Liturgical Season 8/21/03 World News
New Resources  Marian Events  Mary in the Secular Press
 News from the
Marian Library
 Prayer Corner News Archives

Mary Page News items give insight into our interest areas, our outreach, and the many ways people honor Our Lady. We welcome your input and your comments.

Liturgical Season

To celebrate the month of August with Mary:

Marian Commemoration Days

Mary Page offers a variety of resources inviting study, reflection and meditation.  We also list important Marian dates for each month of the year.  Please see Marian Commemoration Days for the month of August.

Rosary Markings

Rosary Markings is an answer to John Paul II's proclamation of "The Year of the Rosary" (2002-2003).  Rosary Markings will explore various facets of the rosary all through this anniversary year.  It will be updated frequently.  

See our recent addition from August 21.  Previous Reflections are listed on our Rosary Index.  Please note that many of these documents are available in Spanish as well as English.

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New Resources

A section on international stamps with images of Mary has been added to our Resources index.  The latest added was Mexico.  Expect more countries to follow.

A section on Marian Spiritualities has also been added to our Resources index.  The latest additions were papers on the spirituality of three famous converts.  Expect more articles to follow.

We have also updated our answer to a reader's question, What is the origin of the Rosary? and expanded our section on Various Chaplets.

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  News from the Marian Library

MSA Call for Papers

"The Immaculate Conception: Human Destiny and Vocation" is the theme of the next meeting of the Mariological Society (Houston, Texas - May, 2004).  Suggested areas for papers include recent bibliography on the Immaculate Conception; Scriptural foundations; anthropological, pastoral, symbolic, and ecumenical implications; original sin in Eastern and Western approaches; the Immaculate Conception in art.   Those wishing to make a presentation should send a precis to the MSA Secretariat (Marian Library) by October 1, 2003.  

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Current Exhibit Extended

Rosaries of the World will remain on display in the Marian Library Gallery through November 10, 2003.  The Gallery is open 8:30 am - 4:30 pm weekdays.  A virtual exhibit may be seen on our Gallery section under Current Exhibit.  For more information, or to arrange for viewing at another time, call (937) 229-4214.  Crèches are also on display in our museum through Nov. 2003.

An article from U.D.'s Campus News Digest about the exhibit may be viewed online at http://www.udayton.edu/news/nr/070303.html.

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Major Exhibit Coming Soon

The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute invites you to visit The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, thirty-eight paintings and sculptures from the permanent collection of The Vatican Museums, spanning seventeen centuries of Christian art and reflecting cultures worldwide.

September 4 - November 10, 2003

Roesch and Marian Library Galleries in Roesch Library on the University of Dayton Campus.
Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Free Admission -- Parking Available

For tours and information call: (937) 229-4254 or email: VaticanExhibit@notes.udayton.edu.
See also the article by Pamela Gregg in the August 22 issue of U.D.'s Campus Report.

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International Marian Research Institute Course Schedule

The schedule of IMRI courses for Fall 2002 - Fall 2003 is now available for view.  
Courses for the Fall semester are scheduled to commence on Oct. 20, 2003.

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Personal thoughts and reflections about Mary 
from our readers 

We've added a section to our Research and Publications section showing selected personal comments from our readers about the Virgin Mary.  Click here to see comments received within the past month.  From this page, feel free to submit your own personal thoughts on Mary.  

We also encourage our readers to submit their opinions on various styles of Marian Art through an on-line art survey.

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Marian Events

Marianist Spirituality e-group

New Members Welcome

Marianist Spirituality is an e-group formed in January, 2003, by a former Marianist religious, now an Affiliate.  Although not officially sanctioned by the Marianists, it has received encouragement from them.  Membership is open to all.  The only "requirement" is an interest in the unique spirituality as expressed in the writings of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.  We encourage sharing, exchange of ideas and resources, and praying for each other.

A few examples of recent and on-going topics for further reading and reflection include the lives of the Marianist Family Founders, the French School of Spirituality, the System of Virtues and the role of Mary in our lives.  No previous knowledge of these or subsequent topics is necessary.  We are all "novices."

For further information, please email jamcul@quik.com.

Click this link for a list of all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.

