Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let us un-burden the icon and free the mystery!




This well-known and much-loved icon is titled: The Vladimir Mother of God or more simply, Our Lady of Vladimir. The icon is ancient and so its history is long, winding and legend-ed. All of this can burden the image, causing us to become distracted and to miss the spiritual content offered us, if we would not walk by, but ponder.

The icon's story becomes burdensome when reduced to battles fought, victories won, miraculous lights that cause enemies to flee, fires and restorations, her travel log, who owned her, stole her, built monasteries and cathedrals for her, and on and on endlessly. Rather...

The icon is of the Eleusa type. Eleusa mean tenderness or showing mercy.Usually the icon is described as showing Mary's love for her Infant-Son, but I'd suggest it is first and even more about God's love for us. Mary looks at us because she's addressing us; she has a message. This is why she is pointing to Jesus with her left hand. She is "showing mercy" by indicating him, who IS God's mercy become one of us. This movement of her left hand means: "Pay attention to the Child!"

And what's the Child doing? With his right hand he is reaching out to her, and with his left hand, look, like a lasoo, he is pulling her in. The two figures are cheek-to-cheek. The Child is so animated in this Divine action that we see the sole of his left foot.

The icon's message is: Look at how God loves us; all of us! In Christ, God pulls the planet in close. In Christ, God's got His face right up against our own. In Christ, God isn't static, like a statue on a shelf, but is animated in love, even climbing up and all over humankind. The Mother of God then is an image or picture of US, especially as we are perhaps way off in an inner gaze of suffering and melancholy.

We've all seen pictures of disaster zones where parents claw at the debris which has fallen and covered their children. Here, in the Vladimir icon, we see God in Christ, drawing us in and  pressing us close to himself in love - our world all fractious, covered with the debris of anxiety and the news of suffering and death. And this Divine Child is bursting and irradiated with lights and the pensive Mother (who is us) cloaked in black, stands at the Easter-insistent window of orange and gold.

And as the icon's written history is so heavy-laden with accounts of wars, could we go deeper, to the interior place, asking to be released from (or victorious over) the real enemies which are our pride, our battle-field hearts, the excluding and on-the-rise nationalisms, our ego-driven insistences, the enemy of a dulled conscience, our vanity and earth-destroying, plunderous greed. 





10 comments:

  1. Your insights amaze me Father. You think of things to give meaning to these icons and to gospel passages that I could never get on my own. Thank you for your beautiful thoughts.

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    1. I'm so glad for your shared thoughts. My sister said years ago, when this blog was just getting underway: "Remember, you're just a pointer." That's what a priest should do - not indoctrinate - but point to the mystery of God which is soooooo close (like cheek to cheek) we're likely to miss it. How wonderful!

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  2. God does love us all and this icon depicts his affection for us perfectly. I feel Jesus' embrace and ask his light to shine upon me.

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    1. You got it! Of course the icon is about Mary's Mother-love, but even more so, God's embrace of us in Christ - all our "weary world" the Christmas Carol, O Holy Night" says. By the way, this icon of the Vladimir Mother of God was one of the very first icons I became familiar with when I was a young teenager. A door was opened to me. It gives me great pleasure to share these things with the folks who "tune in" here.

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  3. I appreciate that you share your joy of things with us. Sometimes I am so weary, I just need this type of pick me up post to remind myself to take a moment and feel God's presence. I can take comfort in that.

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  4. Take the icon of the Vladimir Mother of God and use it as your screen saver and a little hard copy to put somewhere near where you work - or even scotch tape it to the dashboard. These are little acts of spiritual kindness for ourselves.

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  5. A key point here is to pay attention to Jesus. Following Him is the only way to ensure our path to heaven. Love your neighbors, all of your neighbors without prejudice.

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    1. Read the Gospels. Study the Gospels. Ponder and wonder about the Gospels. Hearing a few verses of it on Sunday morning amidst all the distractions - we need to do better.

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  6. Father, I have learned so much from you about these beautiful icons and the significance behind the littlest details. And still, you are able to teach us more and keep it fresh and relavent to our lives. You do know how to point the way. Thanks.

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  7. My 8th grade teacher, Sister Mary Placidia, SSND, gave me a paper icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help - and I was off!

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