The Cowper Madonna hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Sometimes a picture just grabs you. How many times have I seen a Raphael Madonna? Maybe too many, and so you kind of take them for granted.

Then one day I was visiting Washington and walked into this gallery and there was the Cowper Madonna and I was transfixed. Suddenly I not only grasped Raphael’s genius and exquisite mastery of his art, but more importantly I saw what he was trying to communicate.
I got it: here was a picture beyond words which captured the essential purity and power of the Blessed Virgin. Here was an icon above language which communicated the essence of the incarnation. Here are mother and child. Here is Son of God and Son of Man. Here is woman and man, the second Adam and the second Eve. Here is creation restored. Here is the great second chance. Here is redemption offered and the hope of heaven. Here a small window is opened so that heaven is glimpsed in the ordinary garb of one woman and her vulnerable child.
Here is beauty and bounty and simplicity and style and all that is feminine and gifted and graced for the world.
Take time to contemplate this mystery today.