Charism and Spirituality

Icon of Perpetual Help

Mother of Perpetual Help

https://youtu.be/r8nUFTira_Q

The Icon Message

This beloved picture may look strange to modern Western eyes. It doesn't portray Mary as a delicate maiden with downcast eyes. Her direct gaze and strong features command our attention. We are struck by the unrealistic qualities of the figures. Jesus is the size of a toddler, but his features are those of an older child. Mary and Jesus aren't set in a scene but float against a background of gold.

This picture was painted in the Byzantine style of the Eastern Church. The purpose of this style of art is not to show a beautiful scene or person but to convey a beautiful spiritual message. Because the artist is trying to communicate something more glorious than anything in this world, the picture isn't a realistic portrayal. A Byzantine painting is like a door. Seeing a beautiful door is nice, but who wants to just stand there looking at the door? We want to open the door and go beyond it. The door might be attractive or unattractive, but it is only a door, there to lead us into a new world.

That's how we must approach this picture. The artist, realizing that no one on earth would ever know what Mary or Jesus really looked like, and that their holiness could never be depicted in purely human terms, has portrayed their beauty and their message in symbols.

What do you see when you look at this picture?

First of all you see Mary, because she dominates the picture and because she looks straight at you -- not at Jesus, not at heaven, not at the angels above her head. She looks at you as if to tell you something very important. Her eyes seem serious, even sad, but they command attention.

This is an important woman, one of power and position. She is set on a gold background, a symbol of heaven in the middle ages. She is dressed in dark blue robes with a green lining and red tunic. Blue, green, and red were the colors of royalty. Only the Empress was allowed to wear those colors.

The eight-point star on her forehead was probably added by a later artist to represent the Eastern idea that Mary is the star that leads us to Jesus. To reinforce the symbolism, there is an ornamental four-point cross to the left of the star on her headdress.

The letters above her head proclaim her the Mother of God (in Greek).

Looking at the painting, we know that she has the power to intercede for us in heaven.

Mary's gaze is fixed on you, but her arms hold Jesus. In Byzantine icons, Mary is never shown without Jesus because Jesus is central to the faith. Jesus too is wearing the clothes of royalty. Only an Emperor could wear the green tunic, red sash, and gold brocade portrayed in the picture. The Greek initials to the right of the child and his halo decorated with a cross proclaim that he is "Jesus Christ."

Jesus isn't looking at us, or at Mary, or at the angels. Though he clings to his mother, he's looking away, at something we can't see -- something that made him run so fast to his mother that one of his sandals has almost fallen off, something that makes him cling to her for protection and love. 

What would frighten a little boy, even the Son of God, so much?

The figures that hover on either side of Jesus and Mary -- the Greek letters above them identify them as Archangels Gabriel and Michael -- provide us with the answer. Rather than carrying harps or trumpets of praise, they bear the instruments of Christ's Passion. 

On the left, Michael holds an urn filled with the gall that the soldiers offered to Jesus on the cross, the lance that pierced his side, and the reed with the sponge.

To the right, Gabriel carries the cross and four nails.

Jesus has seen part of his destiny -- the suffering and death he will undergo. Though he is God, he is human as well and afraid of this terrifying future. He has run to his mother, who holds him close in this moment of panic, the same way she will be close by his side through his life and death. While she can't spare him his suffering, she can love and comfort him.

So why is Mary looking so intently at us instead of her child in need? Her gaze brings us into the story, makes us part of the painting and the pain. Her gaze tells us that just as Jesus ran to his mother and found refuge, so too may we run to Mary. 

Her hand does not clasp the hands of her frightened son in a protective grip, but remains open, inviting us to put our hands in hers and join with Jesus.

Mary knows there are many things in our lives that are dangerous and terrifying, and that we need someone to turn to in times of suffering and dread. She offers us the same comfort and love she gave to Jesus. She tells us to run to her as fast as Jesus did, so fast that we don't even think about what we wear or how we go, just so we get there.

