Last May as my husband and I were leaving St. Peter’s Basilica with our group, someone whispered, “There’s the Pieta.”
My heart skipped a beat and I looked around quickly, eager to spot
one of my favorite works of art before we’d left for the day. I glanced
to my left and saw it: Our Lord and Lady captured in that
heartbreaking moment for all time, bathed in light in a side chapel. It
drew me and the rest of our group in and instantly we were at the
railing in front of the statue.
Our Lady’s face was so beautiful and so young, untouched by the stain
of sin, as she gazed on the body of Our Lord lain across her lap.
Jesus looked so strange, his limbs seemed too long on her lap. It was a
mistake—it should have been an infant that she was holding, not a
fully-grown man at the peak of his youth and strength. Mary sat
underneath the weight of it all, serenely cradling him with one arm and
turning up a palm with the other in a gentle appeal to Heaven. The
whole scene was so beautiful and looked so wrong.
The mother in me couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Mary wasn’t
supposed to be holding her dead child—no parent is supposed to. Without
faith the moment would appear to be the pinnacle of despair, yet Mary’s
expression is one of peace.
This morning I’m looking at a little replica of the Pieta that’s
sitting on my coffee table, a treasure we brought home from the Vatican
museum store. I don’t know where to put it, though swapping out our
nativity set—that’s still up—for it is one idea as Lent begins. There
it would be by the window that I’m endlessly looking out of, a beautiful
reminder that there is always hope, even and perhaps especially at the
moment when it appears that there is none.