Our Lady of Tenderness
The Orthordox Council of the year 869-870 declares: “What the Gospel proclaims to us in words, the icon also proclaims and renders present for us in colour. It is a true sacramental of a personal Presence”.
The raison d’etre of icons is to serve God as well as humanity. It is a window through which the people of God, the Church, can contemplate the Kingdom – (The Icon by M Quenot). But the icon is much more than a form of teaching or an aid to prayer, it is an object of veneration – it challenges each of us, revealing itself in the silence of a face to face encounter. We must listen to it so that it may manifest the Word.
The icon portrayed here is that of Our Lady of Pskov, one of the many icons of Our Lady of Loving Kindness or Tenderness. It was written in Russia in the Pskov school of iconography. There is here a warm natural human love – the love of a mother for her child and the child for his mother. Surely this underlines the human aspect of the Divine Motherhood of Mary and of the Incarnation. The humanity of Mary, Mother of God is also the Humanity of her Son with whom she is inseparably united. But in spite of her tenderness Mary is serious, even sad, pondering in her heart as she does, the Prophecy of Simeon “Your Child shall stand as a sign of contradiction, while a sword shall pierce your own heart.”(Luke2:34)
How does this icon speak to me? The way in which the Child clings to his Mother in love but perhaps also in apprehension encourages me in my moments of weakness and fear to throw myself into Mary’s arms, there to find strength and solace. She is a true mother to us all, ever ready to help and ever ready to love; she is God’s gift to each of us. But see also the eagerness with which the Child Jesus embraces His Mother “See how I love you, you are precious in my eyes” (Is 43:4) He seems to say. Yes, God first loved us (1 Jh) and our love is only a response to that first love. God loves us with a personal, undivided and eternal love.” I led them with reins of kindness with leading strings of love. I was like some one who lifts an infant close to his cheek” (Hosea 11:3,4). He seeks us, and wonder of all wonders in seeking us, He finds Himself – are we not made to His own image and likeness? In Baptism we participate in His life.
Virgin Mother of tenderness, when times are dark and dreary one look at your Child held safely and lovingly close to your cheek inspires a deep and lasting confidence in me. Your calming presence is the joy and hope of my life and the pledge of your untiring care for each of us your children in Christ. AMEN.