This painting of the Pisan school shows Mary indicating the Christ Child with her right hand. She is thus a Madonna Hodegetria, a Madonna who indicates the ‘way’ (hē hodos) which Christ claims to be in his words: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). He would pronounce those words the night before he was crucified, and the ‘way’ in question is thus related to his Passion and death.
A still clearer assertion that Christ’s human body is a ‘way’ also appears in the letter to the Hebrews, when the author states that the Saviour entered the heavenly sanctuary ‘by the new and living way which he opened for us … that is his flesh’ (Hebrews 10:20).
Our Madonna Hodegetria carries all this back to Jesus’s infancy, leaving no doubt that the ‘way’ Mary indicates in her Son is indeed his death. At the viewer’s right, just behind the Christ Child, are four Passion-related scenes to which the Virgin’s gesturing hand necessarily conducts our gaze (reading from top to bottom): The Kiss of Judas, The Flagellation, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Deposition. The entire panel thus illustrates the willingness to accept death that Christ had from infancy on, as reported in Hebrews 10:4–10. What is more, the artist shows the Child tracing a sign of the cross in benediction with his right hand, while in his left he holds a scroll, sign that he is the Word made flesh (John 1:14).
The fact that it is his mother who, pointing, reveals the purpose of Christ’s incarnation, reminds us that from his infancy she knew he was destined to be ‘a sign that is spoken against’ and that ‘a sword’ would ‘pierce’ her own soul as well (Luke 2:34–35).
10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired,
but a body hast thou prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’
as it is written of me in the roll of the book.”
8 When he said above, “Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.