Our Lady of Elige
OUR LADY OF ELIGE
This beautiful icon, also known as Our Lady of the Maronites, depicts the Virgin Mother supporting on her lap, the Child of her womb, Jesus Christ (a favorite theme of St. Ephrem.) It was discovered at the Patriarchal Church of Elige, Lebanon and is dated around the 10th Century. This original image had been painted over several times, each time the image became more Latinized, and the features of the main figures became more European. After uncovering several diverse pictorial layers, this the original icon has been revealed. This painting reflects a development of the tradition initiated by the RABBULA manuscript of the 6th Century.
The antiquity and authenticity of this icon seem to be supported by the following elements: the colors of Mary’s robes (deep blue) and Christ’s (deep purple) are faithful to the Syriac tradition dating to the 6th Century. Blue (sky tone) signifies divinity, and purple (kingly) signifies royalty. The halos of both figures are a simple wide band (gold) typical of Syriac iconography and free of Byzantine influence, namely a cross in Christ’s halo and lettering for the “Mother of God” in the Lady’s. The profession of faith made by the symbolic form of blessing of Jesus’ right hand, i.e. three fingers joined (to signify the three Persons in one God), and the index and other finger (signify that Christ is God and man.) What is not visible in His left hand is the typical scroll which Jesus holds (refers to Isaiah in the OT and Revelations in the NT.) Moreover, the Lady’s right hand declares the same Chalcedonian formula of faith – the duality of Christ’s natures – divine and human.
As is typical in Syriac icons, the Virgin Mother’s hair is completely concealed and covered by the headband worn in the Semitic culture. The two star-like symbols on Mary’s head and shoulder represent her enduring virginity before and after Christ’s birth. According to St. Ephrem, “the First Eve by her ‘hearing’ of the serpent gave the world death; the Second Eve, by her ‘hearing’ of the angel gave the world LIFE.”
Mother of God you are the holy mountain
from which the Rock was hewn, without human
hands. Generations of heaven and earth join to say
Blessed are you, ark of Mysteries
Blessed are you, altar of the First Fruit
Blessed are you, fertile valley.
Blessed are you, bright sunrise.
Blessed are you, joy of motherhood.
We petition you, O Christ, through the prayers of
Your holy Mother, renew the face of the earth
which You created out of love for us. Where
there is death and decay, restore life; where
there is famine and suffering, bring relief; where
the earth is parched and unyielding, provide rain.
Bless the fields with grain, the fruit trees with
blossoms and the bushes with new growth.
Restore the work of Your hands, so that earth and
all that is on it may worship You now and forever.
Sedro, “Our Lady of the Seeds” – Maronite Fenqitho