Saturday, June 27, 2009

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is Arwen's Baptism Saint. I had a particular devotion to her before and during the pregnancy of Arwen.
Today I would like to give thanks for her intersession for and on behalf of our little Arwen. This is a fairly recent Feast Day for us as a Family and we have no set traditions as yet, we will get there next year though.

I have been taken by surprise at the swiftness of this day and so am totally unprepared.
Therefore I have pretty much taken from Lisa at Are We There Yet her post on Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

From the Library of Catholic Devotion:

The veneration of Our Lady under this title is related to a miraculous picture of Our Blessed Lady, in the Byzantine style, which was brought to Rome toward the end of the 15th century and set up for veneration in the church of Saint Matthew the Apostle. From that time until the destruction of the Church and disappearance of the picture in 1812 the image was highly venerated. So many favors and graces were granted that it become naural to speak of "Our Lady of Perpetural Help (or Succor.)" It was not until the time of Pope Pius IX that the picture was again discovered. His Holiness warmly urged that the devotion be revived; he entrusted the picture to the Redemptorist Fathers, allowed an official coronation of the picture in his name, and established a feast for june 27th.

Here is an explanation of this famous image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from the Catholic Tradition site:

As one looks at the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual help, it is important to remember that it is an Icon, painted by an anonymous artist, in the style of the Virgin of the Passion that represents the Christian mystery of Redemption.

The icon shows four holy images: The Virgin Mother of God, the Christ child, and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. These personages are 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 wears a red tunic, a dark blue hooded cape with a green lining, a cobalt blue head dress that covers her hair and forehead. In the center of her head on the hood, there is a star of eight golden linear rays; next to it is gold cross in the form of a star. The circular halo around her head, typical of the Cretan school, at one time had a jeweled crown, that has been removed in the original but retained in some reproductions.

The Greek letters are thus: MP - OY [O is really the letter theta] = Mother of God, on the two sides of the upper part of the icon; IC - XC = Jesus Christ, to the right of His head; OAM = Archangel Michael, above the Angel on the left as you look at the icon; OAT [the Greek letter tau] = Archangel Gabriel, above the Angel on the right, as you look at the icon.

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 [the universal perspective]. Her almond-shaped, honey colored eyes and emphasized eyebrows impart a sense of solemn beauty.

Detail of the Christ Child: Original Image

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. We have no definitive knowledge of what this loose sandal represents but traditionally there are three explanations, artistic, medical, and cultural:

Artistic: In many icons, to show the sole of the foot is equivalent to depicting the human nature of the Person [person] in the picture, and this is the one generally accepted by the Church.

Medical: The degree of a person's consciousness can be perceived according to the reflexes in the sole of the foot [Babinski's Reflex]. A sudden movement in the nape of the neck causes a movement in the sole of the foot.

Cultural: In ancient Israel, when someone wanted to cede their rights to another, he would take off his sandal and give it to the beneficiary [Ruth 4; 7-8].

Christ has brown hair and the features associated with a child. His feet and neck position appear to express a brusque movement caused by something that He suddenly senses, perhaps His coming Passion, represented by the cross and nails in the hands of the Archangel Gabriel. The Archangel Michael presents Him with the other instruments of His Passion: the lance, the pole with a sponge, and a vessel containing vinegar.

4. The Mystery of the Redemption

The icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is not a decoration so much as a message, a dissertation about the central mystery of our Catholic Faith. The different elements in the icon tell us about God-with-us, the Way of the Cross, the loving intercession of Mary and the glory of the Divine Light - the golden background.

In Mary's body the promise of salvation became a fleshed reality when the Son of god took on our human nature. When His human life ended on the Cross, she was there as His first disciple. It was in those last moments that Jesus designated her to be the Mother of the Church: "Behold your Mother [ John 19:27]."

The largest figure in the painting is Mary, but she is not the focal point. The center is rather in the joining of her hand with those of Jesus and the manner in which she points out that her Son is Jesus Christ, the son of God Who offer His life for the Redemption of all and the Salvation of repentant sinners. Mary points out and directs us to Jesus our Savior.

The Christ Child appears as a victim to be offered, much the same as in the Presentation in the Temple [Luke 2:22-40]. Mary's attitude reminds us of the Gospel words: "Mary stood at the foot of the Cross" [John 19:25], not collapsed in pain but erect, strong and valiant. All the elements of the composition accentuate the reality of suffering, as noted in our Mother Mary's face, the movements of the Child Jesus, and the instruments of the Passion. At the same time there is an emphasis on Christ's triumph, represented by the golden background and in the way the Angels carry the instruments of the Passion, less as weapons of death, than as trophies of victory, as if they were taken from calvary on Easter morning.

It is understandable why the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help draws us to pray: it is the synthesis of the mysteries of Salvation. One can understand why some many like to say the Rosary before an image of this icon.

Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of every grace that God grants us in our misery; it is for this cause that He hath made thee so powerful, so rich, so bountiful, that thou mightest assist us in our miseries. Thou are the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners, if they but come unto thee; come once more to my assistance, for I commend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation; to thee I entrust my soul. Enroll me among thy most faithful servants; take me under thy protection and it is enough for me: yes, for if thou protect me, I shall fear nothing; not my sins, for thou wilt obtain for me their pardon and remission; not the evil spirits, for thou art mightier than all the powers of hell; not from Jesus, my Judge, for He is appeased by a single prayer from thee. I fear only that through my own negligence I may forget to recommend myself to thee and so I shall be lost. My dear Lady, obtain for me the forgiveness of my sins, love for Jesus, final perserverance and the grace to have recourse to thee always, O Mother of Perpetual Help.
Hail Mary, three times.
(Indulgence of 500 days.)


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