So I know it’s no longer October, but can you really ever stop talking about Mary? I propose that you cannot. About a week ago, I found myself in Florence, Italy. If you have never been, I highly, highly suggest getting there at least once in your life. Truly amazing city, with spectacular art. If you're reading this thinking, “That’s nice, but I’m right brained so art is a lot more difficult for me to understand/ appreciate,” that’s me too, so we are in this together. It was really not until studying abroad there about two years ago that I first started to appreciate art. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in an address to artists on the role of art, “The experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.” (View Source)
Anyways, one of the major churches in Florence is the Basilica of Santo Spirito. Recently (as in 2009) this Church gained more fame as they discerned that a crucifix they had was actually the many-times-painted-over wooden Crucifix that Michelangelo carved in 1493 as a gift to the Prior of Santo Spirito. This crucifix is a must if you do make it to Florence. It is absolutely stunning and probably the most realistic image of Christ I’ve ever seen.
In this Church, there is a painting called Madonna del Soccorso, or Our Lady of Help/ Aid. At first glance, I laughed at the cartoonish, almost Disney Channel movie aspect of this painting. But something about it really hit me, and I decided to stay at the side altar and ponder it for a while. What I loved most about this painting was the way the child found himself within Mary’s Mantle. Mary was not simply standing beside the child and literally beating the demon. No, she was protecting the child, within her mantle, while at the same time beating the demon away. What an amazing mother we have!
Doing some research, it seems that this type of painting (also found in frescoes and tapestries) was introduced to the Italian Renaissance during the 15th century by Augustinians. They were trying to show the importance of baptism and the reality of evil in our lives. The Devil's biggest gain is when we think that evil doesn’t actually exist. When we are so immersed with the world that we forget that there is a higher spiritual world that is REAL, we need to turn to Mary, our mother, always. We need to constantly imagine her there because clearly we are sinners (well, I’ll speak for myself, clearly I’m a sinner) and so will fall to temptation. Take sometime and just dwell on being in the place of this child. We see so many times in scripture how aware Mary is of other's needs. Just look at the Wedding of Cana. She didn’t just ponder and think, "Oh that’s too bad they ran out of wine." No, she was aware of the situation, immediately acted, and went to Christ. She wants to do the same thing and does the same thing in our lives. We just have to let her be our Mother, to defend us from the Evil that is trying to separate us from her Son.