Word of the icon spread throughout Russia. There were stories of miraculous healing and answered prayers, all of which were attributed to the intercession of Mary. The people felt that Mary would reign over them in protection, especially from the godlessness of communism. The icon became a symbol of the victory of God over all the forces of evil through the intercession of Mary who was given the role as their protector and guardian. It gave hope to the poor and those victimized by the communist regime. The icon was not an end in itself, however; as in all Mary does, it led them to her son, Jesus. And the icon remains a sign that God is with His people no matter what is going on in their lives. Mary, seen as She Who Reigns, is not to be worshiped. Instead she points us to the victory of Jesus over sin and death. She reminds us that we can find strength for the daily grind of life because He is ever with us.
As it was for Evdokia who did not stop her efforts once she found the icon, we should be aware that our efforts to grow during Lent through our acts of penitence, almsgiving, service, and prayer do make an impact on the world around us. We may think we are insignificant or that our acts are too small and too personal. But in reality that is not true at all. Every little act of kindness and every little act of sacrifice which we perform, especially those which are hidden, have the power to change the world around us. The effects of our small prayers are great because they are done with love. Just as one small icon could give hope to a vast people, one small act of love can engender hope in someone who is struggling with a great burden. Additionally, our actions also give hope to all of us that the world is not beyond repair. God can do all things. Often it takes one simple act of love to set off an avalanche of mercy and compassion. One action leads to another, and soon change can take place. Even when we have to persevere through some difficulties, we have to hold fast to our hope believing that no matter what happens we are never alone. We have God with us and we have the community around us. We have been given gifts to share for the good of the world. Let us never be tricked into believing that our small sacrifices and the work of our prayer are ineffectual. That is simply not true.
To that end, therefore, let us trust that God is with us as we make our Lenten sacrifices, renew our efforts at prayer, and move outward to the suffering of others with mercy and compassion. Let us be messengers of the gospel, bringing peace into our relationships, and persevering in the challenges before us no matter how arduous. Let us give and receive love, bolstering each other with hope. Let us be like the icon of Mary: a living sign that God is present in the world through our little acts of attentiveness and kindness to one another. And let us set the avalanche of mercy and compassion in motion interceding for the world, asking forgiveness for our sins, forgiving the ills done against us and those that are in our world, and offering help to those in need.
©Michele L. Catanese
For more information on The Reigning Icon here are two websites that might be helpful:
The top icon is She Who Reigns by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This icon has a very special place in my heart for many reasons, but especially because of the deep majesty and beauty of it. This icon was written in 2014 and so it is a reproduction of the original. If you compare it with the original, a version of which is the second icon in this post, you will see that Fr. Bill portrayed God the Father differently. He was inspired by Michelangelo's Creation from the fresco found in the Sistine Chapel. That change was made for me, and I am deeply moved by it every time I see the icon. I believe the writing of this icon was very timely and is one with which we should pray. You can find She Who Reigns and also purchase a copy by going to Fr. Bill's website at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/342-she-who-reigns
The photos are mine. The first is of a lone flowering plant on the desert floor in the Badlands of South Dakota. To me it shows how one small, insignificant plant can change the monotony of the landscape with a splash of color, just as one act of love can enact change. The second photo is of a hummingbird, one of the smallest of birds, whose beauty is arresting even though in the large scheme of things the bird can be overlooked due to its size.