Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Mother of God Our Lady of the Passion icon

June 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

(also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Our Lady of Perpetual Help; )

Previously in the series: Mother of God Icons: Virgin of Hodegetria

–Click on image for a larger, clearer display–


Our Lady of the Passion

Ank Landwier – Boonekamp, Iconographer (1944-1993)

Attired in mortal flesh and fearing fate doth gaze upon them in trepidation”

(Text in the margin of the original archetypal icon.)

This is one of the more traditionally popular images among Catholics of Madonna and Christ Child icons. Depicted is the very human reaction of the child Jesus to a premonition of his passion symbolized by the two angels. In the upper left corner is the Archangel Michael carrying the lance and sponge of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the upper right is the Archangel Gabriel carrying a 3-bar cross, and nails. Jesus has fled to his mother, jumping into her arms; a sandal has fallen off one of his feet. The child looks anxiously at the vision, clasping the hand of his mother with both of his hands. Solemnly, she looks out at us.

Gabriel, who announced and explained the Incarnation to Mary explains the meaning of the cross to her son in this image. His human reaction is to seek comfort and assurance from his mother. Both angels, however, hold the objects of the passion with covered hands, symbolizing that they hold holy things. In a type of time warp, they have retrieved the instruments of torture from Golgotha on Easter morning. The instruments are actually symbolic here of victory over sin.

We can see that this is a variant of the Hodegetria icon except the child looks neither at us or his mother, and he does not hold a book or scroll or raise a hand in blessing as he so often does in the pure Hodegetria type icon. Angelos Akotantos had introduced this Mother of God Passion iconic theme into icon painting on the island of Crete in the second half of the 15th century. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Greek icon painting lost its center, many artists going to Crete which belonged to Venice. In this way these painters got into contact with Western painting and especially Italian influences. Cretan icons were often imported to Europe at that time where they became widely popular among westerners. Italian Andreas Rico and his sons made this image type popular in Europe after producing many copies of the original. Influenced by Western art Mother and Child wear a crown on their heads. Strictly speaking, this is against iconographical principles, which do not admit any distraction of attention from essentials.

The mother renders comfort and protection to her son under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help while the title Our Lady of the Passion suggests her own anticipation of suffering and passion in union with her son. She is an example for all of us.

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)

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*Image source: Icon

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4 Responses to “Mother of God Our Lady of the Passion icon”

  1. avatar Nerina says:

    I must admit, Bernie, that before I started reading your posts on iconography, I always found viewing them difficult. They just didn’t “do anything for me.” Your explanations help me to look at iconography with new eyes and a new appreciation. It seems everything has meaning. For example, in this post you point out how the Christ child is clinging to his mother’s hand while she peers out at us. It is a deeply moving and human reaction considering the vision Jesus has seen. He clasps his mother’s hands as any child would do when confronted with something traumatic. Just so moving. Thank you for this post.

  2. avatar benanderson says:

    I echo Nerina. Giving these icons some meaning changes the way I look at them.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Fr. Fred Helfrich, Pastor of Church of the Holy Spirit, has a great deal of knowledge regarding icons. He owns a large collection of them. Holy Spirit is always decorated with art (statues, paintings, icons, etc) related to that particular feast day in the Church. It has enriched my prayer life.

  4. avatar Dr. K says:

    Thanks for the comment, Annon. Fr. H has taken a rather plan and modern church in Holy Spirit, and transformed it into a place conducive to prayer.


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