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Prayer Corner Requests

You are invited to help us pray for our Prayer Corner intentions.  Please take a look!  This site has been updated and enhanced and now allows users to directly submit prayer requests or to volunteer as a prayer partner for these intentions!

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News from Around the World

From Zenit

The Light Shed by the Rosary's New Mysteries

A Theologian Views Pope's Contribution to a Perennial Marian Devotion

ROME, AUG. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org)

The Year of the Rosary, which ends this October, has helped to highlight new vistas on the life of Christ, says a professor and Vatican consultor. Discalced Carmelite Father Jesús Castellano Cervera, consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told ZENIT that John Paul II's appeal in the apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" has made possible a rediscovery of the most profound aspects of the Marian prayer.

"In that letter, first of all, we are invited to contemplate Christ through Mary's eyes and to contemplate Mary in her journey with Christ," explained the professor of liturgy, spirituality and dogmatic theology at the Teresianum Faculty of Theology.

"Thus, through the indications of the Pope a prayer like the rosary, which we had considered as an oral prayer, becomes a contemplative prayer for a journey in holiness," he said. "The most important novelty introduced by the Holy Father is the contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus' public life, the luminous mysteries."

"No one had ever dared before to introduce these mysteries in the rosary," Father Castellano noted. "The Pope has broken the symbolic number of 150 Hail Marys, to increase it to 200. But it was necessary, as the Holy Father himself explains, to unite Jesus' childhood with his passion.

"The five new mysteries begin with Jesus' baptism, revelation of the Father and the Spirit on the banks of the Jordan. We call that moment a theophany, that is, a manifestation of the Trinity. It is a mystery of light, as it speaks of the heavens opening, of the preaching of the beloved Son, of the descent of the Holy Spirit."

He continued: "Then comes Jesus' self-revelation at the wedding of Cana, where the Virgin enables us to understand and contemplate Jesus' countenance as savior. Mystery of joy and luminous light, it is, in fact, Mary's intercession, who says to Jesus: 'They have no wine,' and to the servants: 'Do whatever he tells you.'"

Introduced after the "Proclamation of the Kingdom"--the third mystery--"the mystery of light par excellence is the Lord's transfiguration, a transfiguration which is celebrated by the Roman Church on two occasions during the year: the Second Sunday of Lent, and Aug. 6," Father Castellano said. It is "the most luminous mystery, both because of the light that shines from Jesus' countenance, from his garments, as well as the revelation of the Father who says: 'This is my beloved Son, listen to him.'"

"According to the mystical intuition of the Middle Ages, the Virgin was present at the Last Supper--the last luminous mystery," the Carmelite said. "In fact, according to tradition, the paschal supper was prepared by women, therefore, the women were present and prepared the eucharistic meal. The luminous character of this supper is evident. In St. John's Gospel, five chapters are dedicated to the account of the supper, from the beginning, with the washing of the feet, to Chapter 17."

"In the last encyclical on the Eucharist, the Pope pointed out the relations of profound dependence between the Body of Christ and Mary," Father Castellano added. "Without Mary's maternity, the Eucharist of the Church would not exist. From the baptism to the Eucharist, these five luminous mysteries are essential--five mysteries of Jesus' public life that before were missing."


From L’Osservatore Romano

Not posted this week.

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Mary in the Secular Press

The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.

Mary grows up: The virgin in her later years. [Source: Women's Review of Books, July, 2003]

Icons never age. Especially not the Virgin Mary. In the cultural imagination, she is always in her 20s--a Renaissance artist's ethereal dream, nothing at all like the dark-skinned, hard-muscled Middle Eastern peasant adolescent she really was. She remains "ageless," as they say, as though this were a compliment, even an honor. 'In fact it is the opposite. She is all image and no reality--a kind of virtual Mary. Deprived of vitality, intelligence, and feeling, she is a being so self-effacing that all she can say at the Annunciation is "Let it be done unto me"--a phrase some biblical scholars interpret as a queenly "Let it be," but that can as easily be read as a cowed "Yes, sir," or even as a sulky "Whatever."

