers. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh don't arrive for quite some time and in the meantime, there are just shepherds and cows and probably poverty. I'm sure it was at times hard to believe, as she raised this child, that he would really become what Gabriel and Anna and Simeon had said. Together with the scorn she must have endured as an unwed mother, who knows whether the overall experience of giving birth to Jesus might have been somewhat anticlimactic? Maybe not, but maybe so. Maybe some post-partum depression? Who knows? It's interesting to think about. If I were to learn that that were true, it wouldn't subtract from her strength and beauty in my eyes -- many miracles are couched in the mundane and even the painful moments of life, and can be hard to see or fully comprehend when you're mired in the moment. I would imagine full belief in the miraculousness of her situation only came over years of pondering bits and pieces of divinity, keeping them in her heart, and then finally witnessing the glorious ministry and resurrection.

Incidentally, Miranda Richardson is one of only two actresses whom I've ever been told I look like, and by multiple people on multiple occasions, so it must be true. :) And then I guess it logically follows that I resemble a disappointed Madonna? I'll have to prop my baby niece up on my lap and ask my family if they think so...


SBThatcher said...


This was a beautiful entry, I have been thinking about it a lot, and read it over with Stephanie because I wanted her to hear it. It's good for me to be able to think of miracles like the Virgin Birth in new terms, in new ways. I think your conclusions are very likely, it must have been anticlimactic to wake up, maybe even the shepherds are gone, the star is gone, and you and Joseph are headed out of Bethlehem, and you have diapers to change, the pain of first nursing, dust and miles ahead. It's comforting that such supernal miracles can be couched in the mundane, and often are. How many miracle go unsung in my life because they have a regular schedule and regular to-dos surrounding them. I've linked to this post on my blog, if that's ok?

Belladonna said...

When our stake put on a "Nativity Display" for the community the church was filled to brimming with over 300 different manger scene brought in by people in various wards...lots of poinsettias, lights, cookies, music - the whole shabang. I was serving a shift as guardian one evening when I had a little chap of about five or six come up to me and say "Ya know what? There sure is a lot of Jesus stuff in here!" Yep. There was. But my favorite one was a small ceramic figurine of Mary washing diapers in a tub... a reminder that while he was the Savior of the world, he was a savior that needed changing several times a day, and feeding, and burping and all that other messy stuff that goes with parenting a newborn.

Great have a gift with words.