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In usual Byzantine style, the figures of the icon are identified with abbreviations of their names. In this icon, Mary is designated by her chief title of glory: Mother of God, with the Greek letters "MP - OY" = "Mother of God; while "IC - XC" denotes "Jesus Christ"; "OAM" denotes "Archangel Michael"; and "OAT" denotes "Archangel Gabriel".
since they carry the instruments of the passion and death of Christ. The angles have their hands covered with a protecting veil as a sign of reverence in handling sacred objects.
The Christ Child
The icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is painted on a plaque of wood measuring little over 21 inches high and about 14 inches wide. It shows four holy images: the Virgin Mother of God, the Christ child, and Archangels Michael and Gabriel, identified by the letters that appear in the icon.
Only half of the Virgin's body is depicted but the impression is that she is standing. She is clothed in a tunic (or dress) of dark red, which was long reserved in the Byzantine world for the Empress alone, indicating the Queenship of Mary. Our Lady is also wearing dark blue hooded cape with a green lining, a cobalt blue headdress that covers her hair and forehead. The blue reminds us of heaven, to which we wish to arrive by our penance, and the red recalls martyrdom, because all penance requires a dying to oneself. In the centre of her head on the hood, there is a star of eight golden linear rays; next to it is a gold cross in the form of a star. The circular halo around her head, typical of the Cretan school, at one time had a jewelled crown that has been removed in the original but retained in some reproductions.
The Virgin's Face
Ref: Monkrock, Message & Symbolism of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, <http://www.monkrock.com/index.cfm?load=page&page=671>
The Child Jesus is shown in full proportion, resting in the left arm of the Virgin while His hands clutch her right hand. He is dressed in a green tunic, a red cincture and cloak. He is wearing sandals but the one on the right foot is loose so that one can see the sole of His foot. Showing the sole of the foot is, in artistic interpretations, equivalent to depicting the human nature of the Person in the picture. The Child Jesus is shown with an adult face and a high brow, indicating His divine Mind of infinite intelligence. As God, He knew that the angelic apparition was prophetic of His future passion. Yet in His human nature as a small child, He is frightened and runs to His Mother for protection. Our lady hastily picks Him up and clasps Him to her bosom. This action is indicated by the fact that the Lord's foot is nervously curled about the left ankle and in such haste that His right sandal has become loosened and hangs by a single strap. This is further indicated by the way the archangels Gabriel and Michael wear tunics of purple ...
The Virgin's face is slightly inclined toward the Christ Child whom she holds in her left hand. Her larger right hand (its long fingers typical of images that indicate the way) holds the hand of Jesus. With a sad tenderness, she looks not to her Son but appears to be in dialogue with whomever gazes upon her. Her almond-shaped eyes, honey coloured eyes and emphasized eyebrows impart a sense of solemn beauty.
Links: Visit <http://iconoflove.businesscatalyst.com/meaning-of-the-icon.html> for more explanations and video presentations on the Icon; and <http://www.novenachurch.com/icon-further-explained.html>.
In 1866, Pope Pius IX entrusted the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists with the mission to "Make her known" throughout the world. 2016 is the 150th jubilee of the Icon - click here for details on the celebrations.
The Greek Letters
the Child Jesus clasps His Mother's right hand with both of His, holding tightly to Our Lady's thumb.
Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help