Virgin of Tenderness

Korzun Russia, 17th century Private collection in Lebanon

Written by Paula Howard, OSB

Mount St. Scholastica, March 2000

This icon from the late Russian period shows great affection expressed by the Virgin who holds the Child in a tender embrace. However, her eyes do not focus on the Child but gaze inward in profound contemplation, and outward to the viewer in subtle invitation to enter with her into the mystery of God clothed in humanity. In one hand, the Child clasps a scroll which symbolizes the Word of God and identifies Him as Teacher and Savior for humanity. The other hand reaches out for Mary's veil in an affectionate embrace as though to invite the viewer to turn to Mary for help and succor. Light seems to emanate from within both Mary and the Child who are one in the Spirit. The circle of light extends to Mary's elongated hands which seem to form a cradle or a womb to enclose her Incarnate Son. The usual star in Mary's veil indicates her virginity; the Greek letters indicate that she is Mother of God.

Some of this information is from the book Praying with Icons by Jim Forest (Orbis Books, 2008).