08 February 2014

Thine eyes of mercy

In the beloved Marian hymn Salve, Regina, the Church asks the Blessed Virgin Mary to
"Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus."

This prayer from the eleventh century has been very much in my prayers in recent days because one week ago this morning I looked upon the very face of her Son in Manoppello and this morning I have looked upon her face, as well; I have seen her eyes of mercy.

Another priest and I once again joined Paul Badde this morning to make a visit to the icon of L'Advocata, which is presently housed in the Dominican Convent of Saint Mary of the Rosary on Monte Mario:

Madonna di San Luca
The image is said to have been made by Saint Luke and also to be the first image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and painted while she was in the company of the Apostles.  The technique employed to make it, which is now lost to us, has been shown to be of the first century.  Notice that, after these nineteen centuries, what remains is the face of Our Lady, almost perfectly preserved:

PHOTO: Paul Badde
As we prayed the rosary in front of this moving image, I was continually drawn to those eyes of mercy.  "The eyes," wrote William Shakespeare (though Cicero may have said it first), "are the window to the soul."  The iron grate in front of the icon, used both to protect it and to mark off the cloister of the nuns, makes it somewhat tricky to see her eyes, but from the right angle they can be seen (you could see my eyes if my glasses weren't so thick):

PHOTO: Paul Badde  
Those eyes that have seen so much joy and so much heartache, what do they reveal?  Her eyes are at the same time sorrowful and confident.  Within her eyes is contained a look of tender compassion and an invitation to ponder with her the mysteries of the life of her Son.  It almost seems, with the angle of her face, she beckons to us, with slight turn of her face, to come with her to enjoy the glories of her Son.

We may not know what awaits in heaven, but we know who awaits us, Our Lady and the fruit of her womb, Jesus.  What is more, not only do we know who awaits us, but we know their faces:

No comments:

Post a Comment