The above image is a photograph of an icon of the great Mother of God which was written in the first century (the material and style were only used in the first century) and is now housed in a Dominican convent on Monte Mario in Rome, being entrusted to these sisters by Saint Dominic. Tradition holds that this icon, L'Avvocata, was written by the Evangelist Saint Luke himself in the presence of the Apostles.
As we celebrate today the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems a fitting day on which to re-post this image of the face of Our Lady. It is an icon, I think, that captures well what J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote of the Madonna: "All my own perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded upon our Lady."
Since I am in Assisi for this memorial of the woman so greatly loved the Saint Francis of Assisi, it also seems a fitting day to reflect on his Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Hail, O Lady,
Mary, holy Mother of God:
you are the virgin made church
and the one chosen by the most holy Father in heaven
whom He consecrated
with His most holy beloved Son
and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is
all the fullness of grace and every good.
Hail, His Palace!
Hail, His Tabernacle!
Hail, His Home!
Hail, His Robe!
Hail, His Servant!
Hail, His Mother!
And, [hail] all you holy virtues
which through the grace and light of the Holy Spirit
are poured into the hearts of the faithful
so that from their faithless state
you may make them faithful to God.