It Will Never Fall
A unicorn is sitting in the crown of a tree which bears the name of
Mary. The unicorn stands for Christ who is--like the unicorn--a miracle and mystery of
nature, and lets himself be tamed only by a Virgin. The inscription, it will never
fall, points to the permanent unity between Christ and his mother. The tree, symbol
of Mary, may suggest perseverance and motherly love, more specifically it points out that
Mary through her intimacy with Christ and the holiness she derives from him, makes Christ visible and
attracts people's attention to him and not to herself.
They Are Seeking the Light
Fish are swimming toward the boat in whose midst a lit lantern has
been placed. In Aresis' Imprese sacre this emblem symbolizes discipleship, the
apostles following Christ. Here the brightly shining lantern does not refer to Christ but
to Mary. The burning candle placed inside the lantern resists wind and
thunderstorm. It will not be snuffed out, and therefore becomes a beacon for the many pious souls who are
seeking the light. However, the light of the world is Jesus Christ (John 3:21), and thus
Mary's light must lead to the very source of her own light which is in God, and became
visible in Jesus Christ.
Mary is compared to the enclosed or closed garden as mentioned in the Canticle of Canticles (4:12). This is one of the oldest symbols of Mary's sinlessness and immaculateness. It was included in the Litanies of Loreto. Since Mary's purity is the equivalent of great beauty, it was the custom in the middle ages and later on to design the enclosed garden as paradise garden filled with flowers and aromatic plants. Here, the garden reflects the Renaissance canon of beauty with its penchant for symmetry and geometric proportions. In its midst we discover a tree, probably in reference to the tree of life, meaning Christ Jesus himself.
Mary's love is exclusive. There is room in her heart for Christ
alone. Such is the meaning of the enclosed garden. But Jesus is the source of life and
love, and thus love springs forth from the heart of Mary and becomes visible and palpable
to all who contemplate her enclosed garden, meaning her uniquely dedicated heart.
The Stainless Mirror
A spheric mirror stands on a hovering cloud. The mirror is an old and well known Marian symbol. Here it signifies Mary's sinlessness. This motif has its origin in the Book of Wisdom (7:26): "She is (wisdom) a reflection of the eternal light, and a stainless mirror of God's majesty." (speculum sine macula) The cloud points to Mary's exalted station, and the two decorative trees flanking the mirror are expressions of youth and purity, reaching beyond this life into eternity.
This symbol of the Immaculate can be found in Raphael Sadeler's
engravings of the Litanies of Loreto (1601/04) and Picinelli's Mondo simbolico.
The latter refers to the Song of Songs: "Pulchra es ... macula non est in te."
[You are beautiful and there is no stain in you." (4:7)]
Return to Immaculate Conception in Images
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