|Look at the copy
of the picture. Frightened by the vision of two angels showing Him
the instruments of the Passion, the Christ Child has run to His Mother,
almost losing, in His haste, one of the tiny sandals. Mary holds Him in
her arms reassuringly, lovingly. But notice her eyes. They look not at
Jesus, but at us. Is this not a touch of genius? How better express Our
Lady's plea to us to avoid sin and love her Son?
Christ's little Hands, too, are pressed into Mary's as
a reminder to us that, just as on earth He placed Himself entirely in
her hands for protection, so now in Heaven He has given into her hands
all graces, to distribute to those who ask Her. This is the
principal message of the picture. A Byzantine icon, however, it is
replete with other symbols. Here are some of them.
|Star on Our Lady's veil. She is the Star Of the Sea . . . who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world . . . the star that leads us to the safe port of Heaven.||
Greek Initials for "Mother of God"
|Golden Crown placed on the original picture by order of the Holy See in 1867 It is a token of the many miracles wrought by Our Lady invoked under the title of "Perpetual Help."|
|Greek Initial for St. Michael the Archangel " He is depicted holding the lance and gall-sop of Christ's Passion||Greek Initial for "St. Gabriel the Archangel." He holds the Cross and the nails.|
|Mary's Mouth is small for silent recollection. She speaks little.||
Mary's Eyes are large for all our troubles They are turned toward us always.
|Red Tunic the color worn by virgins at the time of Christ.||
Greek Initials for "Jesus Christ."
Dark Blue Mantle the color worn by mothers in Palestine. Mary is both Virgin and Mother.
Mary's Left Hand supporting Christ possessively: She is his Mother. It is a comforting hand for everyone who calls on Her.
Christ's Hands turned palms down into His Mother's indicate that the Graces of Redemption are in Her keeping
Falling Sandal Perhaps, the symbol of a soul clinging to Christ by one last thread -- devotion to Mary.
background is golden symbolic of Heaven where Jesus and Mary are now
enthroned. The gold also shines through their clothing showing the
heavenly joy. They can bring to tired human hearts.
The following poem puts in words many of these meanings of the icon of
Our Mother of Perpetual Help:
Madonna, in thy eastern shrine reposing,
We crown thee Empress of the adopted West,
And hail thee Mother, for redemption's closing
Left thee to us in Jesus' last bequest.
Perpetual Help! Upon the breast of mother,
Omnipotence here lisps His childhood's fears,
And thou dost soothe His terrors as no other
But thou couldst do, and kiss away His tears.
But even while thy Infant's fingers tremble
Their fright within thy palms, while cherubim,
Golgotha's grim precursors, here assemble
With spectral cross and lance, 'tis not on Him
But on us Cains, whose sins have slain our brother,
Thy eyes gaze sadly from thy frame above;
The wayward child is dearest to his mother,
The prodigal e'er nearest to her love.
Behold us, like the loosened sandal cleaving
To Jesus' feet by but a single strap --
Should that thong fail, be thou our hope receiving
Thy fallen children in a mother's lap.
(Rev. John T. Feeney)
The Cardinal prefect will call the Superior of the little community of Santa Maria in Posterula and will tell him it is Our will that the Image of the most holy Mary, of which this petition treats, be returned between St. John's and St. Mary Major's. However, the Superior of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer is obliged to substitute another suitable picture.
Pope Pius IX