What are you waiting for?

 

(courtesy of www.cssr.com)

PERPETUAL HELP ROSARY

 

Introduction:
 
This Icon is indeed a window to the Divine. Meditating on the Icon is to open our hearts to the experience of God. All are welcome to this experience – so simple and yet so deep. No one needs to feel excluded, alienated or rejected. Neither those who feel unworthy to come before God because of their sin. Not even those of other faith traditions or religions.  A welcoming Mother and a gentle Child extend their loving compassion in whatever situation we may find ourselves in.
 
Through this Perpetual Help Rosary divided into five Mysteries, we focus on different sections of the Icon. By doing so, we draw on the richness of God speaking to us, to our lives, through this ‘Painted Word’. More than embracing this Icon, let us allow the Icon to embrace us. Through Mary and Jesus, let us allow ourselves to be strengthened by the enveloping experience of communion with the God of Love.
 
 
First Mystery:  Our human heart longs for God (Ps. 42; Mt. 19:16-30)
 
In the lives of most people, there is always some kind of empty space that needs to be filled, some pain that needs healing, a feeling of despair that cries for hope, a reality which seeks justice, encouragement, peace, reconciliation,  love... Each person finds himself/herself in front of a Mother who lovingly calls out to Her beloved child.
 
As we meditate on this first mystery, we recognize ourselves as an active part of the whole Icon and allow the life in it to touch our very heart, our mind and soul. We begin a spiritual journey where we enter into the depth of ourselves.
 
We look deeply into ourselves and ask these questions: How am I? How do I feel? How is my life? Where am I going and where is my life directed to? What do I have/possess and what do I do with it? What do I really need in my life? How is my personal relationship with God? How do I allow God to actually fill that emptiness in me?
 
1 “Our Father”, 10 "Hail Marys," 1 "Glory be to the Father.”
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we trust in You.                         
Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
 
Second Mystery:  God send His angels (Luke 22:40-43)
 
God always wants us to be union with Him that we may truly find happiness and meaning in our life. God respects the free will that He gives us. But He also helps us know what is best for each one of us by sending us His angels. In the Icon, we find the Archangels Gabriel and Michael announcing to Jesus His Father’s message. At the same time, the Archangels reassure Him of God’s constant presence, protection and guidance.
 
In this second mystery, we thank God for giving us angels as another expression of His great love for us. We also thank the Lord for the presence of angels in our life through the different persons who are sent or come to us. They help us recognize God’s will, experience God’s protection and guide us in our journey. We thank God for both the invisible and the visible angels in our life.
 
We pray that we, too, may serve as angels to other people as we make God present in and through our words and deeds. This is best experienced when they desire to seek and do His holy will. (Luke 2:14; Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; John 20:12; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 24:31; Matthew 13:49; Mark 13:32; Luke 20:34; Acts 12:7-11)
 
1 “Our Father”, 10 "Hail Marys," 1 "Glory be to the Father.”
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we trust in You.                         
Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
 
 
 
Third Mystery:  Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and the Redeemed (Lk.1:26-38; Jn.2:1-6; Jn. 19:25-27)
 
In this mystery, we allow ourselves to receive the loving, comforting and yet captivating gaze of Mary. At a young age, Mary said a deep and personal “Yes” to God in the Annunciation. She lived it all her life. For this full and openhearted response to God’s plan, she became the Mother of the Redeemer.
 
Mary was ever conscious of God’s presence. She pondered on God’s saving action and treasured everything in her heart. Mary, as Mother, lovingly welcomed and embraced us as her children when Jesus said to His beloved disciple: “Here is your mother” and to her: “Here is your son”. Here we are, her children.  She is our Mother…She is the Mother of the Redeemed.
 
