Throughout the Bible we hear the words “Bride” and “Bridegroom” referring to the unity between God and His people. This unity is not just for those who are consecrated religious people like nuns, sisters, monks, and priests. Lay Catholics can often assume that such unity with God is not something for themselves to consider because they are married to another real human being. This is not true!
The icon above is called “Our Lady of the Sign” and it is the very first icon known to depict Mary the Mother of God. This image was found painted inside the catacombs of the early Christian martyrs. It is NOT a “Catholic” image although much of the Catholic artwork depicting Mary would have been inspired by this first icon.
Every single Christian man and woman is called to be united or “married” to the Holy Spirit like Mary the Mother of God was. Her human body accepted the Spirit of God and from that Spirit she brought Christ into the world. Men will not be giving birth to babies. Many women will not be giving birth to babies. But the fruit of our service to others should reflect the image of Christ. If we are Christians, people should “see Christ in us.” This is where we can find common ground with every other Christian denomination. This is what I have in common with my Protestant chaplain peers. We all strive to bring the presence of Christ to the hospital patients whom we serve.
What I find most amazing about this icon is that the baby Jesus has the head of an old man. In this image we can contemplate God the Father as the old wise man who embodies the Son, the Christ child, the Anointed One. Jesus Christ comes to life through the unseen Holy Spirit who is married to the physical body of Mary, the one who said “yes” to God. What an amazing miracle this is that we human beings can be a conduit of God’s love to His world like Mary. What an amazing gift lies before us when we use our own freewill to say “yes” to God.