He Humbled Himself

Josephina de Vasconcellos was commissioned by the Blackburn Diocesan Mothers' Union to sculpt a statue of Mary as an earthly mother bathing Jesus, her baby. To illustrate this, Jesus is depicted as anxious to get out of the bath. Mary's hands are holding Jesus back so that His are stretched, perhaps anticipating the cross. Mary's expression from the front is that of a happy mother. Viewed from the left, it is one of adoration, whilst from the right it is sorrowful.

The statue is found at Blackburn Cathedral. I do not approve of statues of Mary; statues of anyone I abhor in a place of worship. Yet there is something about this particular installation which set me a-thinking. Mary’s hand restrains the Child. Much as He was led to His death upon the cross, so too His childhood was about obeying. The hackneyed carol puts it thus:

And through all His wondrous childhood

He would honour and obey,

Love and watch the lowly maiden,

In whose gentle arms He lay:

Christian children all must be

Mild, obedient, good as He.

Apostle Paul describes the Son’s voluntary season of obedience to the Philippians:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Christ, the cosmic Creator and Sustainer of all life and matter would be confined and curtailed by a mother’s hand, and later, the executioners’ brutality. Yet Paul also writes:

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Come, see his hands and his feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice,
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.

This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

-Graham Kendrick, 1983