Vatopedi Virgin: Mother of Consolation

Mount Athos, Greece, 12th century

Written by Paula Howard, OSB

Mount St. Scholastica, November 2000

This icon shows the young Jesus with His hand in benediction while Mary grasps His arm and pulls His tiny hand to her face. Turned partly toward His mother, Jesus appears not to notice, but looks outward toward the viewer. While His right hand is raised in blessing, his left holds a scroll, symbolic of the Sacred Word of God. Mary provides a comfortable throne for Him with her left hand. The overall composition has the form of a triangle inscribed in a rectangle, representing the mystery of the Trinity coming to reside in the world. Jesus is dressed as an adult, wearing a rich cloak symbolic of His divine royalty. In sharp contrast, His bare feet symbolize poverty and humanity. Mary wears a cloak adorned with a star on her head and each shoulder (one of which is hidden by the Child). These three stars are symbolic of Mary's perpetual virginity before, during and after her Son's birth.

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