Mary’s pregnancy test

The intentionally provocative image above — without any words — has been posted on a billboard by a church in New Zealand:

Vicar Glynn Cardy said: ‘It’s real. Christmas is real. It’s about a real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child. It’s about real anxiety, courage and hope.

This billboard portrays Mary, Jesus’ mother, looking at a home pregnancy test kit revealing that she is pregnant.

‘Regardless of any premonition, that discovery would have been shocking.  Mary was unmarried, young, and poor.

‘This pregnancy would shape her future.  She was certainly not the first woman in this situation or the last.’

Read the rest.

  • Pedro

    Why would you even give them a platform??? Shame on them and Shame on you!

  • Mike H.

    To conflate an unwanted pregnancy created under voluntary conditions with the birth of Christ is beyond the pale. Mary was made aware by God while still a virgin.

    The ‘lamented’ were not virgins when they received their notice.

  • kevin

    Threw up in my mouth a little again. I probably do have GERD.

    I guess maybe it is helpful to the extent it disabuses people unfamiliar with Christianity that Jesus is some kind of mythic figure. But to call the Annunciation a “premonition” is just as confused and confusing. There was no premonition Vicar Cardy, the angel Gabriel informed her directly that she would bear a child by God himself. She had to agree to this.

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    as in, she “had to”, if it was to happen at all. yes.

    Overall, I give it a ‘meh’. That her pregnancy was real, yes, it shows that, but her being unmarried is sort of back-interpreted these days, and what the picture doesn’t show is that Mary was given a context for what happened, a Great Context. That does not come across in the painting. Still, better than a lot of Xmas art these daze. But, like I said, overall, ‘meh’.

  • nate

    They say they want to do advertisements like this to avoid the ‘sentimental and trite’. Call me a sentimentalist. Though I guess I don’t consider myself fit for the schwarmerei in seeing this advertisement as grotesque.
    As for traditional iconography and descriptions of the Incarnation being ‘trite’, one can only say that their attempt to be ‘edgy’ by squaring of the events of the Annunciation with the modern day plague of single motherhood shows that they are clearly behind the times. It’s been done.
    Fail.

  • Chris Sullivan

    I like it. For me it captures the humanity of Mary, the surprise of the annunciation, her vulnerability and the real cross she was being asked to bear. I agree with Fr Cardy that it captures the “real anxiety, courage and hope”.

    I like the reality, the humanness and grittiness of the picture.

    And I like the garment colors – inner garment of white for purity, then red for holiness, brown for the murky details of our humanity, all cloaked in divine blue.

    Great religious art ? Well, no. But something useful to get people thinking and talking, which is what the Fr Cardy intended. And I think achieved.

    God Bless

  • kevin

    @Ed Peters, yes I should have said “voluntarily” agreed.

    I don’t like the testing act (apart from the anachronistic silliness of it). It implies that she had some doubt about what Gabriel told her. I don’t think there was any. She immediately told Elizabeth that “He who is mighty has done a mighty thing unto me, all nations shall call me Blessed” etc. I don’t think she was racked with anxiety over whether she was really pregnant or not. That would be a doubting Mary. We already have a doubting Thomas.

  • Chris Sullivan

    I read the testing as Mary’s solidarity with poor women today facing unexpected pregnancies. The picture’s background seems to indicate poor housing.

    I think Mary probably was anxious over what she was being asked to do. Joseph was anxious about how to respond. She could well have been stoned to death for it. Not to mention all the suffering involved with raising the son of God.

    God Bless

  • naturgesetz

    I really think, for all its good intentions, the contemporary tendency to equivalate Mary’s situation to unwed motherhood is a stretch. There is a certain similarity, for which we need not go beyond the Gospel of Matthew: others could have seen her pregnancy as a problem if Joseph had rejected her. But Christians do not believe that finding that she was pregnant was a shock to Mary. We believe that God revealed to her that it would happen and received her consent before the conception of Jesus. This image is part of “the make-believe” to which the vicar refers in the linked article, along with Santa and the reindeer. And what’s with the blonde hair? More make-believe, and ethnocentric, to boot.

    The linked article also shows the 2009 billboard, which denies the doctrine of the Mary’s perpetual virginity. Sorry to see this additional bit of evidence that that the Anglican Church is increasingly separating itself from the catholic tradition. Via Media? More like Via Extrema.

