Posted on July 13, 2019

Act of Consecration to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Most Holy Virgin Mary who, to inspire me with the fullest confidence, hast been willing to take the sweet name of Mother of Perpetual Help, I. N. N. (say your name) acknowledge that my sins render me unworthy to be admitted among the number of thy privileged children. Nevertheless, desirous of enjoying thy merciful favor, I cast myself at thy feet and humbly prostrate before thee, I consecrate to thee my understanding, that I may always think of thee; I consecrate to thee my heart in order that, after God, I may love thee above all things.

O my Sovereign Lady, deign to receive me among the number of thy favored children, take me under thy protection, help me in all my spiritual and temporal wants, but especially at the hour of my death.

O Mother of Perpetual Help, I know that thou lovest me more than I can love myself, I entrust all my interests to thy care: dispose of me, and all that belongs to me, according to thy good pleasure.

O Mother, bless me, and by thy powerful intercession support my weakness, so that having been faithful in serving thee during this life, I may praise thee, love thee and thank thee eternally in the next. Amen.

This past Sunday we heard “Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help (or Icon of our Lady of Perpetual Help)”.

These icons, and the others throughout the year, are commemorated in a special way to remind us of the miracles and wonders worked through the Holy Images as they reveal the Power, Love, Mercy and Hope of our Holy Lady and Mother of God herself, and of her Beloved Son, revealed in the icons.
How blessed are the churches and parishes named after one of the Holy Icons! So it was last Sunday, July 7, with the community of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lackawanna, NY, as you celebrated your Praznyk and renewed your devotion and commitment personally, and as a parish family, to the Most Holy Theotokos, our Heavenly Queen and Mother in the holy icon of Perpetual Help.
Prior to 2018 there was no official Feast Day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in our Byzantine Rite. (The Roman Church has June 27 as their Feast Day). It is true, that for us in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, parishes with the name, “Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” generally celebrated their “Praznyk” on October 1 (n.s.), or October 14 (o.s.), the Feast of the Holy Protection.
However, beginning in July of 2018 that practice has been changed. Last June, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, officially promulgated the new feast of our church as “The Feast of our Mother of
Perpetual Help.” Patriarch Sviatoslav proclaimed the first Sunday of every July to be the Feast Day of our Mother of Perpetual Help. Last year the first Sunday of July was July 1st, and this year July 7, 2019 was the Feast Day….. “Happy Feast Day, OLPH!”
On this special Feast Day, and always, we are invited to study and “read” what is “written” in and on the icon. As we face the holy image, we see the Archangel Michael to the left, and Archangel Gabriel to the right. Michael holds in his veiled hands the spear and the sponge; Gabriel holds the Cross and nails,

also with veiled hands. Jesus looking away from His Mother at these instruments of His passion, is contemplating His future suffering and death. The ‘dangling shoe’ shows how, in His fear of what He sees, He runs to His Mother for safety and protective comfort and loses His shoe in His haste.
The icon, while indeed reminding us of the Passion and Death of our Lord, also tells us of the Victory of the Resurrection. Notice that the angels hold those terrible instruments in a triumphant manner as they present the Holy Things only with veiled hands. The spear, the sponge on the reed, the nails and the cross are now signs of the Victory of our Lord and God over Death. “Through the Cross, Joy has come to the world.”
Our gaze next falls on the grasp of Jesus to His Mother’s thumb, showing safety and comfort in her hands and on her lap. She points to her Son as she gazes out at us. She is at once revealing her Son, and calling all of us who look at this icon, to Him. Mary, as Theotokos, God-bearer, in iconography has a star or stars painted upon her, one on each shoulder and her forehead. The stars remind us of the truth of our Faith that Mary, as Mother of God, is a virgin before, during and after the birth of her Divine Son.
One last observation is to notice that there are crowns upon the heads of Mary and Jesus. Crowns such as this are a Latin addition. In the eastern icon tradition, crowns are never placed on the heads, but if an icon is to have a ‘coronation’ in the Byzantine tradition, the entire icon, except for face and hands receives a metal covering called “ryza”, usually made of gold or silver and engraved with the image. The coronation and placing of the crowns upon our icon was performed by Pope Pius IX in 1867. Jesus is King of Kings and Mary is Queen of all.
The original icon is ‘written’ on hard wood and is approximately 16” by 20” and was already old when it got to Rome. This image, known in the East as “Theotokos of the Passion”, was brought from a Greek monastery in Crete and had been written sometime in the 13th century. (It has been scientifically analyzed over the years and also has undergone restoration, and in some cases overpainting). The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help came to Rome, perhaps even stolen, by a merchant who had visited that monastery. Upon his deathbed, he said the Holy Mother had directed that the icon be placed in a certain church in Rome, which was St. Matthew. It remained there, known as the “Madonna of St. Matthew”, for over 300 years and was the object of veneration and pilgrimage by thousands and thousands of worshippers. Many, many miracles, healings and answered prayers have been attributed to pleas heard before this holy icon. Around 1812 the church of St. Matthew was destroyed by Napoleon’s forces and the icon was quietly kept in a small church under the care of the Augustinian Fathers. Eventually a new church was to be built on the spot of the destroyed St. Matthew’s.
The new church was called St. Alphonsus Ligouri and was being built by the Redemptorist Fathers, Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Through the efforts of Pope Pius IX, who truly fell in love with the image, the icon was given to the Redemptorist Fathers to care for, to place in
the new church, and also with the command of the Holy Father to “make her known throughout the world.
The icon is still in the church of St. Alphonsus, and venerated by thousands upon thousands of pilgrims annually. The Redemptorist Fathers also commissioned several artists to paint copies of the original icon. Some 200 artists then painted various renditions or artistic interpretations. No doubt this is why we see so many variations of the Icon of our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The Redemptorist order is, and has been, very active in Ukraine. (We presently have 8 bishops who belong to that order). Of course the early Redemptorist missionaries would have brought the icon to Ukraine where it has become beloved as any other icon of our Holy Mother. As she has done for the last 700-800 years, the Mother of Perpetual Help still continues to show us her Son Jesus as she shows us the way and calls us all to Him. I hope we will forever look upon this icon in a new and completely different and holy way!
This is only a short history and explanation of the icon. There is much more to be learned for those who wish to delve into it. May we all continue to “read” what is “written” on the Holy Icon. Hopefully, as we become aware of the treasure that is the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we will realize that we are under her never ending protection and help. Just as she was there to comfort and hold her Divine Son, so let us all be aware that she is always there to comfort and hold us! We hear her voice calling, just as we heard our own Mothers call us to home and safety. We run to her and climb up on her lap and hold her hand and are protected from all evil! Let this day be a renewal in our love and devotion to our Most Holy Mother and to her Son Jesus Christ, our Lord!
“Dear Holy Mother, obtain for us the forgiveness of our sins, love for Jesus your Son, final perseverance and the grace to come to you at all times!” Most Holy Mother of Perpetual Help, be our help and protection as you show us the way to your Son! Most Holy Mother of God, save us! Sermon Feast Day.July 7. Fr. Raymond Palko.