Remember when we were kids we liked to stare at the clouds and see what kinds of shapes our imaginations could make out of them. The puffy white cumulous clouds, ever changing with the high-altitude breezes, could keep a kid busy for a long time in the days before video games.
Before that, back in ancient times, astrologers looked to the night sky and thought they saw images of animals, people, or gods that were familiar to them. What they saw as the tail of a great bear, we typically see as the Big Dipper. The identity of the image mainly depends on who’s doing the looking.
In California last week a candy maker, Martucci Angiano, who runs Bodega Chocolates, thought she saw a figure in the chocolate drippings underneath a vat of chocolate. She believed it bore a resemblance to the Virgin Mary.
Melted chocolate sometimes drips onto wax paper beneath the vats. Typically, they do not produce anything but random patterns. Last week, though, Martucci noticed the figure produced by the drippings and thought it resembled the image of Mary as depicted on her prayer card.
She said she always had believed in the Holy Virgin, but this image was striking to her. It quickly caught the attention of her workers.
One of the kitchen workers said it was a sign. Another claimed it renewed his faith in God that had been waning due to hardships in his life recently.
Martucci’s chocolate boutique is a gourmet shop that features booths at star-studded events, such as the Emmys and the Golden Globes. She is used to meeting famous people. But she said she felt especially struck by this two-inch mound of chocolate.
My question is, are people really so starved for faith in the supernatural that they can see images of saints and deities in everything? Over the past several years, the mother of God has appeared as a road salt stain on a bridge abutment, as a film on the outside of a Florida office building, and on a piece of toast that was sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars.
Workers at the boutique spent most of the day praying to the little chunk of chocolate, placing rose petals around it, and lighting candles next to it. The owner delicately wrapped it and preserved it under refrigeration, and shows it to those who request to see it.
To me, the tiny confectionary statue is clearly the image of a sleeping owl. Maybe it’s a sign we should be spending more time trying to save the spotted owl. It makes as much sense as whatever alternative sign the randomly-produced drippings might evoke.
For one thing, nobody knows what the real Mary looked like. We don’t even know what her son, Jesus, looked like. Yet everybody can recognize the Europeanized version of his likeness wherever it is displayed.
Both Mary and her son were Middle Eastern Jews. They would have looked like any other Middle Eastern Jew of the era, rather short, dark skinned, black hair, prominent proboscis.
The images we recognize were created by early European Catholics, so they look like handsome Europeans. And so, when we happen to see one of the random images in the clouds, the stars, on a building, or in a chocolate dripping, what we’re really worshipping is the image produced by some European artist who was simply trying to please his pope and his ruling dictator, Constantine.
And if another image of a holy figure appears in a piece of candy, someone should simply shrug, eat it, and say that godly figure was delicious. It’s not blasphemy; it’s simply common sense.