  • BMaarbara P

    I don’t know if shock is the right word, but Mary did ask: “How can this be..?” I always wonder what it was like for Mary after the Angel left and the moment was gone – did she ask herself if it was real? We dont know if she actually saw the Angel or whether it was an inner locution. So for me this picture just brings home the moment that her pregnancy became a physical reality for her – certainly that would be a moment to gasp to realize you are carrying the Son of God.

  • Barbara P

    I’m sorry – I am not sure how I garbled my name in my post.

  • Barbara P

    I see that my garbled name post didnt make it on here – essentially my point was that the picture brings home to me the moment that her preganancy became a physical reality for Mary and that realizing you are actually carrying the Son of God would make anyone gasp.

  • RomCath

    Nauseating, just nauseating.

  • HMS

    Nausea – in many cases, that’s what happens in the first three months of pregnancy.

  • nate

    Barbara P,
    Those are some really good thoughts, and I think I agree. My reservations are more geared toward the description that the advertisers themselves attach to the picture. I much more appreciate your interpretation!

  • pagansister

    Expect she would have been a little surprised being pregnant, even after a visit by the angel telling her it was going to happen, apparently not by the usual method and on top of all that—she was supposedly a virgin.

  • Joe Cleary

    What a thought provoking image for advent.

    How many of us, even being told intellectually about something very important in their lives, would gasp when faced with the physical reality. The realization that yes it really happening a very human emotion. It’s not a sin to consider such a reaction. It doesn’t diminish her ‘yes’ in any way. It just means she was REALLY human like us.

    I am dumbfounded that anyone would not see the obvious similarities between the situation of a young unwed mother today and Mary. As if the Annunciation some spared Mary the real shame and shunning of friends and family ( even 2,000 years ago everyone could count to nine) , the fear for her future and the fear for her child, the fear as to how Joseph would react, the stares and talking behind her back. as she walked by. Consider, of everyone Mary knew in her world, how many didn’t think she got pregnant the way every other unwed mother gets pregnant? A couple at most?

    The Annunciation didn’t mean that Mary got a pass from feeling everything a poor unwed mother feels today. Her ‘yes’ means she embraced it to bring the world a savior. May the yes of an unwed Jewish girl 2,000 years ago continue to inspire young unwed mothers when the test says ‘yes’, and perhaps even after the human reaction to gasp as the reality hits them, to then go forward and say yes to the life they are carrying.

    advent blessings everyone

  • Kelley

    I like it… but listen to my reasoning.

    I’m a convert and have been a social worker working with sex workers for years. One of the things I’ve been wrestling with for the past few years is the teaching on abortion. No… I’m not “pro-death” and would never (and have never, even before I became Catholic) encourage anyone in any way to get an abortion. For years I have been working with girls and women that have been in extreme situations (rape, incest, etc.) where they are faced with the painful decision of getting an abortion or not. And I have seen many kids born into a life where they end up soon being forced into prostitution themselves… or abused… etc. I wrestle with the thought that in some of these cases it seems like abortion would be an act of mercy in a way. (I’m not going to debate this with anyone because I wrestle with it enough on my own and pray about it, so what you write won’t ‘enlighten’ me or ‘correct’ my thinking. I also discuss it with my spiritual director and the other priests so save your breathe and just read the next part I write.)

    When I saw this picture it hit me. It is the most profound “pro-life” picture I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter “how” she got pregnant…. bottom line is that it wasn’t a ‘planned pregnancy’ by her! The fact is… when I looked at this picture I thought about how no matter how “shocked” she was or how difficult of a situation it was for her… this baby was a gift. It was a gift to her and to humanity. It just made me think of the subject of abortion in a different light.

  • Ronald King

    I am with you Chris. I like it!

  • oldestof9

    Kelly,
    I wish I could give you a hug….

  • oldestof9

    Everyone else…especially those who commented near the beginning…get off your self righteous horses and take Advent to heart.

    Peace to all

  • jkm

    Joe Cleary and Kelley, thank you. The image is provocative—as is all religious art in some way, because it always falls short of the ineffable reality. That is the very essence of Incarnation: the shocking paradox of the Word made flesh. When our religious images, no matter how artfully executed, become cliched, they lose the power to stir mystery, awe, even the anger and frustration that comes from knowing how far we fall short. I am not claiming this is great art, but the sight of it punched me in the stomach with wonder. Please don’t pay any attention to the Vicar’s comments. Just look at the image. Just remember the humanity of Mary, which to deny is heresy and goddess worship. Just give great and humble thanks for her Yes, which had terrible consequences, and ask for that same courage to bear Christ into the world this Christmas.

