Icon of the Theotokos “Byelo-Zersk” – T66


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This is a famous Russian icon from Novgorod and was painted in the early 13th century for the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Byelo-Zersk.  Made in the Eleusa or Merciful style of icons for the Virgin Mary, we see her in a close and tender embrace with her Son as their bright red halos indicating their sanctity overlap and their cheeks touch gently.  As shown here, theirs is no casual relationship, but a deliberately sweet and precious one built on great personal respect and love.  It has been said that the Incarnation was not just the Will of the Father, but also the active cooperation and will of the Virgin who embraced the angel’s salutation or “Annunciation” as she agreed to bear “Him Whom the world cannot contain.”  It was her ardent love and ardent prayer that brought the Lord to earth and so close to her own heart.

In this icon the Holy Mother of God also indicates to us by her gesture pointing with her left hand that Christ is the Way for our salvation.  As she said at the Wedding at Cana, just before Christ’s first public miracle changing the water to wine, “Whatever He saith unto you, do it.”  This is still the best advice to each Christian soul.

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Eleusa (Merciful)




Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia


13th c. (Early)