June 26, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, is celebrated on June 27th by the universal Church.

The devotion to this Marian icon centers around the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, written on wood, with a background of gold. It is Byzantine in style and is purported to have been written in the thirteenth century. It represents the Mother of God holding the Divine Child with the Archangels Michael (left) and Gabriel (right) presenting Him the instruments of His Passion. Over the figures in the picture are some Greek letters which form the abbreviated words Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel respectively.

Symbolism of the Icon

the face of Our Lady appears full of sorrow, yet supremely dignified in her contemplation of the sufferings of her Son. His passion is represented by angels holding instruments of His passion, most often the cross, the lance, the sponge, and the nails.

The Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon is of this type. The angels holding the instruments of the Passion have their hands covered with a protecting veil as a sign of reverence in handling sacred objects.

The Child Jesus is shown with an adult face and a high brow, indicating His divine Mind of infinite intelligence. As God, He knew that the angelic apparition was prophetic of His future passion. Yet in His human nature as a small child, He is frightened and runs to His Mother for protection. Our Lady hastily picks Him up and clasps Him to her bosom. This action is indicated by the fact that the Lord’s right foot is nervously curled about the left ankle and in such haste that His right sandal has become loosened and hangs by a single strap. Further action is indicated by the way the Child Jesus clasps His Mother’s right hand with both of His, holding tightly to Our Lady’s thumb.

Our Lady is clothed in a dress of dark red which was long reserved in the Byzantine world for the Empress alone, indicating the Queenship of Mary.The archangels Gabriel and Michael were tunics of purple since they carry the instruments of the passion and death of Christ. The figures of the icon are identified with abbreviations of their names and Mary is designated by her chief title to glory: Mother of God.

Our Lady’s face is of unspeakable majesty and calm and yet her large eyes, partly closed, express ineffable sorrow and sympathy. Our Lady is not looking at Jesus, but rather to us, to express compassion for us in our fears and sorrows.

Sources: Catholic News Agency, Catholic Culture.org.

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