ROME, JULY 7, 2004 (Zenit.org).- What was Mary’s smile like?
This is the question Milanese journalist Rosangela Vegetti tries to address in her book “Mary’s Smile,” published by Ancora.
The author has specialized in ecclesial reporting from the diocesan and ecumenical perspectives and is especially concerned about women, minors and the family.
Q: What is known about Mary’s smile?
Vegetti: Virtually nothing, as nothing is known either of Jesus Christ’s smiles. This aspect of his life was not part of the cultural considerations of the time, nor were the Evangelists interested in shedding light on it. It is up to us to discover all the possible occasions in which a smile marked Mary’s or Jesus Christ’s face.
Given that Jesus’ message is characterized by joy, it is not imprudent to think that both had a smiling attitude toward life.
Q: Why are there no traces of this in theology or iconography?
Vegetti: Probably because pain is a problem for us which distresses us, and the same doesn’t happen with joy. For centuries, efforts have been made to find reasons for hope, for certainty in the face of the causes of suffering, with the solidaristic assistance of those who have known pain because they have experienced it.
In fact, it is not a question of there not being traces of smiles in theology. Suffice it to refer to what St. Thérèse of Lisieux said about Mary’s smile. In iconography we also find works that go deeper and represent joyful and smiling expressions of Mary.
It must be said that joy is the foundation of the whole Christian message. Moreover, smiling is about the more personal, perhaps more human side. It is what one perceives while looking at the person with whom one is communicating.
A smile implies a coming closer, a familiar communication between two people. For centuries, devotions to Mary have not made easy personal knowledge of her as a human person. Instead, she has been removed from human history and made too heavenly.
Q: Were the people with whom you spoke when writing the book in agreement with presenting a smiling Virgin?
Vegetti: The people with whom I reflected on the topic were in agreement on the importance of opening an area of reflection which to date has been rather neglected.