The Icon: Divine Grace
Iconographers painting the face of Our Mother of Perpetual Help use a fourth-century style to describe what our Blessed Mother looks like. This description circulated throughout the churches of Syria and Greece, where early iconography developed.
This distinct form is taken from ancient fragments of a manuscript attributed to Saint Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 310–403): “She was of middle stature…Her complexion was of the colour of ripe wheat.…Her eyes were bright and keen, and light brown in colour.…Her eyebrows were arched (or semicircular) and deep black. Her nose was long, her lips were red and full, and overflowing with the sweetness of her words. Her face was…oval. Her hand was long and her fingers were long.…[S]he was filled with divine grace in all her ways.”
But let us not be caught up in what Mary might have looked like. Our attention should focus on the interior qualities her outer beauty reflects. By reading the first and second chapters of the Gospel of Luke, we can discern what these interior qualities might have been and embrace them as virtues to imitate.
“Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, beautiful as the white moon, pure as the blazing sun, fearsome as celestial visions?” (Song of Songs 6:10).
“The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:27).