Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington blessed a new sculpture, "Advent," May 17 on the grounds of Theological College, the national diocesan seminary of The Catholic University of America in Washington.

The sculpture, already being referred to as the "national life monument" and "national life sculpture," is the third in a series of sculptures by Toronto sculptor Timothy Schmalz.

One, "Angels Unawares," visually represents immigrants and refugees throughout history. After an initial stop in 2020 on the grounds of the Catholic University of America as part of a nationwide tour, it moved to its permanent home on the university's campus in 2021.

The other sculpture, "The Home Coming," displays the different dimensions of homelessness. It was installed last year on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which adjoins Catholic University's campus.

"Advent" is, in large part, a bronze sculpture of the Virgin Mary with rich, flowing lines. But unmistakably present is concave mirrored stainless steel to represent Mary's womb -- and visible inside that womb is the embryonic Christ Child.

The sculpture is "an expression of the beauty of life," said Father Daniel Moore, provincial superior of the U.S. Province of the Society of St. Sulpice, whose priests run Theological College.

The liturgical season of Advent brings "joy, hope, expectation and promise," Father Moor said. Schmalz's sculpture, he added, "conveys a meaning one will not fail to appreciate."

Schmalz, in addressing the gathering, said "Advent" represents "a very large symbol of the meaning of life right here in our nation's capital."

Sculpture, he said, is his way of showing "how wonderful and how sacred life is."

Cardinal Gregory, before blessing "Advent," spoke of Mary as "the poor and lowly servant who trusted solely in her Lord" and "the mother and advent of us all. She is the new Eve."

"Advent" is part of the new Bleichner Sculpture Garden on the expansive front lawn of Theological College. The garden is named for Father Howard Bleichner, who was Theological College's rector from 1991 to 2002, according to Sulpician Father Dominic Ciriaco, the college's current rector.

The sculpture is new, and work on the garden has been taking place over the past three months, he noted, although "this has been in the planning stages for three years."

Also on hand for the blessing was Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, retired archbishop of Quebec City, former prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America from 2021 to 2023.

Before being placed at Theological College, Schmalz's "Advent" statue was showcased in six locations around the U.S., with the first stop in June 2022 in Houston next to the Chapel of St. Basil at the University of St. Thomas.

"Mary is Christ's mother, the mother of God, but she is also the image and the model of the church," said Father Dempsey Rosales-Acosta, an associate professor of theology, who blessed the sculpture on the campus. "This monument invites us to see ourselves in the womb of the world created by God."