This is an ancient Russian icon “of the Sign” which refers to the important revelation and promise made to King Ahaz of Judah which was shrouded in mystery until the time of Christ, “therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Emmanuel (a variant spelling of Immanuel) is the Hebrew for “God with us” which was fulfilled when Christ was born among men, for the Lord is the Second Person of the Trinity. This sign is still among us, for He Himself promised “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mat 28:20)
From the earliest Catacombs we have pictures of a woman with her hands upraised in prayer called “Orans” and this is the prototype of the Virgin who here has her hands raised in prayer. The Lord is present within her womb, and so she is “More Spacious Than the Heavens” (which is in Greek “Platytera”). This prototype came from an ancient icon of the Virgin at her Church at Blachernae near Constantinople. We see plainly God’s sign among men, but do we see plainly our loving response to this great sign?