The events of the gospels are immensely physical--conception, birth, feeding, healing, excruciating death--and yet Mary seems to sleepwalk through them, so vague a presence that she doesn't even appear at the crucifixion until the last gospel, John, and then only as "his mother," without even the courtesy of her own name.

The most revered woman in the world surely deserves better than this. The least one can do is honor her by gracing her with reality. Who was she, then? This was the deceptively simple question that impelled me to write Mary, A Flesh-and-Blood Biography, which will be published next spring.

I began by giving her back her real name: Maryam in Aramaic, the language she spoke. That helped me to ground her in a time and a place, in Palestine 2,000 years ago. After four years of intensive research, a portrait emerged of a woman who was far more than we have yet acknowledged her as being a strong and courageous woman who did not merely assent to her role in history, but actively chose it and lived it to the fullest.

The further I explored the multiple facets of her life--peasant villager, wise woman and healer, activist, mother, teacher, and yes, virgin, though in a sense we have long forgotten--the more relevant and admirable a figure she became. I was struck by how political, social, and cultural issues seemed to echo across time, creating new perspectives. The question of Maryam's age, for instance, challenges contemporary assumptions

Pregnancy at 13 sounds scandalously early to the modern ear. It brings to mind stories of inner-city girls who have sex in desperation for love and attention, then treat their newborns as though they were living toys-- barely out of adolescence, children bearing children.

It can't be, says the western mind. Not Mary. Except for the collective mind of the Vatican, which retains a less sentimental and, ironically, more realistic view of human physiology. The official Roman Catholic celebration of Mary's 2,000th birthday was in 1987, 13 years before that of her son.
Never mind for now that the Vatican reckoning is off since calendars have become more precise through the intervening centuries. Whether you reckon the year of Jesus' birth at the academically agreed upon if peculiar date of 4' BC--Christ born four years Before Christ--or at the simpler and popularly accepted stroke of midnight between 1 BC and 1 BC, or at the more likely date of 6 BC, one fact remains: Maryam was 13.

Even today, in much of the world, girls are married off at puberty. And Maryam lived 17 centuries before what historian Philippe Aries called "the invention of childhood" in the West. Children were seen simply as small adults. Their ages were figured not by numbers, but by what they could do: "the age of chasing stray sheep" or "plant gathering" or "plowing."

Marriage came early. It had to. When life is short, you need to grab at every opportunity to reproduce it. And life 2,000 years ago was very short.

True, there is the biblical reckoning of a long life, still echoed in the Jewish birthday toast "to a hundred and twenty." But nobody does live to a hundred and twenty, not today and not in biblical times either. Long before records of births and deaths were kept, 120 was an idealized lifespan, providing an image of the patriarch or matriarch looking on in satisfaction at four or five generations of offspring, the visible proof of having been fruitful and multiplied.

To grasp just how idealized this biblical number is, you don't have to go back 2,000 years. You need only look at almost any peasant population today--in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in all those countries that many westerners barely register as existing, until some form of military intervention suddenly brings them into the brief and fickle spotlight of world attention.

The numbers are chilling. Data from 1980 show one stillborn per five live births. One in ten of those born die during the first year of life. A third are dead by age five. Fewer than half of those born make it to puberty. And even for the survivors, life expectancy in many parts of Asia and Africa is under 50 years.

Not that the western world is that far removed from such lifespans. Go back a mere couple of centuries to 18th-century London, and records show well over half of those born dying by age 16. Only ten percent made it beyond age 45--the same number as in ancient Rome. In 19th-century Massachusetts, more than a third of all women died by age 20. It wasn't until the 20th century with the germ theory of disease, and especially with the introduction of penicillin and vaccination, that lifespans began to increase to those we now take for granted in the West.

In the ancient Middle East, as many as half of all children died before age five. Infant mortality was so high that Aristotle noted in his Historia Animalium that newborns were not named until a week after birth because many wouldn't live that long.

Childbirth was almost as dangerous for the mothers. Miscarriage was common, usually due to malnutrition or disease. Of those who carried an infant to term, about one out of three died in childbirth from uterine hemorrhage or infection, often with their first delivery. Five or six live births would be high for any one mother, and since so many children died in infancy or early childhood, the effective birthrate was lower than it is today in the industrialized world.