  • ccym

    Thanks, Joe. Your post was great. God Bless.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/AquinasFTW Chris

    This is blasphemous, any way you cut it. Portraying the Blessed Mother as a common teenager aghast over a pregnancy test is a diabolical misrepresentation of her inestimable grace and dignity. The Blessed Mother is “full of grace”, not “full of angst”. The artwork presents the pregnancy as a surprise – a moment of trepidation which may be common to the fallen (which is all of us). But Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that Mary ASSENTED to her pregnancy, and with loving surrender, not trepidation. She rose up “in haste” to go to Elizabeth. She didn’t cry in her pillow all night. As one perfectly united to the will of God, she received it with the same joy as God in giving Himself to her.

  • RomCath

    Supposedly?

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    I’m with you, jkm.

    When I first saw the image, I was torn about whether to post it. Was it profane? Subversive? Blasphemous? To some, yes. But the more I’ve seen it, the more I’ve realized that what is being depicted here is open to wildly differing interpretations and reactions — as the comments here reflect.

    To me, that look on Mary’s face could be described as angst, yes. But it might more aptly be called “shock and awe.” It’s sinking in what has happened, and what will unfold, and what her role in salvation history will be. Yeah, it’s not great art. But I think it’s a compelling meditation on a reality that calls out for deeper reflection and prayer and gratitude: God’s intervention in human history through taking on our flesh.

    One could almost consider this a visual Magnificat for the 21st century.

    Dcn. G.

  • daisy

    This is disgusting. Shame on your for giving it attention.

  • oldestof9

    In MANY respects she WAS a common, HUMAN teanager………..
    No angst; just wonder and AWE….”holy mackeral, it wasn’t a dream; this is really happening.”
    I agree with the others that this is awe inspiring and I would not hesitate to use it in a homily or to save an unborn’s life.

    Peace to all

  • kevin

    Check out Creative Minority Report for a similar ad the group put up last year with Mary and Joseph. I think it says it all.

  • jkm

    For an interesting insight into how works of religious iconography are initially received, see the wikipedia discussion of John Everett Millais’s Christ in the House of His Parents, a painting that seems tame or even saccharine to some of us now, but which raised a storm of protest at the time for depicting the Holy Family in a setting with real dirt. Again, not calling this ad a work of fine art, but illustrating the history of reaction when our devotion to ingrained images is startled out of its rut. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_in_the_House_of_His_Parents

  • oldestof9

    We’ll just consider the source, kevin…

    Peace to all

  • terry nelson

    Bad Mariology/Theology is never justified. It is offensive.

  • naturgesetz

    And now for something completely different —

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1IJiAXjj7k&feature=relmfu

  • pagansister

    Yep.

  • pagansister

    That picture is in no way blasphemous, IMO, Chris. It is a picture of what for many women, then and now, reality, when an unplanned pregnancy happens. Mary was, I think, unmarried and said to be a virgin and finds herself pregnant. I expect in those days that was much LESS accepted, if accepted at all, by society at that time. Reality isn’t always great.

  • pagansister

    Thanks for posting that picture, Deacon. It is thought provoking. :o )

  • Kevin

    Consider the source? You have a beef with Matt Archbold?

    Mary’s pregnancy was not ‘unplanned’. Mary’s mind was also far superior to ours in that it was not darkened by the effects of original sin.

  • pagansister

    Mary’s mind was far superior to ours, Kevin? No knowledge of original sin? Was that because the Catholic church wasn’t in existance then?

  • http://puffsstuff.blogspot.com Puff the Magic Dragon

    That poster flies in the face of Mary’s Fiat. “Let it be according to THY will.” She grants God permission, she agrees to become pregnant with the messiah,before the the incarnation.

    She knew she was pregnant. She knew she would have a child. The angel told her so. She didn’t find out weeks or months later that she had conceived.

    It is true she asked” How can this be since I know no man?”

    It was explained and she accepted the pregnancy before she got pregnant. To suggest that she found herself unexpectedly pregnant is to suggest that the pregnancy was forced on her. It wasn’t. She agreed before the incarnation.

    This isn’t bad Catholicism this is bad reading of the scripture. Even the sola scriptura crowd should be upset by this.

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