My husband and I are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. I have attended mass at this church all of my life, beginning at my baptism soon after birth. There is a beautiful replica of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Icon in our Church. I have always loved the icon, but never took the time to understand its meaning or significance to our church history.
It is the tradition of the Catholic Church that Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the oldest Icon of the Church. It is believed that it was painted by St. Luke while Our Blessed Mother was still in Jerusalem. According to legend, St. Luke showed the painting to Mary and she blessed it, saying her grace would accompany the Icon. Many miracles have been attributed to the veneration of this Icon.
St. Luke reportedly gave the Icon to his best friend, Theophilus. There is little reported on it until the 5th century when St. Pulcheria erected a Shrine in honor of the Icon as “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” in Constantinople. The Icon disappears around 1453 when Constantinople became under siege. It reappears years later on the island of Crete.
After exchanging hands a couple of times, the Icon finally found its way on March 27, 1499 to Rome. There are still centuries of war and reconstruction. The Icon spent many years hidden away and at one point forgotten. But the Lord gave us His Mother and He did not want her forgotten! The Icon was eventually discovered and restored. It is kept today in The Church of St. Alphonsus Ligouri in Rome.
The Icon is full of symbols and messages. There are angels on the left and the right sides of Mary and Jesus. The left angel has the Greek initial for St. Michael the Archangel He is holding the lance and gallop of Christ’s Passion. On the right is the Greek initial for St. Gabriel, the Archangel. He hold the nails and the Cross.
Mary is silent, but speaks volumes. She is wearing a red tunic; which was worn by virgins at the time of Christ. The dark blue mantle was worn by mothers at that time. She is virgin, but also a mother. Her eyes are large and turned toward us. She seems to be pleading to us to avoid sin and love Her Son. Mary’s left hand is supporting Christ possessively; she is His mother. She comforts Her Son, but also everyone who calls on Her for help.
“Behold your mother.” John 19:27
She was the mother of God. She comforted Him and nurtured Him. She knew of His fate; but she knew it was God’s Will. She was full of faith and love even as He was dying on the Cross. Her Son’s last gift to His faithful followers was His Mother.
Every part of Jesus that was human was from His mother – our mother – Mary. She still sees Him suffer. There are many more sins in the world today. She is still trying to comfort and mother His followers.
Happy Mother’s Day to Mary, the Mother of God and of us all!
May mankind finally learn to follow the examples of your Holy Family. It is not about making you and Jesus happy – You are radiant and in God’s Kingdom. Following the ways of Jesus and His family will lead to OUR HAPPINESS!
Love Your Daughter,