CYPRUS IS A LARGE ISLAND-NATION in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, near Turkey, Greece, Syria and Egypt. It has a long history figuring ten centuries before Christ. Its beauty draws tourists from all over the world.
This very lovely icon of the Mother of God is from Cyprus. As with most ancient icons it comes with a story of wonderful discovery, protection and healing. It is said that a young girl, gravely ill, dreamed of being instructed to go to a certain church where after a search she would discover an icon of the Mother of God. The girl was furthermore told to take the icon home, to summon a priest to offer intercessory prayers and healing would be forthcoming. I don't doubt these stories.
But I think in this case, the icon wants to tell us more. Cyprus, for all of its beauty has a dark side that is being addressed too slowly. Most dark sides are addressed too slowly. Because of its geographical location, Cyprus has become a major port of call or clearing house for girls and young women who are being spirited out of Eastern Europe for the sex trade.
More recently, and receiving even less attention, Cyprus is now a center for the distribution of men who are made illegal laborers for little or no pay. These men and women are the planet's new slaves. I'm wondering if the recent Oscar winning movie, Twelve Years a Slave helps the world to become more attentive and responsive to these new forms of global slavery. Perhaps for Lent, instead of just giving up this or that, we might become better informed about this aspect of human devolving.
The icon seems to encourage this movement as the Mother of God and her Divine Son are brilliant with light - light that dispels ignorance of the mind and heart. Her veil and maphorion are full of sweeping movement. There is nothing static here as her head and eyes are all-attentive. She even moves to hold Christ's foot.
I see a connection between the ancient story of the little Cypriot girl's healing and girls needing to be protected, restored, safe-guarded and healed today as well. The light emanating from the icon needs to shine on Cyprus and dozens of other sex-trafficking centers around the world.
Sometimes people ask me "What should I read for Lent?" Often our idea of spiritual reading is too small. That God has become human in Christ of Mary changes everything. Could I suggest reading the Wikipedia article on Human Trafficking I've indicated here. Mark it as a favorite. Give it 10 or 15 minutes a day, dividing it into thoughtful sections during the season of Lent. And keep the Cyprus Mother of God icon close by.
A blessed Lent!