The Burning Bush
In his work
These images captured the imaginations of many of the early and medieval Christians, who felt that the Virgin Mary's body was something like the bush, which burned with the flames of the presence of God, yet miraculously survived. According to the Old Testament account, through that flaming bush, the angel spoke to Moses, who discovered that he was standing on holy ground.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa believed that not only did Moses experience this miracle as an encounter with God, but that he may have even been able to see into the future in that moment in which the presence of God burned within the bush. For Saint Gregory, even Moses was looking toward what was to come. The image of Mary as the burning bush has been depicted both in Eastern Orthodox iconography and in Western medieval art.
In Nicholas Froment's 1476 painting,
This image of Mary in the burning bush is part of a larger collection of images that connects Mary to the natural world. In the Middle Ages, hundreds of plants and flowers were named for Mary's different attributes. The natural world was seen as a school through which the Church could educate people about the life of Mary and of Christ. You'll learn more about the connections between the Virgin Mary and the natural world in Chapters 16 and 19.