By Fr. Mark Dean, OMI
During the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I painted an icon…
The work on this icon began on Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020. The last brush stroke was made on the feast day of Catherine of Siena, April 29, 2020.
For the basis of this icon, I used a pattern based upon the icon of The Virgin of the Burning Bush, which shows an icon of Mary & the Christ Child lodged in a tree on an island. The tree has leaves with flame.
I had done this icon several years ago in memory of my youngest brother who died in 1992. I added in at that time a single Iris flower, in honor of my youngest brother. (When asked what his favorite flower was, my brother replied, the iris. The questioner responded that irises are indeed pretty, but unfortunately, they do not last long. My brother, who was in his last weeks of life at the time, retorted, “And that is what they will say of me…” Jim Dean, he didn’t last long, but he was pretty while he was here.)
The Icon of the Virgin of the Burning Bush is in reference to the story of Moses and the Burning Bush…, which was on fire, but not consumed. The early Church saw this as a symbol of Mary and the Virgin Birth… she who gave birth, yet remained a virgin. One of the first changes I made to this pattern was to use as the main Marian image the icon of Our Lady of Tenderness as displayed in the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, perhaps the most famous example of this style. I also brought into the icon the two angels depicted in the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
In the halo of Mary are included twelve abstract stars. Only nine are visible, for three are hidden by Mary and the Christ Child. While stars are not uncommon in icons of Mary, these stars were placed in as reference to Mary, Mother of Divine Mercy.
In the foreground I added a field of irises, for me a symbol of our dearly departed… who, while out of sight, are not out of heart or mind or reach. Finally, in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, I placed a symbol of the Coronavirus on the cross borne by the angel on the right… and later on I added in a bat, in reference to the supposed origin of the virus. The prayer I wrote for this icon is:
Our Lady of Tenderness, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mother of Divine Mercy, intercede for us unto God to bless and aid all who are afflicted and affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic. May all who gaze upon this image know the healing touch of God. Amen.