is positioned. The base, which is constructed of a
number of layers, contains a time capsule holding
newspaper cuttings of the sculpture’s installation and,
following the work’s most recent return from exhibition,
details of the present incumbent’s institution and
Moore respects his medium, and has kept within
the best traditions of sculpture,
especially that of the ancient Gothic and Catalan
carvings. At the same time the work displays his own
technical mastery of form and rhythm. As is often the
case with great art, sustained viewing yields many
insights. The longer and more often the statue is
studied and reflected upon the more vividly and
unforgettably is the sculptor’s conception realized.
The artist has sought to express what we know Christ and
his mother to be, rather than what they may have looked
like to their Palestine contemporaries. One is struck by
the solidity of form. The Holy Child is the central
feature of the composition; a small prince, Christ the
King enthroned on his mother’s lap and nestled down
between her thighs.
The Blessed Virgin is depicted as a mother would appear
to her child - the one great secure background to life.
Notice the relative proportions of her face and feet.
Her faithful obedience in accepting God’s invitation to
be the Mother of his Son makes hers the highest
achievement of humankind. In fulfilling her astonishing
vocation she expresses all the possible dignity and
majesty of humanity.
Mary is here depicted as a strong ‘earth’ mother, yet at
the same time there is also tenderness and humility. Her
touch is gentle. A sense of loving understanding, of
knowing, is conveyed as she holds and protects her
divine Son without any suggestion of restraint. Her
gaze, also that of the child’s, points forward into the
distance, envisioning perhaps what this child is to
become. She offers him to all ages and to all people who
shall come to him. Apart from God, he is also her gift
to the world.
Everyone wants to touch sculpture, to connect and
interact with it, and make sure it's real. The Madonna’s
knees have over the years become darkened and shiny
where visitors have done just that.
Henry Moore has entered into the spirit of this
place, and with fundamental and profound simplicity
created a great and beautiful work of art which tells us
of the beauty of God, and leads us into a relationship
of prayer and contemplation with him.
To appreciate the work as a whole within its setting the
statue is best seen, at any rate for the first few
minutes, from close beside the pulpit.
"And now God says to us what he has already said to
the world as a whole through his grace-filled birth: "I
am there. I am with you. I am your life. I am the gloom
of your daily routine. Why will you not bear it? I weep
your tears - pour out yours to me, my child. I am your
joy. Do not be afraid to be happy, for ever since I
wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more
suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think
they have no hope… This reality - incomprehensible
wonder of my almighty love - I have sheltered safely in
the cold stable of your world. I am there. I no longer
go away from this world, even if you do not see me now.
I am there. It is Christmas. Light the candles. They
have more right to exist than all the darkness."
(John Shea, Starlight: Beholding the Christmas Miracle
All Year Long
(quote attributed to Karl Rahner)
New York: Crossroad, 1992)