It’s not the center of attention; that would be Michelangelo’s statue of David. It’s not the coolest piece; that would be some of Michelangelo’s unfinished works with elbows and feet sticking out of solid blocks of marble. But it’s the one that caught my attention the most. The painting, called The Immaculate Conception, by Carlo Portelli, has sparked discussions and Google searches over the last couple of weeks. And wouldn’t you believe, in God’s providence, it was part of a temporary traveling exhibit, hanging on the wall in the alcove to the right of David.
I took a picture; you can see it here.
Do you see what I see? Looking back, I now wonder how many times I had seen something similar in our travels in Rome and Florence and not noticed it. But this time, I couldn’t miss it. Do you see it? Let me help; I’ll zoom in a little.
Plain as day: Mary standing on a snake’s head. Wait, WHAT?
Remember Genesis 3 and the introduction of sin into the world by Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit? In verse 15, as God is pronouncing a curse on the serpent, he pronounced the gospel message. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” God promised a Savior, a Redeemer, all the way back in Genesis 3:15.
However, the Roman Catholic Church has ascribed to Mary that which the Bible ascribes to Jesus. It’s at his death and burial and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and Satan.
There’s a theme here. According to the Roman Catholic Church, Mary, as the blessed virgin who was chosen to carry and give birth to Jesus, shares in the work of our salvation. She is, in their view, the second Eve just as Christ is the Second Adam.
Funny thing is that I can’t find any passage in Scripture even remotely suggesting that Mary might be a “second Eve”. Paul very clearly makes the connection between Christ and Adam, both in Romans 5 and in 1 Corinthians 15. It seems to me that the Roman Catholic Church is ascribing at least part of the saving work of Christ, our covenant representative, to Mary.
If you’ve ever wondered why the Protestant Reformation was necessary, we begin to get an answer here. Ascribing to Mary glory that belongs to Christ and having to add to the Bible in order to do it sounds like a pretty good practice to fight against.