As we contemplate her in this icon, let us ask for the grace to be always open to attentively listen to the Word of her Son. Mary, our Mother, teach us to continually open our heart to the call of the Father, to the action of the Holy Spirit and to the Word of Jesus. Help us to always learn from you, our Mother,  that we may also always respond to God: “Be it done unto me according to Your Word”.
 
1 “Our Father”, 10 "Hail Marys," 1 "Glory be to the Father”.
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we trust in You.                         
Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
 
 
 
Fourth Mystery:  Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, our Perpetual Help (Lk. 4:18-19)
 
We come to the very center of this Icon on which we meditate: Jesus! It is on Him that the angels are focused.  It is to Him that Mary’s protective embrace is centered, that even as she looks at us, it is with the intention of making us aware of Her Son, our Lord and Redeemer. He is the only One who can give meaning to our life, the true Perpetual Help…for this reason we address her in this icon: Mother of Perpetual Help.
 
Christ has redeemed us and will always be our Redeemer. He is Emmanuel, our God-with-us. His unconditional love for the weak, suffering and poor brought him opposition - for which he suffered his Passion and Death. Such was the depth of his love. But death did not have the last word. He rose again in glory to give us new life. This then is Jesus, the Redeemer, who is humble and yet ever steadfast in giving us His abundant redemption.
 
In contemplating this mystery, let us be fully drawn by the immense love of the Redeemer and let us experience the Perpetual Help of Mary.
 
1 “Our Father”, 10 "Hail Marys," 1 "Glory be to the Father”.
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we trust in You.                         
Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
 
 
Fifth Mystery:  That we may be one!  Living in communion with God and one another (Jn. 19:27; Acts 1:14; Jn.17:21; Lumen Gentium #63)
 
Communion! Isn’t it so beautiful when there is full sharing and oneness? Isn’t it wonderful, where despite diversity, we strive to live as one? In this part of the Icon, we see Jesus’ hands clasp Mary’s hand. It expresses the communion between the Mother and the Son. We see the total commitment of Mary to Jesus and His mission. Here, we recall that Mary holds us also in her hands as her children while Jesus lovingly accepts the mission from His Father to redeem us.
 
Mary, in this Icon, says to us: “Do whatever He tells you”. We also need to hear Jesus’ words echoing in our hearts: “I am with you until the end of time”. In this contemplation of the Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help, we are offered the experience of communion with the Redeemer, with the Mother of the Redeemer and with all the Redeemed in whatever situation each one of us may be.
 
In this decade, let us allow Jesus and His Mother to make us instruments of communion by generously and genuinely living to the full, the vocation we are called to, as Christians. Let us pray that we may truly live and spread in our midst - the peace, reconciliation, justice, joy and love that Jesus and Mary are radiating to us through this Icon of Communion.
 
1 “Our Father”, 10 "Hail Marys," 1 "Glory be to the Father”.
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we trust in You.                         
Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
 
 
Concluding Reflection
 
These 5 points of contemplation in this Perpetual Help Rosary, give a sense of a spiral that invites us to go deeper within ourselves. It invites us to take a journey to our heart where we can encounter the Lord and the gentle protection of Mary. By going deeper and opening our hearts to the Icon, we are offered an experience of communion with God.
 
The spiral dynamic of contemplating the Icon reminds us that every event and the whole of creation have a place in the plan of God. The circular shape that this dynamic presents, symbolizes that we are all one. And as one, we are called to build the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated. It is a Kingdom, where at its very heart, we find the God who in and with His Love binds us together in Communion with all humanity and creation.
 
