The painting Mary the Gate: Threshold of Salvation, depicting Mary as the Gate of Heaven, is now in the collection of the Center for Faith and Inquiry at Gordon College. I have been Artist-in-Residence there over the last couple of years and they have recently added this painting to their permanent collection.
This painting was originally part of the paintings I created as Artist-in-Residence at Valparaiso University in 2009.
Mary the Dawn, Christ the perfect day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the heavenly Way.
Mary the Root, Christ the mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the sacred Wine.
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the living Bread;
Mary the Rose tree, Christ the Rose blood-red.
Mary the Font, Christ the cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the saving Blood.
Mary the Temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored.
Mary the Beacon, Christ the haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision blest.
– Medieval Hymn
The painting Mary the Gate:Threshold of Salvation is inspired by the above hymn about Mary together with a passage in Ezekiel. Ezekiel 44:2 speaks of the closed gate that “no one may enter it or go through it because the Lord has passed through”. This verse was commonly held to be a prophecy of the Virgin birth. As a virgin, and just like the temple gate in Ezekiel, no man entered her, only the Lord.
The hymn declares: “Mary the Gate, Christ the heavenly way.” Mary was the gate closed to men by which God the Savior came into the world. Through Christ, who proclaims himself “the way, the truth, and the life”, we are able to enter into God’s presence in heaven. Mary becomes the threshold between heaven and earth as the woman in the painting is on the threshold between light and darkness, interior space and exterior space.
The branches evoke the memory of our mother Eve, whose disobedience was redeemed in the act of Mary’s obedient “May it be to me as you have said”. Through Mary’s “yes”, the shriveled tree of humanity bears fruit again, and through Christ is able to blossom into life and love again. Eve closed the door to paradise for all humankind, but Mary opened it to us.