For many centuries throughout the world, this picture has been revered as an icon of hope and inspiration.The original picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is a product of Byzantine art. It is known to be at least five hundred years old in its present form. Painted in tempera on hard nutwood and only 17 by 21 inches, the picture may date back another 1,000 years to the ancient madonnas of Constantinople. Some church legends even date the picture to the first century and the hand and brush of St. Luke the Evangelist.
It is only in the past 125 years that devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help has increased dramatically. In 1866, Pope Pius IX entrusted the miraculous icon to the Redemptorists and told them to "Make Her Known Throughout the World."
Iconographic Elements of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help
1. The Virgin
2. The Child Jesus
3. The Archangels with the instruments of the Passion
4. Greek Abbreviations
MP OY = Mater Theou: Mother of God
OAPM = O Arkanguelos Mikael: The Archangel Michael
OAPG = O Arkanguelos Gabriel: The Archangel Gabriel
ICXC = Iesus Xristos: Jesus Christ
The Face of Mary: A Portrait of the Mother of God
The type of image used corresponds to portraits of the Mother of God. It refers to the Theotokos of the Council of Nicea (325), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451). It also refers to the Virgin Mother of God of fundamental themes of Marian iconography.
The Eyes of the Mother of Perpetual Help:
The eyes of the Mother look towards us with compassion and love.
The Star on the Virgin’s Forehead
THE EIGHT-POINTED STAR
In ancient Christian iconography it means the ray of light, the hand of the Father who blesses from on high or the dove that descends bathed in light.
Signify the coming incarnation of Christ as announced by a prophet. It also appears in the nativity.
In pagan iconography it is a symbol of Divine presence.
Mary is the star that guides the faithful as once guided the Magi.
The gilded background and the circular halos invite us to contemplate the great mystery of redemption - the incarnation, the “elevation” of Christ on the cross and his “ascent” into heaven on the day of the Resurrection. This is is why the archangels appear to repeat the following words: “ We bow before the Cross and glorify your Resurrection”.
The eyes of the child look resolutely and calmly towards the instrument of salvation
The sandals falls from the child’s foot, signifies the child’s fright and is also a symbol of redemption (cf Ruth 4:7)
The Great Hands of the Mother of God: Mary’s hands have a highly symbolic significance.
In her right hand she holds the hand of he who holds the universe in his hand.
Her right hand is the Hodegetria hand, the hand of she who shows the path to Christ, who is the Way the Truth and the Life. She appears to say to us, “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5)
The Instruments of the Glorious Passion of Christ
The instruments of the passion do not appear as signs of Christ’s execution but as a memorial to his glorious Passion.