THE ICON AND LENT
By nature, Icons are not drawn or painted. Icons are written. In the case of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we read and contemplate on the mystery of the passion of Christ Jesus announced by the Angels and the Sorrowful Mother, who accompanied Christ on his Redemptive journey to the cross. A loving gaze on this Icon of love is an encounter with the mystery of Lent. The Icon tells not the story of the Sorrowful Mother Mary but narrates the events of the paschal mystery of Christ her Son. Nevertheless, the Holy Mother Mary is dominant because she was the greatest figure in the unfolding of the Redemptive work wrought by Christ her Son and she remains the greatest Personage in human history to identify with our human crosses till today.
Lent calls us to pray, fast and be charitable. In the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we encounter the Woman of prayer. Mary, Our Mother cherished the revealed mysteries and pondered everything in her heart of love (Luke 2:19, 51). Put simply, the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is a contemplative Icon, calling us to prayer and meditation on the passion and death of Christ with the Sorrowful Mother journeying with Him to the last. And so, our going before the Icon this season of Lent, must remind us of our call to prayer that we may be fervent in doing Gods will in our daily sufferings and limitations.
Lent is a season of grace. Thus, the Church calls us to fast that we may drink abundantly from the wells of salvation at Easter (Jn. 4:14). Now, to fast is to practice the virtue of bodily self restraint from the use of material things. The primary essence of fasting is to return to the Lord (Cf. Jon. 3:5 ff). Fasting is a radical way of doing some violence to bodily desires that the spiritual hunger may rise (Cf. Mt. 11:12). In the practice of the virtue of self-restraint, we diminish the pleasures or desires of the flesh which is dust and increase the grace and fervor of anointing and the will of God in us. The Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is a perfect tool of meditation with regards to self denial. A look at the features of the Icon speaks volume to us on mortification. A meditative glance at the Icon introduces Mary to us as a woman of few words. Hence, we must mortify from talking too much or speaking uncharitably. The hole in her ear tells us to listen to one another as a virtue to imbibe. Her Icon tells us to fast from make-ups and dressing immodestly. It compels us to turn away from the things of this world and return to the things that eternally endure.
Being charitable in words and deeds are two things that Mary is known for. The Icon is loved and venerated as a gift from God to humanity because it finds a charitable expression in the lives of all. For the sick, the Icon brings the desired healing effect. For the troubled, the Icon soothes pains. For the dying, the Icon is the beacon of hope. For the sorrowful, the Icon is a representation of Marys presence with her children who are the products of her tears. For the barren, the Icon presents Jesus the Blessed fruit of Marys womb. For the prisoner, the Icon is the hope of the captive. For the sinner, the Icon speaks of repentance. For the Christian in this valley of tears, the Icon is the help of Christians. We can go on forever. It finds expression in the lives of all and calls us to also be there for one another. Its shows Marys closeness to her Children in love and calls us to do the same in our lifes row.
As Members of the Confraternity of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and lovers of Mary, we are quite aware that we are all at the fore-front of making the graces of this Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, known throughout the world as a mandate. We must promote her glories with fear and trembling. Our mandate is a Holy mandate. Mary herself takes the lead. We only try to catch up. And here is the starting point: conversion. We must be converted in order to convert anyone. Nemo dat quod non habet (You cannot give what you do not have). Conversion is an on-going process of the Christian journey. We must be open to that growth. In this season of Lent, reflecting on the features of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in our Novena is an invitation to embrace interior conversion that we may draw with joy from the wells of the Saviour at Easter (Is. 12:3).
Let us pray with Mary, mortify as she did and be charitable in words and deeds that we may truly represent who we are as her ambassadors. Amen.
May the peace of Christ reign in you all in this Lenten Season and always. Amen.
Revd. Fr. Christopher O. Uwadiale, C.Ss.R
National Chaplain, COMPH NIGERIA
09th day of March, 2018
On the occasion of March Lenten Novena in Nigeria