Captive Daughter of Zion

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
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.

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