The other famed biblical lifespan, three score years and ten, was the preserve of the fraction of one percent who were wealthy and sheltered, and even then of very few of them. The second-century philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius, raised by his grandfather after his parents died when he was young, saw nine of his 12 children die in infancy or childhood, and that was with the best hygiene, nutrition, and medical attention available in Rome.

And such figures applied only to "normal" times, when death was caused by disease, or by the kind of gross accident familiar to farmers worldwide, or by infection--even a cut or a rotten tooth could kill you. Death by human violence shortened lifespans still further. Political upheavals sent foreign armies roaming and killing at will, making no distinction between military and civilian targets, while internecine conflicts spiraled out of hand as they still do two millennia later (think of Hutus and Tutsis, Serbs and Bosnians, Irish Catholics and Protestants, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, to name just a few). At such times, death rates surge beyond predictability with, depending on the place and the century, firing squads, "disappeared" people, massacre by machete, torched villages, mass crucifixions, marketplace bombs, unmarked common graves.

Imagine, then, the idealism it took to conceive of someone living to three score and ten, let alone to a hundred and twenty. Imagine the power of the biblical command to be fruitful and multiply when being fruitful and multiplying was so rife with risk, the odds so loaded against success. Who needs such a command, after all, except those for whom it is in doubt?

When life is short, there is no such thing as "youth." There were no teenagers 2,000 years ago, as there are none in many parts of the world today. To be 13 when the average lifespan is so short is equivalent to being a young adult in modern western society. Westerners are shocked at 13 year olds toting Kalashnikovs and shoulder missiles in African and Middle Eastern warfare, but that is because we take for granted the idea of childhood, and of the teen years as a kind of older childhood, a slow adaptation to adulthood. We forget that to be a teenager is a luxury afforded only those with good nutrition and healthcare. For nearly the whole world 2,000 years ago, there was no such luxury. Together with the short lifespan, the high risk of maternal and infant death in childbirth made early marriage and pregnancy essential to survival of both families and peoples.

A 13-year-old girl was considered a woman. Menstruation had begun. She was fertile, and fertility meant maturity. What we now celebrate only as ritual--the passing into adulthood marked by rites such as Confirmation or Bat Mitzvah--was fact 2,000 years ago. A 13 year old would be a mother. A woman of 40 would be a great-grandmother. By 50, if the survival odds worked in her favor and left at least one surviving child in each generation, she would be a great-great-grandmother. She would be truly ancient.

To paraphrase the end of Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus-"We have to imagine Sisyphus happy"--we have to imagine Mary old. And that means reconstructing her life after the crucifixion, when she disappears completely from the gospel record.
Are we really to believe, as various apocryphal and legendary versions have it, that she retreated to Ephesus to live out her days in the care of John, or was sheltered in Jerusalem by Peter, or went back to the Galilee to live out her days in quiet anonymity? In fact, are we really to believe that such a woman would retreat at all?

This is the woman who was the source of her son's powers of wisdom and healing, the woman who taught him about justice and freedom. She had just been through the worst any mother can know--the excruciating death of her child. Face etched deep by hard work and harder experience, it is inconceivable that she would simply accept such cruelty with another silent "Let it be."

No. Given what we know of the time, and of women's role in early Christian life, it makes more sense to see her in a far more active role. The gospel writers refer to "the many women who came up with him to Jerusalem," and these women would almost certainly have gathered around Maryam to form a new kind of community. In an early form of liberation theology, they would have combined activism with contemplation, offering shelter and healing to those in need, in the spirit of justice and the path of wisdom.

Wise is not a word much used any longer. One can be smart, one can be intelligent, one may even be a genius. But wise? That has an unreal feel to it, simultaneously too grand and too vague for practical people.

Yet in Maryam's time, there was nothing vague about wisdom. Quite the contrary. A great deal of the Jewish theology of her day was built around the divine female figure known as the Lady Wisdom. She had a distinct voice. She spoke directly, in quotation marks, in several books written by Judean gnostics living in Egypt from the third century BC on.

Her name, Hochma, was the abstract form of hachama, wise woman. Her earliest known appearance is in the third-century BC Book of Proverbs, where she descends from the divine world to guide and save humanity. She was there when God created the world, she says, before anything else existed. She proclaims her greatness, gives dire warnings of the dangers of ignoring her, and demands and expects loyalty As the manifestation of God's presence in the world, this is her due.

In the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, written in the first century BC, Hochma encompasses all the sciences of her time: physics, alchemy, astrology, biology, psychology, herbalism, and medicine. The book praises her in a list of 21 attributes--three times the magical number seven--that make her everything a woman and a goddess could be: "Intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, active, incisive, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp, irresistible, beneficent, loving to man, steadfast, dependable, unperturbed, almighty, all-surveying, penetrating, all-intelligent, pure and most subtle spirits."

At times, her language reflects the grandeur of contemporary hymns to Isis; at others it seems very close to the sensuality of the Song of Songs. In the apocryphal second-century-BC Book of Ecclesiaticus--often called the Wisdom of Ben Sirach to distinguish it from the better-known Ecclesiastes--she says she is like the finest vines, the sweetest blossoms, the most beautiful roses, the tallest and most graceful trees:

I have exhaled a perfume like cinnamon and acacia, I have breathed out a scent like choice myrrh... Approach me, you who desire me, and take your fill of my fruits, for memories of me are sweeter than honey, inheriting me is sweeter than the honeycomb. They who eat me will hunger for more, they who drink me will thirst for more...

And so they did. Two centuries later, Christian gnostics would expand the earlier Jewish writings and elevate the Lady Wisdom still further. Calling her by her Greek name, Sophia, they explicitly revered her as the great virgin mother. In The Apocryphon of John, she becomes "the invisible, virginal, perfect spirit." She impregnates herself, and so is "the Mother of everything, for she existed before them all, the mother-father." She is the origin of all things; without her, the world would not exist.

Inevitably, gnostics hungering for divine knowledge identified Sophia with the first great biblical figure who hungered for knowledge: the mother of all humans, Eve. Where Adam was content to exist in ignorance, Eve dared to reach for more. She picked and ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The gnostics saw this as reaching for knowledge of the divine. They believed it was an act of courage and spiritual integrity, not of disobedience. Eve was Wisdom in action, to the extent that in the gospel On the Origin of the World, she becomes Sophia's daughter, sent by her mother to teach Adam, who has no soul, so that he might attain one.

But Sophia's main child in the gnostic gospels is Jesus, the teacher and mediator of Wisdom. He is her son, her lover, and even, in the Sophia of Jesus Christ, Sophia herself. "The earliest Palestinian theological remembrances and interpretations of Jesus' life and death understand him as Sophia's messenger and later as Sophia," says theologian Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza in her book In Memory of Her. "The earliest Christian theology is sophialogy."

A world without Wisdom, without Hochma, must have been unimaginable. She was literally a proverbial presence, constantly invoked. And now that her favored child, Jesus, was dead, his spiritual and earthly mothers would unite to transform grief into wisdom, disaster into renewal. For if ever there was a flesh-and-blood manifestation of Wisdom, it was the white-haired Maryam: the mother, the healer, the wise woman.

LESLEY HAZLETON's books include Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Where Mountains Roar. She lived in and reported from Jerusalem for 13 years, and now lives on a houseboat in Seattle.

Col plans Virgin Mary epic [Source: Daily Variety, June 27, 2003]

RIO DE JANEIRO --- Flush from the success of Hector Babenco's prison drama "Carandiru," Columbia TriStar has high hopes for another local pic, "Maria, a mae do filho de Deus" (Mary, the Mother of God's Son).

Columbia is co-producing the $ 2.6 million epic about the life of the Virgin Mary with lead producer Diler & Associados. The studio will distribute.

Lensing began June 18 in a Rio studio and will wrap July 20. Col is planning an Oct. 10 bow with 300 copies, a wide release for a local production. Brazilians will celebrate the Virgin of Aparecida holiday during opening weekend.

Pic toplines Giovanna Antonelli, with Luige Bariccelli as Jesus and vet Jose Wilker ("Bye Bye Brasil") as Pontius Pilate.

Local celebrity priest Father Marcelo Rossi, famous for his CDs of religious songs, will portray a priest who recounts the story of Virgin Mary to a child.

