The Icon: Scripture in an Image
The icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is a powerful instrument of evangelization. The message of the Gospel can be found in the heritage of the Marian tradition that is reflected in the liturgical life of the Church. The Mass text for the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (June 27), comes from Scripture relayed by the prophet Isaiah: “Ask a sign from the Lord your God….the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (passage from Isaiah 7:11, 14).
The icon represents to us the imagery of a sign. As we gaze upon the icon, we encounter a message in image form. We experience Mary as if she is standing in a window looking out at us. And by the gesture of her hands, she presents to us the Child, the Word of God.
The Gospel message for the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help comes from John and relates the scene of Calvary. It reads: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’” (John 19:25–27).
This Gospel scene is reflected in the image of the icon through the angels holding the instruments of the passion. The cross, nails, sponge, and lance draw our attention to the passion of Jesus.
It is a good practice in praying with and gazing upon the Icon of Perpetual Help to read Scripture. This draws us into the mystery of Jesus and Mary.
Beginning in January, we will explore the spirituality surrounding the icon. The reading and praying of the iconography is accompanied by material from the tradition of the Church on the place Mary holds in the mystery of Christ.
Br. Daniel Korn, CSsR