In our Second Cup series of occasional talks after Sunday Mass Dimitri Brady, Warden of Methodist International House, and an Orthodox christian spoke about an icon we have in Church. Here is a summary:
Pilgrims to 19th century Constantinople (Istanbul) often received a gift from the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a reminder of their visit. The icon we see here was a popular choice. The image, Our Lady of Mercy, is a popular and beloved image from that period. Most probably the image we have in Church was brought to England by pilgrims.
The image developed from the historic icon of the Mother of God as Guide. Here we see a nineteenth century softening of an earlier image, which emphasises compassion and mercy. The icon is one of tenderness. Mary holds Jesus in a gentle loving embrace. Uniquely, for such images, Jesus hand goes within his mother’s robe representing a mother’s protection, and also drawing Mary forward indicating his mission, is shared.
Around the image of mother and child are archangels, messengers who serve to remind that although the image is of compassion the story of salvation also includes suffering and death, and involves angels and humans.
The image, the icon, is a window to heaven, the figures inviting us into spiritual dimensions and encouraging us, through our senses, to contemplate and be at peace.
…and what is written on the scroll?
Fr Stephen Platt kindly provides the answer: “The inscription, in Church Slavonic, reads ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor’ (Luke 4:18/Isaiah 61:1)”