Thursday, January 17, 2008

To everything turn, turn, turn. We need to turn to our Mother...

Lent is a time of repentance. We pray for a real turning. We ask for a change deeper than any shift on the surface ... we ask for no less than a complete change of heart.

Last week we looked into the icon of "Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence", and Silence has led us to this, Our Lady of Sorrows. This is an icon of infinite com-passion ("suffering with") and it was commissioned with that prayer in mind. In 1993 a friend called with the tragic news that his sister was in the final stages of AIDS, and asked me to "write" an icon as a prayer for her. I plunged into my icon books and finally found this 14th. century image of the Mater Dolorosa from the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Meteora, Greece.

This icon is the left wing of a diptych (two panels) which I later felt compelled to expand into a triptych (three panels) and we will see the other two in the coming weeks.

We see here an image of great solemnity set in a darkness that is deep and wordless. The Mother of God, head bent in obvious exhaustion, pulls her cloak closer to her and leans on that hand. Her eyes are the stricken open eyes of a slaughtered deer. They are half vacant with consuming affliction, half with the shock of having just witnessed the slow torture and murder of her only child. The right hand rises, with or without heart, in a gesture of consent. The Mother who cannot even lift her head lets this hand float up in the dark night of faith. She offers one last "Let it be according to Your will".

The letters to the left of her head MP OY are abbreviations for "Mother of God." The three stars on her blood red maphorion (cloak) always indicate her virginity before, during and after the birth of Christ, one is hidden here behind the left hand.

We believe that Mary is not some symbolic or figurative mother, but in every way, truly our Mother (John 19). She is "there for each of us", inside of each grief, each set-back, each of our toddling steps toward God. A veritable avalanche of real and purported apparitions in this century tell us this over and over again.

Perhaps what makes this so painful to believe is that we see this woman all the time. Not the resplendent Mother of Light, but the Mother of Sorrows. We see her nightly on the television news in Iraq, Bosnia, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Russia, Rwanda, India, New York ... Los Angeles. We feel helpless as we watch her, afraid our prayers as we watch are not enough to touch her grief. We feel like she did beneath the Cross at the time of her child's death and even now as she bears the countless deaths of her other children on earth. We would so love to see her transfigured, healed, as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. But in this icon she comes as every mother, and this is our way to her. This is our way to one another, through the silent and tremendously healing door of compassion.

See the many images Fr. McNichols has written, click "other icons."

William Hart McNichols,SJother icons


Maryellen said...

This is a beautiful post. I went to Fr.McNichols site and clicked on "other icons....". I was surprised to see all his articles of great interest. I'll bookmark his site to I can go back again.

Thanks for posting his meditation on Mary.

Joyful Catholics said...

Thank you, Maryellen. To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised to find it was from Creighton. There's a lot of stuff that's not to Traditional going on there!

Joyful Catholics said...


Thanks for writing and sharing in your email with me about what you read. I'm posting my reply in this com box as I had my email returned so I hope you might read this? I know my friend, Mary, took her daughter, (who I will call) Janie, to Creighton as she was going to possibly attend that university. But Janie returned to the car in tears after her interview, which went horribly wrong, because she was found to be "too Traditional" in her thinking! Outrageous!

But these icons are sure beautiful and you're right, his writing on Mary is quite informative and very beautiful, too.


Maryellen said...

I hope and pray that the young lady will remain 'too traditional'. That speaks well of her parents and the Parish where she was formed.

I have 2 accounts with Blogger and have 2 different emails, but neither of them should have been returned. Perhaps it was just a glitch. I've had that happen to me when I hit 'reply' and you know that had to be a correct addy.

I'll check out the Ignatian Retreat with a very careful reading, and praying for discernment