No woman has inspired such devotion, or been the subject of so many works of art, as Mary, the mother of Jesus. In this series of reflections, Sr Wendy Beckett draws on the riches of the Eastern Christian tradition of icon painting to look at scenes from Marys life, and the many and varied traditions that surround her. She presents these fascinating paintings not simply as historical artefacts, but as images that have a depth and meaning for the world in which we live today.
Sister Wendy Beckett
Sister Wendy Beckett is the author of the internationally bestselling The Story of Painting (Dorling Kindersley, 1997) and a frequent presenter of programmes on art for the BBC. Her most recent books include The Christ Journey (2011), Real Presence (2010), Encounters with God (2009), and The Art of Christmas (2008). Formerly a Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Wendy has lived since 1970 as a contemplative nun within the grounds of a Carmelite monastery in Norfolk.
Sister Wendy Becket has gained an extraordinary reputation and following through her television appearances. For a hermit such as she, this is a remarkable achievement. Her new little book will be warmly welcomed by many of her readers.
Using a series of very beautiful icons from the orthodox tradition dating from the 6th to 18th Centuries, she relates the life of the Blessed Virgin through a series of reflections which the paintings inspire in her. She emphasises the role of Mary in the spiritual life of the Church since the earliest times.
The pictures themselves are very varied, but the reveal a tradition which was until quite recently seen as exotic and alien. These are essentially devotional images, and they avoid many of the elements of over-sweet sentiment which surrounds images of the Virgin in say Italian or Spanish art. They are austere in their piety, and this seems to find a ready echo in the feelings of many modern people,
Perhaps one quote will give an idea of her text: Our Lady must have spent her life pondering on the immensity of the truth within which she lived. We will never know how much she understood, and how much she lived in faith, but it is impossible to believe there was any falsehood in her. The closer we come to God, the more profoundly Gods truth will purify and illuminate us. Of all humans, Mary was the one who came nearest to God.
- The Irish Catholic, 24th June, 2010