Symbolism within the story of the Midwives
No matter how much we translate our faith into modern terms, the fact is we live within a narrative. We return to it for nourishment, and from its concepts we learn to re-interpret its meaning in our time. Our narrative primarily concerns Jesus Christ, but it has its roots far back in the Hebrew tradition, and Jesus Christ cannot be understood apart from that context. This narrative carries many symbols that can be read at many different levels and it is reduced if read only one way.
Moses is the proto-Jesus of the bible.
There are many links between Moses, Egypt, the Desert and the Promised Land, and the story of Jesus. He was taken to Egypt for safety by Joseph and Mary his parents, when Herod (another Pharaoh) was determined to make an end of him. After his Baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus was led into the Desert where his faithfulness was put to the test. And the image of the Promised Land is transformed into the image of the fullness of the kingdom promised to all people in Christ.
Light that contradicts the darkness.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world”. This Sculpture is about responding to the light of Christ by living in this light. This means undertaking works of light that contradict the darkness of our time, rather than endorse or increase its power.
Water is a primal symbol.
It stands for chaos, as well as creation, cleansing and life. Through the waters of the Red Sea the people passed to reach freedom and new life. When they arrived at the border of the Promised Land, they again crossed over into new life through the waters of the Jordan River. And it was in the waters of this river that Jesus was baptized by John, was named by God and anointed by the Spirit for his mission. And finally, the visions of the Book of Revelation show that there is a river that flows by the throne of God.
The Ark is the vessel of salvation that sails the seas of the world.
The basket in which Moses was placed was an ark, symbolized here by the arms of Jochebed and the bullrushes scored on the granite. The idea of an ark, a vessel of salvation, has its parallels in Noah and his family who passed through the waters of chaos to new life. The Church is sometimes thought of as a ship, afloat on the sea of life, driven by the wind of the Spirit, as in the symbol for the World Council of Churches.
The Spirit is life-giving and reaches out to all.
The story of the midwives allows for the righteous gentile – someone from outside the fold – in this case Pharaoh’s daughter whose compassionate heart allows her to join the other women in resisting her father’s evil decree.
The Hebrews were at first made welcome in the land of Egypt thanks to the status of Joseph whom the brothers had sold into slavery. Moses was given hospitality in Pharaoh’s house. And in New Testament times hospitality was given to Mary, Joseph and Jesus who fled Herod’s reign of terror. Herod was Pharaoh for them.
The symbolism of this Commemorative Sculpture is not exhausted by this short outline. It comes from a long history – as we ourselves have – that of the Generations of the Faithful who live within this rich narrative and seek to share it with generations to come, that they may be inspired to live for the light, to the glory of God.
For a brief biography of the sculptor, click here.