It was my distinct privilege to accompany our Class 8 students as they explored Washington, D.C. this past week. Having moved to our nation’s capital right out of college and calling it “home” for 13 years, I was flooded with memories—from ice-skating at the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden (the site of my first date with my wife Dorothy), to the sirens and terror that marked 9/11. It was a privilege to see DC through our students’ eyes and share with them the things I love most about that city.
One of my favorite spots will always be the National Gallery of Art. Though our time in the NGA was cut short this year due to poor planning (I should have read that bus schedule a little more closely) several of the students still listed it as one of the highlights of the trip. As our curriculum is rooted in the classical tradition of studying the enduring things that are good, true, and beautiful, several of the more famous pieces on display in the gallery are familiar to them.
The NGA has an impressive collection of Renaissance Art and the only DaVinci on public view in the Americas. As 1st graders our students learn about Giotto, often called “The Father of the Renaissance,” and they paint a copy of his Madonna and Child. Though perhaps not their favorite painting, nor mine, it is remarkable to stand in the presence of a work of art created in the early 14th century and to know the significant role the artist played in the history of western civilization.
There are other studies of the Virgin Mary on display, several of which I prefer to Giotto’s, such as Raphael’s Alba Madonna. Seeing them all in a span of several minutes during Advent, with the city awash in tinsel and lights, got me thinking of Mary and her cosmos-changing response to Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
I want to be more like Mary: child-like faith, quick to respond, open to receive. willing to suffer.
My favorite reflection on Mary is offered by the poet Luci Shaw. Good poetry doesn’t require commentary or editorializing, it moves by the power of its own words and imagery, so I leave you with Luci Shaw’s poem “Mary’s Song” and wish you a Merry Christmas.
By Luci Shaw
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.
Head of School
Leave a Comment