250 Words, With Sincerity and Honesty

Fra Filippo Lippi. Madonna and Child, 1440-1445. Tempera on panel. National Gallery, Washington, D.C.

One morning in chapel when we were singing the Canticle to Mother Mary, I had a vision. It had to do with that painting behind the altar of the Madonna and Child that Sister Eleanor says is a copy of one by Fra Filippo Lippi. I've had problems with this Madonna ever since you taught us the Canticle where we sing, "O sweet Virgin Mother, in you no joy is lacking." No way does Filippo's Virgin have any joy. The corners of her mouth just sag and her eyes are all droopy and half-closed. Most mothers smile at their kids, but she looks so bummed out and miserable, like she already knows he's gonna be nailed up there, it didn't seem right or appropriate for a church. If she's happy while she's looking down at her son, that might make us feel worse about what's going to happen to him. Isn't that the point?