Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lenten Mercy ~ Meditation: Mother of God Inviolate Mountain

This icon is titled: Mother of God Inviolate Mountain. Mary's maphorion is red, the symbolic color of humankind. She is one of us! In eastern cultures red is the color of joy. Notice too that the mantle is covered with stylized clouds: her trust and joy are broad as the heavens! A rainbow runs across the mantle, as after Noah's flood there was a rainbow in the sky. In Christ, mothered by Mary, there is a new beginning of compassion and kindness. 

There is a little king tucked in the crook of Mary's arm and perhaps some piece of Jerusalem's architecture. Symbolically this means that Jesus, Mary's Son, was a promised descendant of King David. And Joseph, the Child's guardian and Mary's protector, was at the far end of David's lineage, though there hadn't been a king in David's lineage for a very long time. 

And Mary holds a miniature mountain. She's the mountain. As in the desert wilderness, where the ancient Hebrews met God on the Sinai mountain, now in Mary the Mountain, humankind meets God anew and uniquely in Christ. 

Finally, she holds a little ladder. Heaven is descending to be with us in a new way in Christ, born of Mary. But I think also it is an invitation to us to join her in the ascent of kindness, tenderness, and a generous gift-ing of ourselves, up and away from the bottom rungs of hate, violence and cruelty.

But for all of this, there is something about Mary in this icon that is immediate to our own lives: her hands and arms are full. We understand and say: "I've got a lot on my plate right now...I can't handle or take on one more thing..." Many people feel life to be an exhausting burden today. 

Some of the burdening is out of our control, thrust on to us from outside ourselves. Some of it is of our own compulsive do-ing and for which we have no one to blame but ourselves. Perhaps this Lent we will get a handle on it, put some of it down, learn to say no or not right now. No guilt needed.

But I'm thinking too that we put an awful lot on Mary - all kinds of high theology, prayers and titles. Maybe when we're not looking, she puts it all down, just to be the mother who looks at Jesus in silence. There, that's it! For Lent let's put down all the questions and expectations of heaven and with empty hands, gaze simply in silence.

This is the 700th Pauca Verba post. Thanks for coming along!


  1. You call attention to details missed by the casual observer. This really puts meaning to the icon for me. I do feel like life is out of control and this is helpful in focusing my mind on just being. Just being....I like that a lot.

  2. This really brings icon study into your mercy meditations. To apply the symbolism to our Lenten journey like this is brilliant. I feel multiple paths spreading out before me and I am just going to pause and contemplate which one is best for me.

  3. I love the idea of climbing away from the violence and hate on earth and bringing us closer to God. Congratulations on reaching 700 posts Father Stephen. It is no small accomplishment.

  4. This is a new icon to me. I don't recall one where Mary is holding symbolism from the Old Testament. She holds the past, the present and the future in her arms.

  5. Yes Father, life is so very exhausting at times. We juggle so many things at once that it is more than overwhelming, but what choice do we have? Bills have to be paid, obligations must be met, kids need our attentions. But thank you for reminding us to take the time once in awhile to put it all down. I don't want to say no to people, but I see the necessity of it. Thank you for always having these words of wisdom.

    1. This was the benefit of Sunday when it was kept as a day of rest. It meant the money-wheel and proverbial "rat race" stopped and we could reassemble within and as families and re-attest to the things that matter most. But we largely have given that away and are now as crazed on Sunday as everyone else. I remember Sunday as a boy - hushed, still, interior, restful, restorative, happy. Until about 3 in the afternoon when I started to feel sick to my stomach at the thought of Monday morning's school bus. I was a dreadful student - much more interested in the plants and animals I knew were in the woods behind our house.

  6. As a husband I forget all that my wife has on her plate. Much more than I. Sometimes I wonder how she does juggle it all and keep her sanity. I know this, but today's post made me really stop and reflect on the importance of my family and of the time we should take with ourselves. Time that is not rushed, but necessary quiet time together.

  7. Inviolate comes from the Latin word inviolatus, meaning not violated or injured and unbroken or intact. So Mary as the Inviolate Mountain symbolizes the perfectness of the Mother of God. We turn to her for he guidance and compassion in all things. May she hold us close to her heart as she does her son Jesus as we are all her children.

  8. I've been following since Lent of 2014 and am grateful to be following along with this wonderful community of faith filled Christians. Many blessings to you Fr. Morris for leading this flock in Jesus' footsteps.

  9. A beautifully contemplative post. You have made us think about some harsh realities with your series of Lenten Mercy Meditations, but here you allow us to step back and ponder in silence. A rest for our weary souls. Amen.