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Mother of Tenderness

Icon Greeting Card

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WCA5147 Package of 10 cards with envelopes


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4.375 x 5.9375 (A-6)

Inside Text:

Blank inside.

Bible Verse:

 Matthew 2:11a

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother...

Item Details:

This image by Sr. Regina Krushen, O.S.B. is based on a 16th century model, unique in its emphasis on the spiritual relationship of trust between Mary and Christ.

Icon greeting cards are single-fold cards printed on heavy stock, 4.38" x 5.93". The cards are blank inside for your own message or custom imprint and have an explanation of the history and symbolism of the icon printed on the back.

Image Origins

There are many variations on the theme of the Mother of God and the Child Jesus in iconography. This icon, based on a sixteenth century model, falls into the Eleusa/Umilenie group. Eleusa is Greek for, “compassionate one,” and Umilenie is Russian, having numerous meanings: “intimacy,” “gentleness,” “tenderness.” The most striking characteristic of this group is a deep spiritual relationship of trust between Mary and Christ, together with the one who prays before the image.

Theology and Symbolism

Icons of the Theotokos (“God-bearer”) and Christ Emmanuel are important for iconographic theology. The reason we are able to paint and venerate sacred images is because God took on our human flesh and to reveal himself to us, using Mary as his material instrument. On the basic level of human relationships, there is no question as to why for almost two thousand years these Madonna and Child images have been so popular in the hearts and minds of the faithful. The Christ Child wears clothing different from that of depictions of the adult Jesus, although he is dressed as an adult. As a man Christ wears red and blue to represent his human and divine natures, but here he wears white and gold, symbols of purity and heavenly light. Jesus is the light come into the world out of the darkness, and that is why the basic technique for icon writing is to paint from dark to light. Christ's halo is inscribed with a cross (the nimbus) and the Greek letters omicron, omega, nu, spelling "HO ON"; in English, this becomes, "He who is," as in, “He who is, who was, and is to come at the end of the ages.” The abbreviated Greek form of the name Jesus Christ, "IC XC,” appears near His halo. The Theotokos wears a deep red color over a dark tunic. This garment, called the maphorion, is a veil-mantle, and the color symbolizes the flesh and blood that she gave to the Second Person of the Trinity in the Incarnation. On her head and shoulders are three stars (one covered by the child), these represent her perpetual virginity before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. Underneath the maphorion is a turban, a sign that she is a married woman. In the West we are used to seeing Mary in blue, but that is because the pigment lapis lazuli was the most expensive and durable color one could use in the Middle Ages. "MPØY" is an abbreviation for Mother of God, Meter Theou. Mary and the child Jesus touch cheek to cheek. One arm is wrapped around her neck while the other is grasping her veil. An unusual aspect of this icon is that instead of the usual gesture of adoration with one hand, Mary embraces the child with both hands. This emphasizes the intimate nature of their relationship. Though full of tenderness, the image is free of sentimentality. Jesus’ sober gaze is directed at us as he clings tightly to his mother for safety. Although Jesus is God, he is also human and rightly afraid of the suffering and death he is to undergo. The countenance of Mary is distant and slightly melancholy, looking past the child and the viewer, as if she might already see the events of Golgotha. This icon invites us to contemplate two aspects of our lives: the profound love available to us in our relationship with God, and the reality of suffering. Jesus has no misgivings about the death he is to endure. And Mary is equally cognizant of its inevitability: at the Presentation in the Temple Simeon had told her, “...a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). But the security Jesus knows in the love of both God and his Mother will ultimately prevail. Death will be defeated, and we too are offered this intense and tender relationship with God and his Mother.

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