When in the beginning "light was made" and God divided the night from the day, He might have left it at that, a simple change from dark to light. But God is all beauty and color is His creature. Out of the reach of man (who, if he could lay hands on it , would probably try to change it) God placed between the night and the day the radiant curtain of the dawn. For all time it was to shine there as a promise, heralding the day. God has tried in so many ways to make His children happy! The world had been a long time in spiritual darkness, shuddering under the frown of its Creator's anger, when dawn lighted its undeserving skies with the first lovely streaks of light. This long advent of four thousand years is remembered yearly in the prayers of the Church for Advent, often under the symbol of light dispelling the darkness:
"The night is past and the day is at hand; Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.. ."
"O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord our God . . "
The world's Redeemer was its light and salvation. So it is that the hope, the promise, and the loveliness of dawn should be early associated with Our Lady, who gave to the world its Lord of Light. "Morning Star," we call her in the litany; in the Canticle of Canticles she is prefigured by the words,
"Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising?"
To us looking back, as to those patriarchs looking ahead for the long four thousand years, "Mary is the dawning, Christ the perfect day." Dark as the world may seem today, it can never be quite dark again since Mary came on earth. For Mary, whose birth was the dawning hope for mankind, brought to us the Light of the world.
Few people were aware that anything unusual had happened the day that Mary came to earth. Kings and princes did not care that a little daughter had been born to Joachim and Anna. A few relatives came to congratulate the parents; friends brought gifts and asked, of course, what the baby's name was going to be. Miriam? Well, that was nothing strange; there were many Hebrew girls called Miriam. To those who think that public opinion is so vital to success and that nothing will prosper without advertising, the obscurity of Mary's birth is a direct challenge. It is like the noiseless dawn that rises daily whether man looks or not. There are people who are sure that the world will not go around without their management, people who never have time to look at the dawn or to remember that God does things quietly and with certainty. Perhaps they are related to the neighbors who said one to another, on a day long ago, "Joachim and Anna have a child—a daughter, unfortunately—they call her Miriam," and then forgot all about it . God wanted it to be so, that Mary would grow up lovely and unnoticed among her relatives and neighbors. The less they knew of her, the less they would distract her from her great work in life.
There is an ancient tradition that Mary was presented in the temple at the age of three, and that she lived there among the virgins dedicated to work in the temple until she was of marriageable age. Since she must have been the most beautiful of all women, the loveliest in all ways—being without sin—it is hard to imagine that nobody noticed how beautiful she was. We may take it for granted that they did. But Mary was God's, wholly and entirely.
During her entire lifetime she took not a single step to be noticed by anyone. Today if a child is unusually pretty or talented, someone is sure to say, "Let us send her to Hollywood!" There, seeking fame, she will be photographed and publicized: her face will appear in a thousand cheap places; her beauty will become the property of all. And after a few years no one will remember her, because someone else has taken her place. No one ever has or ever will succeed in eclipsing the beauty of Mary, who lived in obscurity nearly two thousand years ago. The beauty of her sinless soul, something so tremendous that words cannot describe it or brush depict it, has been the theme of more masterpieces than all other subjects put together.
Not a Christian home in twenty centuries that has not had her picture i it , not an artist who did not try with all his art to carve or paint her image. Churches all over the world today, even though they may be in ruins, still testify to the love mankind has poured at her feet for all these sad years. She has been enshrined in marble, in stone, in glass, in wood and jewels, in song and story, on canvas, in masterpieces so lovely that all ages will revere them. Countless artists have laid aside their tools with regret on finishing her image, breathing an apology that they had portrayed her so poorly:
"For artist's brush can never trace
The beauty, Mother, of thy face;
And if on earth 'tis fair to see,
O what must it in heaven be?"
We do not know how Our Lady looked on earth (please God we shall some day see in heaven), and artists who have pictured her make her in their highest ideal of beauty, whatever that may be. To the Chinese she is a gentle, slant-eyed oriental lady; to the Indian, the fairest Indian maiden that ever lived; to Italian, Spanish, Flemish artists, she was the loveliest lady of their national type. All this is as it should be, for whereas she was in fact Jewish by race, she is the Mother of all the world's children of every race and color. She is Mother to the Russian peasant who guards her ikon under pain of death, to the German woodcarver who makes her image in wood, to the army chaplain, to the busy mother of a family, to the six-year-old bringing his first holy card picture of her home fro school. She was the same sweet mother to the artist of the Sistine Madonna in the sixteenth century, to those who carved her image in the stones of great cathedrals in the thirteenth, to the crusader who carried her blue banners before Acre in the twelfth, to the Christians who painted her symbols on the walls of the catacombs in the early centuries of the Church. She is not only placeless but also timeless in her love for all of us.
Only think, child of Mary, how wealthy you are, no matter how poor the world may think you! When a child has lost his mother we are very sad, for it seems as if he has nothing more to lose. But God foresaw that on a day long ago, when in the tiny daughter of Joachim
and Anna, He saw the beauty of His handiwork and willed to share it with us. Never, since Our Lady came on earth, will any of us be without a mother. Not only shall we benefit by the Light that is Christ, but also, little as we deserve it , we shall share in the beauty of the dawn of salvation, Mary, His Mother.
"I am the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope... .In me is all hope of life and of virtue. . . . My memory is unto everlasting generations."
Source: Our Lady's Feasts, Imprimatur 1945
A coloring picture can be found below.