"Carandiru," an HB production with Columbia and Globo Filmes about the 1992 riot at the infamous prison, opened April 4 with 247 copies. Through June 16, that pic has sold 4.4 million tickets and grossed 28.7 million reais ($ 9.9 million).

Russian sacred icons get rare exhibit [Source: UPI, July 11, 2003]

Russian sacred icons--second only to Faberge bibelots as the most popular form of Russian art in America--are getting an unusual exhibition in the form of the collection of an Italian journalist who acquired 19th and 20th century examples created for veneration in ordinary Russian homes.

Francesco Bigazzi collected the 56 icons on display through Sept. 6 at the Gallery of the American Bible Society while working and traveling in Russia for 20 years. A native of Tuscany, he donated the collection to the Tuscan town of Peccioli which opened a museum for its exhibition three years ago in the former city hall. This is the collection's first display outside Italy. Icons originated in Russia in the 10th century as a form of Byzantine-inspired art featuring paintings of Biblical figures and Russian Orthodox saints on wood panels, the figures framed in silver gilt "rizas" cut away to reveal the face and hands. Only the church and the aristocracy could afford to commission them.

This art reached its apex in the 15th century, considered the classical period of the icon, but continued unabated until the Russian Revolution put an end to religious observances in 1917, especially the public display of icons associated with miracles. In addition to paintings on wood, there also were crucifix icons made of metal with enameled decorations, two of which are in the exhibition.

By the 19th century, icon-painting had been highly commercialized, and icons were produced in large numbers to satisfy the demand of all classes of society. They often were displayed in even the humblest homes in a special location called the "beautiful corner" where oil lamps were kept burning day and night, their light flickering on the silver-gilt framing.

Peccioli's icons are of this variety, though many of them are of surprisingly high quality. Accompanying photographs from the New York Public Library show how the icons would have been displayed in churches, private chapels, homes, on the street, and in shrines of pilgrimage. There is also a display of all the materials and paraphernalia used in icon-making including wood panels, paints, varnishes, and brushes.

The icons have a particular charm, possibly because they are somber but never dour and portray the human figure rather rigidly and with awkward linear gestures that are most usually found in folk art. Symbolism plays a big role in this art as in the icon of St. John the Precursor (John the Baptist) whose left hand holds a chalice in which the infant Jesus reclines surrounded by bright red stripes representing the blood of His future sacrifice.
The meaning of much of the symbolism is explained in wall labels and there are other educational displays, and a fine catalog including a history of the icon, to help viewers who are unacquainted with this art. The show can also be enjoyed solely for its aesthetic richness, since this was an art created for the purpose of adding a note of gilded glamour to public and private worship and outdoor religious processions.

Among the memorable icons on view are a stunning Mother and Child almost completely enveloped in an elaborately detailed metal reza, titled "Mother of God of Vladimir" after a famous Byzantine icon on the same subject that performed many miracles in the city of Vladmir. Similar madonnas are in the style of famous icons displayed in cathedrals in Kazan and Smolensk and at a monastery in Iviron.

The only "action pictures" among the icons are two showing St. George, the protector of Russian agriculture, mounted on a white horse and slaying a dragon while a princess the beast intended for dinner looks on admiringly. Most saints are depicted lined up as if for a group photographs as in the panel depicting the Archangel Michael with Saints Modestus, Blaise, Florus, and Laurus, their painted faces peeking out from an elaborately engraved silver riza on which gold crowns are superimposed.

There are story-telling icons including a picture of the young Virgin Mary's presentation at the temple in Jerusalem, Christ's triumph over Hell, and the death of the Virgin Mary. There are also portrait icons of recent saints, Mitrofan of Vonezh who died in 1703 portrayed as a bishop, and Seraphim of Sarov, who died in 1833, garbed in the robe of an ascestic monk. Seraphim's heavenly intercession was credited for the birth of a son to Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra after they had produced four daughters.

St. Nicholas was the most popular saint of the Russian church and the exhibit includes an icon of the wrinkled, grey-bearded holy man, his right hand raised in blessing and his left holding the Gospel open to St. Luke. His figure is completely enclosed in a silver riza in the magnificent high Baroque style popular in the 19th century and his golden halo is supportd by two angels seated on puffy clouds.

