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.
Advent is a time to meditate on thresholds: the thresholds between darkness and light, between heaven and earth, between human and divine. We await Christ who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and through him we are able to enter into God’s presence in heaven. Mary, as she opens herself to the Holy Spirit, becomes the threshold between heaven and earth. Through her God came to earth in the Incarnation, and through Christ humankind may enter heaven. Similarly, in the painting Mary the Gate: Threshold of Salvation, the woman is on the threshold between light and darkness, interior space and exterior space.
The hymn declares: "Mary the Gate, Christ the heavenly way.” Mary was the gate “closed to men” by which God the Savior came into the world. Ezekiel 44:2 speaks of the closed gate that “no one may enter it or go through it because the Lord has passed through.” This verse was commonly held to be a prophecy of the Virgin birth. As a virgin, and just like the temple gate in Ezekiel, no one except the Lord entered.
The branches in the painting evoke the memory of our mother Eve, whose disobedience was redeemed in the act of Mary’s obedience: “May it be to me as you have said.” Through Mary’s “yes,” the shriveled tree of humanity bears fruit again, and through Christ is able to blossom into life and love again. Eve closed the door to paradise for all humankind, but Mary opened it to us. God promises that “the desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.” God promises that spring will return — not just the season of spring, but that through Christ a springtime of my heart will return as well. If the woman opens her heart to the light and crosses the threshold in the painting, redemption and paradise are available to her once more.
Gateway of Salvation, Oil on Canvas, 50” x 36”, Collection of Center for Faith and Inquiry, Gordon College, Mass.
© Michelle Arnold Paine All Rights Reserved.
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