As we conclude this Rosary Prayer with the Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help, let us recall that in the history of this Icon, it was under the care of a merchant who was on a journey. We, ourselves, are all travelers/pilgrims …each in a different way according to the kind of life which God has called us to. Sometimes, we make steady progress, sometimes we stumble with our struggles. For this, we need the Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help to be our companion in our life journey…because the journey within every heart and the journey towards full communion goes on and on…
 
 
Hail Holy Queen
 
 
Petitions To Our Mother Of Perpetual Help (adapted from  www.baclaranovena.org)
 
Leader:Holy Mary
All: PRAY FOR US
 
Holy Virgin conceived without sin…
PRAY FOR US
 
Our Mother of Perpetual Help,
PRAY FOR US
 
That we may be filled with the Holy Spirit and become courageous witnesses of Christ’s love for all.
…*LOVING MOTHER HELP US
 
That we may be more and more like our Divine Lord, as you were…*
 
That we may be meek and humble of heart like your Son, Jesus…*
 
That we may fear losing God’s friendship forever by unrepented sin…*
 
That we may seek Christ’s mercy and forgiveness constantly in the sacrament of Penance…*
 
That we may be aware of God speaking to us in the events of daily life…*
*LOVING MOTHER HELP US
 
That we may pray daily with love and trust, especially in moments of temptation…*
 
That we may realize the value of worshipping God together in the Eucharist…*
 
That we may grow in the love of Christ and neighbor by frequent Communion…*
 
That we may reverence our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit…*
 
That we may strive to be true Christians by our loving concern for others…*
 
That we may accept our responsibility in the community in the spirit of genuine service…*
 
That we may proclaim the dignity of work by doing our own work conscientiously…*
 
That we may share our talents with others for the good of the community…*
 
That we may forgive from our heart those who have wronged us…*
 
That we may see the evil of seeking our own interest at the expense of others…*
 
That married couples and families in difficulty may seek reconciliation and forgiveness…*
 
That those struggling with addictions of alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling may recognize their weakness and be open to the grace to break free…*
 
That we may work for the just distribution of this world's goods…*
 
That the voice of the poor and marginalized will not go unheeded…*
 
That individuals and groups will resist the temptation to turn to violence and hatred…*
 
That we may be aware of our dependence on God in the midst of human achievements…*
 
That the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen Pope Francis, the Bishops, the clergy and all in leadership…*
 
That our civil and political leaders may work for a society that is just and avoids discrimination…*
 
That we may be blessed with an increase of priestly and religious vocations…*
 
That we may bring the knowledge of Christ to those who do not know Him…*
 
That the aged, sick and suffering may receive healing and comfort…*
 
That the migrants and refugees who leave their homeland due to  oppression, poverty, persecution, violence, and war may be welcomed as true brothers and sisters with joy and generosity in the country where they live…*
 
That we may be ready at death to enter the home of our heavenly Father…*
 
That we may die at peace with Christ and our fellowmen and women…*
 
That we may be comforted at the death of our dear ones by our hope in the risen Lord…
 
That our departed brothers and sisters quickly share in your Son’s resurrection…*
 
Leader:Pray for us O Holy Mother of God.
All:That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
 
                                            
Let us pray:    
 
O God who has willed that the Mother of Your only-begotten Son should  offer us her Perpetual Help, grant us grace to call on her with confidence in all our necessities of soul and body, so that assisted  through her protection and assistance, we may be brought to the everlasting vision of Your glory in heaven. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
May almighty God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon us and remain with us forever.  Amen.
 
 
 
Note:
 
The Holy Rosary is a simple yet a very profound way of allowing oneself to be in communion with God. Through the mysteries, we contemplate the Word of God. The Rosary can be a prayer of an individual or the whole community. Even if it is silently prayed individually, every person who prays can feel in union, integrated and interconnected with all the children of God and with the whole of creation.
 
The author is Sr. Maria Victoria V. Flores, born in the Philippines, is a member of the Congregational Commission of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for the 150th Anniversary of Making Her Known. Inspired by the message of love and communion that the Icon transmits, she composed this Perpetual Help Rosary as a gift of love to the Mother of the Redeemer and the Redeemed. Through these meditations, she invites all the children of such a faithful and ever-loving Mother to deepen and strengthen their relationship with Christ, the Perpetual Help and Mary, His Mother and ours.