by Jane Gladden, Lena Rumps, Douglas Lynn, and Chris Smith
Sand-carved from leaded glass, our Marian Shrine captures the scene of the Annunciation—the Angel Gabriel telling Mary that she would conceive and bear the Son of God, and her response:
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. — Luke 1:38
Liturgical artist Claire Wing of Dallas, Texas, designed and fabricated the shrine after receiving input from the Interior Design Team and Fr. Mike. The Interior Design Team suggested the depiction of a young Mary as an inspiration to the youth of our Parish. Mary was probably about 13 years old when Gabriel gave her God’s message. The artist chose a 13-year-old granddaughter of a friend as the model for Mary and depicts the Blessed Virgin without a veil as was the custom when at home.
The young Mary of Nazareth is approached by a being of light, the archangel. Gabriel is shown below and to the right of Mary, subtlety portrayed because his power stems from the message he bears, not his own presence. The light that fills and forms his being is the Light of God, emphasized by the natural light spilling down from above through the Church’s Tower of Light.
The young Mary is surrounded by a cloud depicting an eternal, cosmic moment, outside of time, and referencing how God spoke to his people from within dense, encompassing clouds in both Old and New Testaments. The Womb of the Virgin is symbolized by a swirling nebula, from the Latin word for “cloud.”
Here, the God of the Universe crosses the threshold of time to become God’s Word made Flesh. Notice the bright light of Jesus at the moment of his conception. Scientists recently discovered that at that moment there is a flash of light called the “zinc spark”! Subtly piercing through the clouds above the Virgin are small droplets of rain, symbolizing a passage from Isaiah, “Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a savior” (54:5), which we hear proclaimed during Advent.
There is also a circle of gold alluding to a “halo,” an aura of holiness. It is open at the top, symbolizing her openness to the Holy Spirit of God. And finally within the cloud are the three descending gold shapes symbolize the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mary’s bare feet recall another encounter in which God reminded Moses to “remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).
The twelve gold stars refer to the passage in Revelation (12:1-2a): “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,…and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child.” The shrine consists of three individual panels of glass and weighs close to 600 pounds. There are votive candles and a bench giving space to meditate, reflect, and pray.
A note from Claire Wing: “I am grateful and indebted to both the donors of the Shrine of the Annunciation, and to the Catholic Community of St. Thomas More for giving me the opportunity to create this work. May it be a place of prayer for many years to come. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.”