and the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: an explanation
The Memorare is often attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you do I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
THE ICON OF OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP
|Look at the copy
of the picture. Frightened by the vision of two angels showing Him
the instruments of the Passion, the Christ Child has run to His Mother,
almost losing, in His haste, one of the tiny sandals. Mary holds Him in
her arms reassuringly, lovingly. But notice her eyes. They look not at
Jesus, but at us. Is this not a touch of genius? How better express Our
Lady's plea to us to avoid sin and love her Son?
Christ's little Hands, too, are pressed into Mary's as a reminder to us that, just as on earth He placed Himself entirely in her hands for protection, so now in Heaven He has given into her hands all graces, to distribute to those who ask Her. This is the principal message of the picture. A Byzantine icon, however, it is replete with other symbols. Here are some of them.
|Star on Our Lady's veil. She is the Star Of the Sea . . . who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world . . . the star that leads us to the safe port of Heaven.||
||Golden Crown placed on the original picture by order of the Holy See in 1867 It is a token of the many miracles wrought by Our Lady invoked under the title of "Perpetual Help."|
|Greek Initial for St. Michael the Archangel " He is depicted holding the lance and gall-sop of Christ's Passion||Greek Initial for "St. Gabriel the Archangel." He holds the Cross and the nails.|
|Mary's Mouth is small for silent recollection. She speaks little.||
Mary's Eyes are large for all our troubles They are turned toward us always.
|Red Tunic the color worn by virgins at the time of Christ.||
Dark Blue Mantle the color worn by mothers in Palestine. Mary is both Virgin and Mother.
Mary's Left Hand supporting Christ possessively: She is his Mother. It is a comforting hand for everyone who calls on Her.
Christ's Hands turned palms down into His Mother's indicate that the Graces of Redemption are in Her keeping
Falling Sandal Perhaps, the symbol of a soul clinging to Christ by one last thread -- devotion to Mary.
background is golden symbolic of Heaven where Jesus and Mary are now
enthroned. The gold also shines through their clothing showing the
heavenly joy. They can bring to tired human hearts.
The following poem puts in words many of these meanings of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help:
Madonna, in thy eastern shrine reposing,
But even while thy Infant's fingers tremble
Behold us, like the loosened sandal cleaving
(Rev. John T. Feeney)
Thanks to Wayne Homans for his gracious permission to use his wonderful diagram of the icon of OLPH. Wayne is webmaster of the former Redemptorist Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City (Ilchester) MD.
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