For centuries Christians have called Mary the Ark of the Covenant. As they used other Jewish titles for her, seldom have they accepted the fact that she was a Jew. If Mary had lived in Nazi Germany, Mary would have been thrown into a concentration camp with other members of her race. Jewish Mary is the archetype of the Christian church, a church that stood by silently while her people were being exterminated. This icon is an act of repentance for Christian indifference, then and now.
We shudder at what the Nazis did, but 1,000 years of forced conversions and violent persecutions by Christians paved the way for the Nazi Holocaust. When the exterminations began, most Christian leaders followed the example of Pius XII and kept silent, fearing that Hitler might attack Christian institutions if they spoke out.
While their leaders kept silent, a handful of Christians did risk their lives to help Jews. One of these was a Russian nun in Paris, named Maria Skobtsova. "If we were Christians we would all wear the Star," she said. "If the Germans come looking for Jews, I’ll show them an icon of the Mother of God!"
In this icon Mary wears a large yellow Star of David with the word "Jew" on her left shoulder. The Nuremberg Laws forced all Jews in Nazi territories to wear this badge. Jesus is wearing a prayer shawl over his Byzantine garments and is holding the Torah. The Hebrew inscription at the bottom of the icon reads: "Captive Daughter of Zion," and is taken from Isaiah 52.2, a text in which God promises to deliver Israel from bondage. In the background is the barbed wire fence of a concentration camp.
Anti-semitism is again growing in "Christian" countries, because it is easier to look for a scapegoat than it is to work for justice. The Madonna and Child stand before us as a challenge. We must never again stand by in silence. Never again can we claim not to know.
Daughter of Zion, from the dust
Exalt thy fallen head;
Again in thy Redeemer trust;
He calls thee from the dead.
Awake, awake, put on thy strength,
Thy beautiful array;
The day of freedom dawns at length
The Lord’s appointed day.
Rebuild thy walls, thy bounds enlarge,
And send thy heralds forth;
Say to the South, “Give up thy charge!”
And “Keep not back, O North!”
They come, they come; thine exiled bands,
Where’er they rest or roam,
Have heard thy voice in distant lands,
And hasten to their home.
Thus, though the universe shall burn,
And God His works destroy,
With songs thy ransomed shall return,
And everlasting joy.
James Montgomery, in the Leeds Selection of Hymns, 1822.
Awake, O Zion's Daughter Awake from sorrow's night; Come forth in a all thy beauty, Arrayed in garments bright; Why should thy vales be silent Why should thy harps be still, When he, the Lord is coming, Thy soul with joy to fill? Awake, O Zion's Daughter Awake from sorrow's night; Come forth in a all thy beauty, Arrayed in garments bright; Awake, awake, awake, Awake from sorrow's night, Come forth in all thy beauty. Thou hast not been forsaken Tho' long by foes oppressed, Thy tears were not unheeded by Him who loves thee best; Oh, look above the shadows For Him who yet shall reign; Look up with eyes expectant, Thy trust is not in vain. His arm thy foes shall conquer, His power their strength shall bind And they shall fly in terror, Like chaff before the wind, While thou thyself triumphant Upon the earth shall stand, The light of every nation, The pride of every land.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
"For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed." I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.
I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.
Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey.