The Icon: Holy Reading
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has reflected on the Virgin Mary’s place in the divine mystery. Recent popes have positioned Mary as one who, by her acceptance of the message of the angel at the annunciation, became the dwelling place of the Incarnate Word. The early Church fathers’ writings portray Mary as a book that would be written by the Holy Spirit. St. John of Damascus developed this idea in a homily on the nativity of Mary, and Pope John Paul II referred to Mary as a living text of the mystery of Christ.
In the Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon, Mary holds the Child in her arms in a way reminiscent of icons of Christ in which he holds the book of Scriptures in his arms, right hand raised in blessing. As we follow the lines, shapes, colors, and symbols in icons we reflect on what these elements say to us. We find ourselves reading what is before us.
As we pray before the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we take time from our immediate problems and anxieties, joys and expectations, and allow ourselves the space to experience what we read and see before us. The icon becomes a book in which we read the story of our redemption.