Do you remember this old Marian hymn:
I sing a hymn to Mary
the Mother of my God,
the virgin of all virgins
from David's royal blood?
It's a lovely song, and I sang it in my youth to a world where Mary was, if not celebrated, at least respected. The most negative things said came from the sola scriptura side of the house, that Catholics were worshipping Mary as a God. I often had it said to me and I wondered at the lack of subtlety in such minds. Would that that were the worst said about our Virgin Mother.
We're just back from a short visit to Amsterdam. It's a lovely city, full of lovely, healthy people. They're lively and bright, artistic, fashionable, mad about kooky design and....well, yes, that's the problem - kooky design. Our Lady, intercessor for the human race, is now a design element in these kooky knick knacks. I saw a water bottle, to be used while cycling, I suppose, with the inscription 'Holy Water' and a drawing of Mary feeding the water to Jesus. The caption was something like 'the water that refreshes sinners'. It's ironic, you see. Everything is ironic - cocktail shakers are shaped like cows and sharp knives look like soft bananas because it's 'ironic'. T-shirts slogans order people to look and also not to look at the wearer. Marlyn Monroe seems to be everywhere, laughing her great horse laugh, and poor old Che Guevara, once a symbol of revolution, is done in cross-stitch on comfy cushions - ironic. No harm, you say. But in one shop where I rummaged through bins of edgy stuff I saw a t-shirt with a print of the Virgin and the most, most, most disgusting suggestion underneath. Remember, this was a designer shop, not a sex shop or a joke shop or a head shop; this stuff is for educated people who fancy they have taste. In another shop I saw an altar with a plastic blow up version of Our Lady of Guadaloupe adorned with great plastic roses. Automatically I blessed myself, to the shock of the black clad shop assistants with their lacquered, bored faces. I'd forgotten that everything there was 'ironic'.
I suppose Buddhists have for a long time had to look at the Buddha's head in the form of garden ornaments or candles or guest soaps. Do they find it offensive? I don't know, but I never use the religious symbols of other faiths. It's just common politeness, if nothing else. There seems to be an extra delight, though, in demeaning the Blessed Virgin. Embodiment of purity that she is, there is more than irony, there is true viciousness, in these attacks upon her. The dark cannot bear the light to exist, and must try to cover it.
Hey, I wonder if my misplaced respect for the blow-up altar gives us the way to go? When people set up these ironic 'altars' in their shops, why don't we Catholics turn up and say a few decades of the Rosary? I'm sure the post-modern shop keepers would appreciate the irony. And when we see someone wearing a t-shirt with the Virgin's image, thank him/her for bringing the image to us and ask him/her to join us in a decade.
O teach me Holy Mary
a loving song to frame.
when wicked men blaspheme thee
I love and bless thy name.
The painting at the top is by Domenico Veneziano. Please enjoy its beauty. May God bless all the creators of loving, respectful images that bring us closer to our Mother, closer to God.