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The Blessed Virgin Mary - the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ - was the most beautiful of all earthly women, both body and soul. The church writer Nicephorus Callistus wrote about Her: "She was of medium height, or, as others say, somewhat more than average. The hair is gold-plated, the eyes are fast, with pupils like the colors of olives. Eyebrows arched and moderately black, nose oblong. Lips blooming, full of sweet speeches. The face is not round and not sharp, but somewhat oblong. Hands and fingers are long. But truly in the Blessed Virgin, we are amazed not only by the pure and pure bodiless bodily, but especially by the perfection of Her soul."
During his lifetime, the image of the Mother of God was captured by the Apostle Luke - an artist, an evangelist and a physician, who addressed this topic more than once and depicted the Virgin Mary more than seventy times. In the first centuries of the New Era, painters often used the encaustic technique, which had been common since antiquity, to work: the pigments were mixed with wax and heated on a brazier, the master painted hot colors that allowed to achieve a realistic effect in the image. Intensive and bright colors resembled modern oil painting. The oldest known icons of the VI-VII centuries, created in this technique, are distinguished by good preservation. Probably, the first portraits of the Virgin, written during Her earthly life of St. Luke, were also performed in this technique, and later repeated by tempera painting on boards and other materials, dispensing in different "lists" around the world.
Although the iconography of Our Lady is very diverse, there are only three main images: Oranta, Hodegetria and Tenderness. It is these variants of images, or rather their "protografs" (early similarities) that occur in the monuments of art of the first centuries of Christianity, in particular, in the Roman catacombs-underground necropolises.
"Oranta" in Latin means "praying". The Mother of God is depicted in a prayerful pose with arms raised. In the catacombs of St. Agnias present a similar image of the IV century. In ancient times, in the form of Orans, the allegory of the Church was also depicted, that is, the collective image of Christian holiness.
Later, in the art of Byzantium, the image of Oranta-Vlakhernithissa was especially venerated. The palace and temple complex in Vlaherna, near Constantinople, possessed the greatest shrine of the Christian world - the Mausoleum of the Virgin, stored in the dome of the church in the rotunda. The main icon of St. Rotunda was Our Lady of Oranta. It is in the image of Oranta that the Blessed Virgin appears in the vision of His Protection to Andrew the Fool, who, praying in the Blachernae temple, saw the Mother of God, stretching over the people of the holy mafia as a sign of intercession. The Miracle of the Intercession was revealed in 910 during the siege of Constantinople by the Arabs. The Feast of the Intercession of the Mother of God was established not in Byzantium, but in Russia in the 12th century. It is celebrated on October 14 on a new style. Thus, the icon of Our Lady of Oranta is inherent in the importance of all-powerful protection to believers.
In Ancient Russia, one of the most famous images of Oranta can be considered a mosaic icon in the apse of Sophia of Kiev, called "The Unbreakable Wall". This name was given to the icon because the Virgin Mary symbolizes the Heavenly Church and the Jerusalem of Jerusalem, which is confirmed by the content of the inscription surrounding the image. Another venerable image, close to the iconography of Orante, is the Novgorod icon "The Sign". The Mother of God is represented here with arms raised and with the Infant Christ in the medallion. In 1170 this miraculous icon saved Novgorod from the invasion of enemies.
The image of the Hodegetria
"Hodegetria" in Greek means "Guidebook". The Immaculate Virgin is portrayed with the Infant Christ. The blessing gesture of the God-Bearer refers to all prayers and to the Most Holy Theotokos personifying the Church. The Virgin Mary points to the Savior as the Way of Life - in this sense She is the Guide. Christ speaks of Himself in the Gospel: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14: 6). Hodegetria goes back to the icons of the Evangelist Luke, who according to tradition wrote three images of this type: Jerusalem, Constantinople and Ephesus. The most famous is the solemn Jerusalem image of the Odigitria with frontal depictions of Christ and the Mother of God from the monastery Odigon, sent from Jerusalem by Evdokia - the wife of Emperor Theodosius II - to his sister Pulcheria. The monastery got its name, thanks to a miraculous spring, healing blindness ("Odigon" in Greek means "guide"). It is not surprising, therefore, that the main shrine of this monastery was the icon of the Mother of God of the Guide.
In Russia, the image of the Virgin Hodegetria was one of the most common. He is known in various iconographic "expulsions". These are icons of Our Lady of Smolensk and Tikhvin, iconographically associated with the greatest shrines of the Christian world. The icon of the Smolensk Mother of God repeats the oldest Tsargradsky image of the Odigitria, whose list was brought from Greece by the wife of Vladimir the Great - Anna - and later staged by Vladimir Monomakh at the Smolensk Cathedral Church. The Tikhvin Mother of God and similar icons of Lidda and Rome reflect the iconography of the miraculous image of the Virgin, which was engraved on the column of the temple in Lydda during the lifetime of the Savior's apostles. Very revered in Russia and the Athonite Iverian image, the list of which was ordered in 1648 by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, and then invested in the Novodevichy Convent.
Icon of Our Lady of Tenderness The Blessed Virgin
On the icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, the Blessed Virgin is depicted as bending towards the Infant. The face of Christ touches the cheeks of the Virgin. This iconographic izvod received in the Greek tradition the name "Glykofilussy", or the Mother of God "Sladkolobzayuschey." Although exactly such images are not known in early Christian art, in the first centuries there were images of meaning similar to Tenderness. For example, in the Roman catacombs of St. Priscilla preserved the image of the Virgin Mary, bent towards the Infant and breastfeeding Him (III century).
The Icon of Our Lady of Tenderness expresses not only the idea of Love, but also the idea of Suffering. In the Eastern Christian liturgical tradition, there is a parallel between the Christmas and Passion events. Epiphanius of Cyprus in the Word on Great Saturday, comparing the Nativity of Christ with the burial of the Savior, writes that Christ is born and buried in a stone cave, he crouches in a manger as in a tomb, anoints meek at the burial, taking her as a gift at Christmas. John Chrysostom calls the altar where the bloodless sacrifice is made during the Liturgy "a spiritual cradle". Thus, the touching kiss that the Mother of God gives to her Son expresses the joy of the Savior's Nativity and, at the same time, the prophetic sorrow of the future sufferings of the Lord Jesus.
Many Christians are interested in what icon it is better to pray for certain needs. The tradition of prayerful circulation in different cases, of course, exists. For example, before Kazan pray for healing from eye disease, before Tikhvinskaya - about the health of babies, Feodorovskaya - in difficult births, Smolensk - on a journey. To the Vladimir Mother of God resorted with a request to get rid of violence and internecine warfare. At the same time, a Christian should understand that through whatever icon he does not address the Virgin with tender emotion and sincere trust, he will be heard. On the countless icons of the Virgin, the same Virgin is depicted. Her infinite mercy for sinners and incomprehensible holiness are known to everyone. She protects the lawful matrimony, mothers and their children, protects our children at all times and, especially, during the difficult period of their personal formation. The Blessed Virgin will help monks and warriors, superiors, the powerful of this world and those whom the surrounding society does not accept.