[The Lord] hath shewed strength with his arm;
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
And exalted them of low degree.
(Luke 1:51-52, KJV)
In a reversal of fortune of the kind described in this passage from Magnificat, the humble "handmaid of the Lord" who assented to the divine plan of salvation at the Annunciation is now revered as the Mother of Christ by billions of Christians around the globe. Marian devotion is particularly strong in Ethiopia, where a 15th century emperor decreed that more than 30 feasts in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church calendar should honor the Virgin Mary. The popular prototype of the Virgin Enthroned in this week's featured painting on leather by an unknown Ethiopian artist can be traced back to prints of an ancient icon of the Madonna and Christ Child in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome brought by early 17th century Jesuit missionaries and transformed down the centuries by the addition of angel guardians, flowing robes, and other local embellishments. This new Marian image from Africa joins three other Enthroned Madonnas on the Ethiopian Icons page in the Schools of Sacred Art Section. (John Kohan)