Reflecting Heaven Part 6: Ceiling Murals

05-30-2021Reflecting HeavenFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Sacred Art has a way of bringing the Sacred Scriptures to life. Often times I’ve found myself inspired by the art that makes the Word of God come alive. Sacred Art in churches often depicts scenes from Sacred Scripture which are meant to lift our hearts and minds to heaven. Sacred images have often helped me contemplate the readings and homilies on Our Lord and the faith of Mary, Joseph, and the people found throughout Sacred Scripture.

For the theme of the ceiling murals, much prayer and discussion led to the consensus to create murals around the theme of Biblical scenes in the life of our Blessed Mother and her Son. For a parish under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, this seems appropriate. Our devotion to Mary leads to worship of Christ, and that’s the theme of these murals.

Here and in the next couple weeks follows a summary of the murals, a few at a time.

1.The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

The first scene is the moment of the Incarnation, when the Word is made flesh in the womb of Mary. Most Annunciation art shares several characteristics:

  • The angel Gabriel and Mary both slightly incline to the other in an act of mutual respect and deference.
  • Mother Mary kneels at her prie-dieu indicating her prayerful humility before the Archangel Gabriel pointing to Mary’s “Fiat” or “Yes” allowing God’s will be done in Her. God does not force Himself on Mary – or on us. As we have experienced many times: “God is a gentleman” in His invitation; Her “yes” – and ours – must be freely given.
  • A beam of light emanates from the Holy Spirit directly to the womb of Mary: the moment of Incarnation. In this mural, then, Christ is present, but invisible to us. Much like in the Eucharist, no?

2.The Visitation (Luke 1:39-56)

The second mural depicts Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with Jesus’ cousin, St. John the Baptist. The scene depicts the Judean town in the hill country, where Our Blessed Mother came to the house of Zechariah and greeted her cousin Elizabeth.

As we hear in Sacred Scripture:

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’”

The mural shows the love and tenderness of the meeting of these two holy women in their miraculous pregnancies, and it captures the moment when St. John recognizes the presence of Jesus, stirring in the womb of Elizabeth. Again, Jesus is not yet visible to us, but is very much present in the person of Mary the Theotokos, the God-bearer.

“Art is meant to bring the divine to the human world, to the level of the senses, then, from the spiritual insight gained through the senses and the stirring of the emotions, to raise the human world to God, to his inexpressible kingdom of mystery, beauty, and life.’”
—Built of Living Stones §142

3. The Espousals of Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-19)

The Feast of the Espousals celebrates the wedding anniversary of Joseph and Mary because it celebrates their kiddushin. Catholic literature shows a historical preference for “espousal” and “spouses” rather than “wedding” or “husband/wife” because traditionally the former two terms indicate a valid marriage that is unconsummated. But given contemporary usage—and to stress the full nuptials of the Holy Couple—it is equally appropriate to use for them the terms “wedding” or “marriage,”

January 23 the date for the lesser known feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph. In 1961 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued an instruction that removed from particular calendars numerous particular feasts, including the Feast of the Espousals of Mary and St. Joseph, except in places where the feasts have a special connection with the place itself. In 1989, for example, the Oblates of St. Joseph obtained permission to celebrate on January 23 “The Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph” with the liturgical rank of “Feast,” and full proper texts, including a preface:

You give the Church the joy of celebrating the feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph: in her, full of grace and worthy Mother of your Son, you signify the beginning of the Church, resplendently beautiful bride of Christ; you chose him, the wise and faithful servant, as Husband of the Virgin Mother of God, and made him head of your family, to guard as a father your only Son, conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

“Like Joseph and Mary, all married couples are called to make a complete gift of self to each other. They are called to nurture self-giving love within their marriage and family so that their homes can truly become sanctuaries of love and cradles of life. They are invited to recognize that it is specifically through their vocation as husbands or wives, and in the reality of everyday family life, that holiness can be achieved. Spouses can emulate Mary and Joseph by their total surrender to God’s will and by their trust in God’s love, mercy, and provision. In the joys and sorrows of life, spouses and families can strive to daily keep their gaze fixed on Jesus and by making him the king and center of their own families, through the example and help of Joseph and Mary.” - Leonora Butau

This perfect union is one that St Bernadine of Siena describes when he says:

“Mary and Joseph were but one heart and soul; they were two in one same mind, one same affection, and each of them was the other’s second half, because Our Lady and he were so to speak, only one person. The heart of Mary with that of Joseph, and the heart of Joseph with that of Mary, who ever could imagine a union so intimate, a grace so great!”

Turn to Our Lady and St Joseph, asking for their intercession and blessings over marriages and families. May couples be strengthened and encouraged by their holy example and strive to mirror the love of the Holy Family in their own families.

4.The Nativity (Luke 2:1-20)

In the Nativity window, the soft light shines on the infant Jesus, akin to the light of the Holy Spirit in the Annunciation mural. The Feast of the Annunciation and the Nativity, exactly nine months apart, are part and parcel of the same great Mystery. That is why, at Mass on both March 25 and December 25, we genuflect during the Creed during the words “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

The Virgin Mary sees in the Infant that She has given to the world, a child in appearance like all other children, the very Son of God. Mary’s soul was filled with an immense faith which welled up in Her and surpassed the faith of all the just men of the Old Testament; this is why She recognized Her God in Her own Son.

If you would like to be a part of this historic moment in the life of our parish, please go to our website or contact our parish office to see how you can financially contribute to making our dream a reality.