Artist: Daniel Bissler
Icons have often been referred to as windows into heaven. The icon of Our Lady of the Sign is an icon of the Most Holy Virgin. In Greek, the Mother of God is called “Theotokos”. The image of the Theotokos appeared in the catacombs of the first Christians.
The “Icon of the Sign” is taken from the Prophet Isaiah’s message, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. The Virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel, God with us” Isaiah 7:14
In the icon, Mary is directly facing the viewer in a field of blue with the image of Christ depicted within a round aureole representing the womb. Mary has conceived in her womb He who the Heavens cannot contain. Her arms are crossed beneath her womb, cradling and protecting God’s most precious gift. Her halo proclaims her holiness. The blue background represents the infinite sky and is the symbol of another everlasting world.
Classic representations of Our Lady of the Sign present the Virgin as passive with Eastern European features. I have chosen the face of a determined and fearless young woman of indeterminate racial background. A woman who will embrace both the joy and the sorrows that lie before her.
Christ is presented at the moment of his conception. He is typically depicted not as a fetus, but as a child in an adult’s body. I have chosen to portray him as the infant in swaddling clothes of the manger in Bethlehem. He is at one and the same time both a human infant and the eternal God. The image of the dove recalls the moment when “by the power of the holy spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man”.
The Cosmos is represented by the mandorla, an ancient symbol of two circles coming together, symbolizing the interactions and interdependence of opposing worlds and forces. The early Christians used the symbol as a method to describe the coming together of heaven and earth. Inside the mandorla appears the King of the Universe. His halo proclaims his divinity.
Our Lady of the Sign presents Jesus as the new Sun who rises on the horizon of humanity. He comforts the poor, the afflicted, the fearful and the anxious by becoming their joy and their hope.
The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Sign on November 27th.