“Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea,” an exhibition of art focusing on Our Lady now on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, is a “beautiful, magnificent” exhibit that can help visitors “meet Mary and recognize how visible (Jesus’s) mother is in our lives,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said.

“One can see all the aspects of this magnificent woman through the eyes of artistic genius through generations and centuries, “ Cardinal Wuerl said Dec. 3, “but the message is the same: Mary is the mother of Jesus, the mother of God, and she is our mother.”

Cardinal Wuerl made his remarks as he celebrated a Dec. 3 Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington to commemorate the opening of the exhibit featuring 14th- to 18th-century artworks depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The exhibition – which was organized with the support of the Archdiocese of Washington, and is made possible in part through the generosity of individuals and foundations in the archdiocese – is “a manifestation of how for centuries artists saw something in Mary that touches our hearts,” the cardinal said.

About 250 people attended the Mass, which was concelebrated by several priests and Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States. The Mass was offered two days before the exhibit was opened to the public.

Recalling the Gospel story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Cardinal Wuerl said that while God miraculously increased the bounty, someone brought the bread and fishes to Jesus, and that all the faithful are called to have such “faith and generosity” so “God can work miracles.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the cardinal said, is “a great model of offering her gifts so that God could work the miracle. It was her giving of herself in faith that resulted in what we will soon celebrate – the Nativity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Noting that the exhibit opens as the Church is celebrating Advent, Cardinal Wuerl said that symbols “remind us Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy … (and) remind us who He is, why He came, what He did for us.”

The “Picturing Mary” exhibit, which Cardinal Wuerl called “extraordinary,” includes works by Renaissance and Baroque masters, many of which have never before been seen in the United States.

“Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea” will only be presented in Washington. After it is concluded, these works by will return to their respective museums, churches and private collections, perhaps never to be presented again in this country.

The exhibit, Cardinal Wuerl said, shows “a unique woman who has dominated culture, but more importantly, human hearts for centuries and centuries and centuries.”

“No other woman in human history has such a place in our hearts, our minds and our imagination,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “In churches, hymns, songs and above all in artwork, there has been a universal outpouring of a love for Mary. Mary is the model of what our faith should be… she is forever the example of what we mean by faith, true profound faith.”