The icon of the Mother of Mercy was written from a community tradition that writes a commemorative icon in every jubilee anniversary of the Shalom vocation. It was the first time, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Youth Project for Jesus, that the young people had an icon made for them.
The “Comshalom team” spoke with the head of the elaboration and painting of the icon (Eduardo Silva) of the Sacramental Liturgical Advisory to learn more about this which is a true gift of Our Lady to the young participants of the Shalom Youth Congress (SYC) on the occasion of the 30 years of the Youth Project for Jesus (YPJ):
Comshalom: What was the inspiration for writing it?
Eduardo: The icon was inspired by various signs that God through His Mother was revealing to the community, to the youth counseling (mainly by a young woman’s question about having an icon made especially for young people) and also for us from the Sacramental Liturgical Sector. We put ourselves in listening and prayer to better understand what God wanted to manifest. Over time, we came to realize that the Virgin Mary wanted to show Herself to the young as this Mother of God, this mother who brings her open cloak to welcome, protect, and guard her children. And for us in those 30 years of YPJ, particularly to guard the young. This was also a confirmed inspiration in the Community General Council Listening Retreat, where they, in prayer, had a visualization of Our Lady with a large cloak open to guard all her children, the Community, and protect her, as well as protect all the young and keep them under her cloak.
SH: Can we say that it represents Mary, Mother of God and ours, giving Herself to the young?
Eduardo: Yes, it is an initiative, in the first place of God, who through Her wants to give Himself to young people, wants to take care of young people. Looking at the icon, we can make some readings of the symbols that are written on it, from the gestures of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus to the colors and shapes that were chosen to convey this Marian experience. In it we see Mary opening Her cloak with Her left hand, which in Her gesture brings us a deep sense of protection. It is as if Her hand protects us, strokes us, cares for us, the young people. Our Lady also looks at us with Her Merciful gaze, She looks at us, She Has Her penetrating gaze upon us, upon each of us. Her look is a protective look, a look of care, a mother’s look. And yet we see that it is She who offers us Jesus, as one who offers its own Mercy; Jesus is the Mercy of the Father. Hence the choice of the title of Mother of Mercy.
Jesus speaks a lot to us in this icon, we can see that He does not bring the glorious garments that we usually see in most icons, on the contrary, He is very poor, exposed, showing us that His mercy is through wholly giving Itself and stripping His own life. A similar image of Him we may see as we contemplate Him on the cross. But in the icon, He also shows himself as a fragile, simple and confident child in the hands of the Virgin Mary. He holds the other side of Mother’s cloak open for us, and at the same time points with His index finger inside this cloak as if to invite us into it.
He looks down and invites us into it, to take refuge under the Virgin Mary’s cloak. She who was His protector in His childhood, who cared for Him, who guarded Him, and who also stood by Him to give Him strength in the hour of His Passion, standing by the cross. Mary is also a refuge for Him, so He is not afraid to give us Her as a protector, as a guardian.
To represent the dimension of Mary’s love for young people around the world and all humanity, we see at the bottom of the icon, under Her feet, the globe. This icon brings a universal language of universal reach, for God’s Mercy extends to the whole world through the Mother of Mercy.
SH: Will this icon wander through missions or other congresses?
Eduardo: The icon is not that large, because it was really designed and made for the mission, to pilgrimage. It is an icon that goes on mission; he, along with the icon of Saint Thérèse who brings her relic, will go on pilgrimage at international congresses, missions, camps, at last, youth events, Shalom youth events, where they will meet those young people who need to be reached by the presence of God’s mercy, which is also brought to us through the Mother of Mercy and the witness of Saint Thérèse.
SH: Is there any curiosity or particular fact that has marked the development process of this icon?
Eduardo: The icon has a fundamental aspect to it. When we prayed, we felt that Our Lady wanted to show herself in a very simple way. And I think that was the hardest for me because the simplest things have an unmatched magnitude and depth. So the icon doesn’t have many props, it doesn’t have as many details as most icons do. It is simple because we have been feeling that Our Lady wanted to be seen in Her simplicity and humility, a close and accessible mother, and perhaps many details would disperse those who will pray before this icon. It is clear and objective, it shows Mary and Mercy (Jesus); its simplicity is the greatest channel of closeness between the Mother and Her children, between the Mother and the young. I hope it will be a channel for deep and authentic experiences with God’s mercy through Mary.
One last thing was the inspiration to write behind the icon the oldest prayer to the Virgin Mary the “Sub tuum praesidium” (Under Your Protection), which has been the prayer that the whole Community has been praying continuously at that time along with the rosary by the intentions of the Church and the community. In this prayer, we consecrate ourselves to the care and protection of the Mother of God.