There are few great icon collections in the United States but many icon collectors. One of the best collections is displayed at Hillwood, a house-museum in Washington, D.C., once the home of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. She collected great 18th to 20th century icons when her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, was ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1930s.

Israel bulldozers destroy mosque foundations built on Nazareth Christian site [Source: AFX European Focus, July 1, 2003]

Bulldozers have begun destroying the foundations of a mosque near a Christian holy site in Nazareth, northern Israel, early this morning, in accordance with a court order banning its construction, Israeli radio reported.

Seven Arab Israelis protesting the move were arrested, while two of the hundreds of police deployed in the area were injured--one was lightly stabbed--the radio said.

Among those arrested are deputy Nazareth mayors Salman Abu Ahmad and Ahmad Zwabi, police said. Before his arrest, Abu Ahmad condemned "the barbarous act of destroying a mosque" and called for the city council to resign in protest.

Israel's Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi reiterated that the move was based on a court decision, adding that Israel is bound by the rule of law and " cannot accept an illegal structure, especially on the second holiest site of Christendom." He told army radio that the mosque was "provocation against the whole of the Christian world," however adding that its destruction will "not harm the political process."

Police, who have removed hundreds of local Muslims worshipper from the site, used jack-hammers to destroy the partly-built mosque near the Church of the Annunciation.

The church marks the site where, according to some Christian denominations, the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus Christ, the son of God.
The operation was launched following a court decision ordering the Waqf, the body charged with managing Muslim assets, to destroy the foundations, saying they had been illegally constructed.
The previous government of Ehud Barak had allowed the mosque to be built over the tomb of a Muslim saint between the church and the main street running through Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city.

However, the Vatican strongly criticised the move, thereby prompting a two-day protest closure of Christian holy sites in Israel shortly before a visit to the region by Pope John Paul II.


The sarcophagus of the Virgin Mary claimed to be buried in Virgin Mary's house in Bulbul Mountain was unfounded. Following research by experts consisting of archaeologists and geologist, it was discovered that there was no sarcophagus of the Virgin Mary, but a historical water channel.

Professor Zafer Akcig, the head of the geophysics team who worked in exposing the geophysical map of the Virgin Mary complex, said that after excavation they discovered an historical water channel near the baptism pool. Akcig said that they excavated the area after completing works on the geophysical structure of the complex that indicated there was something underground.

"We searched the area using electromagnetic waves and obtained some findings that the sarcophagus of Virgin Mary may be buried. We decided to secretly dig the area. After the excavation we saw that there was no sarcophagus but discovered a historical water channel," said Akcig.

Akcig said that the water channel was very old. He added that they had started to work on the water channel.

York Mystery Plays on the wagons [Source: Newsquest Regional Press, July 3, 2003]

THE Mystery Plays are set to be performed next year on the back of pageant wagons--but the organisers say this will not compensate fully for the loss of York's major static production.

Members of the cast from previous plays--including the Virgin Mary from the 2000 performance in the Minster--have continued to express their disappointment at the lack of a 2004 production.

The wagon plays are being planned for next year by the Friends of the Mystery Plays in the absence of a major production. Artistic director Ray Alexander said the Friends who for almost 50 years have supported the dramas, supplying actors, technicians, stage management stewards, programme sellers and administrative support, were disappointed there is unlikely to be a production in 2004 or the year after.

"That means that if the next production is to be in 2010 the impetus and enthusiasm in the city may well have evaporated," he said stressing that the plays brought many benefits to York through extra tourism revenue.

The venue for the wagon plays could not yet be announced, but he invited anyone interested in taking part to contact him on 01904 764222.

Meanwhile Frances Marshall, who played the Virgin Mary in the 2000 production, has said she was really upset when she heard there would be no 2004 production.

"I had no idea this was going to happen. I think it's terrible."

She said her experience in 2000 had changed her life. "I had planned to do an English degree but instead did a drama degree and I am going to apply to drama school after finishing my studies--hoping to be a professional actress."

Dame Judi Dench also played the Virgin Mary in 1957 and went on to a successful career on stage and screen.

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