I’ve put up our Icon again so that we can refer to it easily as we go through the points of meditation outlined a few days ago.
This Icon contains four holy figures – the Blessed Virgin, the Christ Child and two of the archangels, Michael and Gabriel. The uppermost letters on either side (MP – OY) mean, “Mother – of God”. The letters to the right of Christ’s head (IC – XC) mean, “Jesus – Christ”. As you look at the left side of the Icon, you will see letters directly above the angel wearing green; they indicate the Archangel Michael. As you look at the right side of the Icon, you will see letters directly above the angel wearing red; they indicate the Archangel Gabriel.
Now, let’s take a brief look at the points for meditation, as outlined by the Redemptorists:
- Contemplating the Archangel Gabriel: It was Gabriel who came to the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation, and so he reminds us of this Joyful Mystery. Yet in this Icon, he carries a cross and nails. The Redemptorist Fathers write that the fallen sandal of Jesus, as well as the position of His feet and neck, indicate a movement of fear of something sensed, perhaps a vision of the Archangel Gabriel with the cross and nails in his hands, a vision of the Passion.
- Contemplating the Archangel Michael: We know that Michael is the, “leader of the celestial armies and zealous defender of the Lord’s glory” , yet here he appears carrying the instruments of the Passion: the lance, the pole with a sponge, and a vessel containing vinegar. But rather than defeat on the cross, they are “the symbols of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. What were signs of disgrace are now symbols of triumph.”
- Contemplating the Letters on the Icon: Here we reflect on the letters which name the Blessed Virgin as “Mother of God”, and on the letters which name “Jesus Christ”. As we do so, we can experience these titles coming into relationship with each other, resulting in a deeper awareness of why we can call Mary our Mother of Perpetual Help: because she is the, “Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God made man, Jesus Christ.”
- Contemplating the Left Hand of Mary: With her left hand, Mary is holding the Child Jesus against her heart. She wants to protect Him, but she cannot shield Him from the vision of the Passion, nor from His interior sufferings. Mary shared His infancy and childhood, yet, just as both Nazareth and Calvary are present in the Icon, so too they were both always with Mary, from the day she presented the baby Jesus in the temple, and Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart.
- Contemplating “Hand in Hand“: With her right hand, Mary takes both of Jesus’ hands. Her fingers point upwards, towards His face. She is directing our attention to Him, exactly, the Redemptorist Fathers tell us, as she did at the wedding feast at Cana, when she said, “Do what He tells you.” Mary always points the way to Jesus.
- Contemplating the Child in Your Arms: Jesus in Mary’s arms is no longer an infant, but a child. We reflect on their homelife in Nazareth, the simple, domestic chores, the friends, the life of the village, the humble home and daily life with Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. We can reflect then on Our Heavenly Father caring for us, helping us in our daily struggles and difficulties, and pray to Him as Jesus taught us.
- Contemplating the Star: In the Icon, Mary is wearing a cobalt-blue head dress. In the centre of the hood is a star of eight golden, linear rays (and next to it is a gold cross in the form of a star). The star reminds us of the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus. Mary is like the Star of Bethlehem, say the Redemptorists, always pointing to Jesus, “in His Word, in the Eucharist, in the silence of prayer, and in our brothers and sisters, and especially, in the poor and abandoned.” Because Mary was with the Apostles at Pentecost and accompanied this first group of people who preached the Good News, we can also call her, Holy Mary, Star of Evangelization.
- Contemplating the Colours of the Icon: The Redemptorists give us a few things to reflect on, having to do with contrasts. The Blessed Virgin’s tunic is red (created person?) with a blue covering cloak (the Holy Spirit’s Presence and grace?) The Christ Child wears a green tunic (Divine Life?) with a red cloak and sash (because He has taken on our humanity?) Reflecting on the contrasts in the colours can help us deepen our meditation on the other contrasts present in the Icon, and therefore in the life of Christ – the falling of the sandal versus the tightly clutched hands; also, the instruments of the Passion being carried, but wrapped in a cloak, as if after the Resurrection. Levels of depth are also pointed out by the Redemptorists, there being five levels of depth in this Icon: first level, the hand that points to the Savior; second level, the Christ Child; third level, the Blessed Virgin; fourth level, the archangels; fifth level, the general background of golden light. So we see the levels of contrast in Jesus’ life: Nazareth, the Passion, His glory – and we can pray to the Lord for aid in understanding and living out the contrasts in our own lives.
- Contemplating the Eyes of Mary: “With a sad tenderness, she looks not to her Son but appears to be in dialogue with whomever looks to her (universal perspective). Her almond-shaped, honey colored eyes and emphasized eyebrows give her face a sense of beauty and solemnity.” “We end this wonderful novena of discovering in your image the reason for your name. It is all present in your eyes. You are our Perpetual Help because of your eyes, those eyes that follow us from left to right, that see us from any point from which we seek you. They watch us as eyes filled with love and a desire to protect us. They follow us perpetually, whatever our situation be, our detours, our absences, our returns.”