This exhibit will explore Mary’s life as portrayed in icons; how her relationship with her Son has defined her; and how the Russian people have viewed her complex role in salvation.
Mary’s role in Christianity grew out of her role as Jesus’ mother. As early Christians tried to figure out who Jesus was and how he related to God, they also began asking questions about Mary: If Jesus was entirely divine from the beginning of his life on earth—as the Council of Nicaea declared in 325—then how was Mary Jesus’ mother? Did she only give birth to the human Jesus? Or did she also give birth to the divine Jesus, the Son of God?
Over the centuries as Western devotion to her grew, Mary became important in her own right, apart from her Son. She gained titles as Co-Redemptrix and Queen of Heaven. Specific devotions to her, such as the Rosary, came into being. As her cult grew in strength, Western pictures of her began to see her not as mature woman but as a slim, young woman with flowing hair, who was both sweet and compassionate, with a demure humility.
In the East, however, the Virgin never attained a cult apart from her Son. As you will see in these icons, seldom is she portrayed without some relationship to Christ. From the beginning, she was portrayed as one in full possession of her powers. She is never portrayed as the young, adoring mother so often found on our Christmas cards. Rather she is a woman who has born life and death, seen joy and grief, and has “pondered all these things in her heart.”
Reverend Chris Visminas curated this exhibit. She is an ordained Episcopal Minister, holds a B. A. in theology from Duquesne University, and a M. A. in theology from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.