This folk art crèche from Mexico was given to us as a 25th wedding anniversary present. We lived then in Indonesia, and many of our friends were expats who had lived around the world. The couple who gave it had names similar to ours and the gift tag read “A Mary and Joe from Mary and Joe to Mary and Joe!’
Thinking of Mary and gentle Joseph as simple Joe and Mary somehow gives another dimension to these little nativity figures. seeing my sweet granddaughters as they laugh and cry and run to hug me helps me give flesh to Mary , too. In her innocence, trust, and willingness to say yes to what seemed impossible, she modeled for me the miraculous outcome of being surprised by God. This touches me in a way that none of the Madonna masterpieces in all of art history.
Yes, we have seen the studies, sepia strokes
across yellowed parchment, the fine detail
of hand and breast and the fall of cloth –
Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco, Rouault – each complex madonna plotted at last
on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final
draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.
But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance
to pose her piety, no novitiate for body or
for heart. The moment was on her unaware;
the Angel in the room, the impossible demand,
the response without reflection. Only one
word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah’s How?
The teen head tilted in light, the hand
trembling a little at the throat the candid
eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory –
“Be it unto me as you have said.”
from Accompanied by Angels, Poems of the Incarnationn, by Luci Shaw