Teaching the Catholic Faith

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On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Joseph Strickland and Dr. Stacy Trasancos unveiled the new painting which will hang in the Cathedral for generations to come: The Immaculate Conception by Robert Puschautz. Robert Puschautz is the Stabat Mater Art Fellow for the St. Philip Institute and is hard at work to produce more masterful paintings like this one. Below is Robert's introduction to this beautiful work of sacred art. [Pictures below.]

How does one actually put something into a picture which words cannot fully express and that no eye has seen like the Immaculate Conception? With painting, the challenge is always to present something of the mystery in the simplest possible manner. The only way is to use symbols and attempt to weave them seamlessly together without drawing the viewer away from the whole. It is in this way that images can teach. Not in a didactic way, but through assimilation.

 

First, we are struck by beauty, but if we remain, the image’s emotional power, meaning, and symbolism unfold before us and we can drink it in. So if you will allow, I hope to reveal a bit about this painting. What do we see?

 

Mary is standing over the world. Christ, with arms outstretched spreads a golden mantle over her. Below is the world with the serpent coiled around it. In the background fire surrounds the world and as we gradually move up the painting we see golden clouds and the light of day. Mary here, is depicted as the woman of Revelation. ‘A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars’ (Rev 12:1).  You can see the crown of stars around Mary’s head.

 

In this painting, however, Christ, himself is the sun who drapes His grace over Mary preventing her from any stain of original sin. Her head is close to His heart, the heart that brought forth all of creation. I wanted Mary to seem almost like a column. She stands firm on top of the world, and is that neck, that mediator of grace between us and Christ. The golden mantle is the symbol of this singular grace merited by Jesus Christ. His hands display the wounds of the cross, the sign of his victory over death, and they bleed onto the mantle. Below Mary crushes the head of the serpent foretold to Eve in the prophecy in Genesis. “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen 3:15).

 

Mary is our hope. Though the world is ensnared by the enemy and covered by the darkness of sin and death, through her seed, Jesus Christ, we are assured that the victory is already won. Mary, preserved from sin, assumed body and soul into heaven, and crowned as Queen of heaven and earth is our model for what we hope in, that one day day we too shall be resurrected body and soul and look into the face of God.

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