Mary the Dawn, Christ the perfect day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the heavenly Way.
Mary the Root, Christ the mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the sacred Wine.
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the living Bread;
Mary the Rose tree, Christ the Rose blood-red.
Mary the Font, Christ the cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the saving Blood.
Mary the Temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored.
Mary the Beacon, Christ the haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision blest.
This medieval hymn explaining the role of Mary in God's plan of salvation refers to Mary as a chalice: "Mary the Chalice, Christ the saving blood." Mary was chosen for the greatest mission ever given: to be the God-bearer, a vessel who bore Jesus into the world. Mary is the container, the chalice, through which the Father chose to hold the Savior of the world and deliver Him to us, His people. In the same way the chalice is the vessel that carries the wine (Christ’s saving blood) to us in Communion. Mary is the Tabernacle, the object the Hebrews recognized as the earthly home of the Lord.
Here the woman looks at the Crucifix, the suffering Christ. The image evokes the memory of our mother Eve, whose disobedience brought sin into the world, culminating ultimately in the execution of Christ. Eve’s act of disobedience was redeemed in Mary’s obedient response: "May it be to me as you have said." Through Mary’s "yes," the shriveled tree of the cross blossoms into life again, and through Christ’s "Thy will be done" is able to bear the fruit of life and love once more. This was possible only through shed blood, Christ’s sacrifice offered to us in Communion, poured out for us in the sacrifice of the Cross — and echoed in a mother’s gift of shed blood through childbirth. His suffering is painful to see, but it is through her act of listening and opening herself to God that redemption came into the world.
She must have felt small and inadequate in the face of such a joyful, sorrowful, and great charge, but she did not give way to fear or self-doubt as I so often do: she only trusted that God would provide all that was needed to carry out the task He had given.
Mary the Chalice, Oil on Canvas, 31” x 21”
© Michelle Arnold Paine All Rights Reserved.
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