Oil on canvas, 11” x 14”
(Collection of Rev. Emily Bel, Columbus, GA)
[First in a summer series on Eros and Christ]
Artistic and literary visions of Mary’s ecstasy at the moment of Jesus’ conception offer a new way to heal the split between sexuality and spirituality in Christian tradition.
Mary’s physical/mystical experience of God within her own sexual organs is the subject of artistic creations by two women of faith. Atlanta artist Trudie Barreras addressed it in art and a dramatic monologue, and I wrote about it in my novel “Jesus in Love.”
Working separately without knowing each other at the time, each of us dared to envision a new, sex-positive take on the Annunciation, one of the most common subjects in Christianity. The Annunciation has been painted by most of history’s great artists, including Leonardo Da Vinci. But the traditional version stops with the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will give birth to the son of God.
When Mary asks how this is possible since she is a virgin, the angel answers, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:35).
But what happened next? Did Mary go into erotic ecstasy when Jesus was conceived?
How did it feel to be touched by the Holy Spirit?
In her “Annunciation,” Barreras goes well beyond the standard announcement scene to paint a vibrant swirl of spiritual and erotic energy. She reveals the thrilling moment when Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus Christ. Mary reaches ecstasy as the Holy Spirit embraces her in a heart of flames that merges with Mary’s own golden halo.
“Only a few people got my point that being ‘overshadowed by the Holy Spirit’ had to be the best orgasm going,” Barreras explains.
Barreras painted her “Annunciation” in 1970 after getting involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which emphasizes the Holy Spirit.
“It was painted before my husband came out to me as a gay man, since that occurred in 1973. Hence it was painted before I'd become anything other than a conscientiously Catholic woman,” Barreras says.
“However, since I was not a ‘cradle Catholic’ but rather a convert, I'd been having a great deal of difficulty ‘relating’ to the traditional devotion to (and perspective on) ‘the BVM.’* I was trying, even then, to relate to the mother of Jesus in a way that felt ‘real’ to me.”
Barreras, now a member of Metropolitan Community Church, went on to write a poetic meditation celebrating Mary’s ecstasy. It will be posted here next week as the Eros and Christ series continues.
Mary’s ecstasy in drama
*BVM stands for the Blessed Virgin Mary