“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Isaiah 49
As I pray on these words of Scripture, memories flood my mind with moments of closeness with my family. I recall instants in my life where the Father has felt so close to me through the love of others. Such thoughts that come to mind are those times I felt safe, seen, known, and loved by my mother, father, siblings, and dear friends. In such moments I felt at home, even in some of the most challenging times.
For the past few months, I have been praying with and pondering the icon of Our Lady of Tenderness. This image has been coming in and out of my life for years now, but only recently has the Lord seemingly been entrusting it to me. As I sit with this icon, these words from the book of Isaiah rest on my heart.
Currently, I am in the middle of learning the art of writing icons, and Our Lady of Tenderness is the first icon I am writing. It has been a blessed experience of encountering the person of Mary, the woman, the daughter, the spouse, and the mother.
Like any relationship, some of the most powerful words spoken are those spoken with the body. A hug from a dear friend. A gaze from a family member who loves you. A kiss from your beloved. All these are to name a few of the ways we experience what one’s closeness is like through our bodies. Our bodies speak of an intimacy in things that even words cannot.
And this image is no different. It invites me to relationship with my mother – through her embrace and through her gaze. While she does not speak audible words, she shows her intimacy and desire to be one with her beloved daughter through her closeness.
Jesus not only is close to Mary in this image, but his face is pressed up against hers…His hair is brushing up against her cheek, and in some images, his arm is around her face. It is as though Jesus is in the motion of drawing closer to Mary! There is a comfort and peace in this embrace. Mary’s heart is Jesus’ home, and it is ours as well.
And in this image, Mary is gazing at you. She invites you into relationship.
The gaze of another who loves us knocks down walls. When we know we are loved, we are free to be ourselves. We know we can unveil the vulnerable places of our hearts, we feel free to just “be” before another, and to be loved by them.
Mary calls you to intimacy in this image. She receives you, as you are right now, and calls you into relationship with herself and her Son. She repeats these words of Isaiah to you, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
In places of hesitancy in your heart, welcome this gaze. Let her motherhood console you and do not be afraid to reveal your truest self. Even in the places of weakness and fear that surface, she is here as mother to receive you.
This is an invitation to us daughters of Mary. Our Lady is asking us to be the women we truly are before her, to place our weaknesses at her feet, and to let her gaze and embrace heal us.
Citation for image:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleusa_icon, public domain.