The feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour (also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Help) is celebrated on June 27th. It is one of the titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary as represented in a celebrated 15th-century Byzantine icon.
The icon has been in Rome since 1499, and is permanently enshrined in the church of Sant’Alfonso di Liguori, where the official Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help text is prayed weekly. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this artistic iconography is known as the Virgin of the Passion or Theotokos of the Passion due to the instruments of the Passion present on the image. The picture came through wondrous circumstances from the island of Crete to Rome. Many great miracles have been connected with the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour since its first appearance in Crete.
Due to the Redemptorist Priests, who had been appointed as both custodians and missionaries of this icon by Pope Pius IX in 1866, the image has become very popular among Catholics. On 23rd June, it was granted a Canonical Coronation and its official recognition of the Marian icon under its present title. Today, June 27, 2016, Redemptorists worldwide will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Pope Pius IX entrusting the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists, with the mission to “make her known” throughout the world.
This (slightly adapted) description of the meaning of the details on the icon comes from ‘Catholic Straight Answers‘:
“The icon (about 54 x 41.5 centimetres) depicts our Blessed Mother Mary, under the title “Mother of God,” holding the Child Jesus. The Archangels Michael and Gabriel, hovering in the upper corners, hold the instruments of the Passion– St. Michael (in the left corner) holds the spear, the wine-soaked sponge, and the crown of thorns, and St. Gabriel (in the right corner) holds the cross and the nails. The intent of the artist was to portray the Child Jesus contemplating the vision of His future Passion. The anguish He feels is shown by the loss of one of His sandals. (One suggestion is that Jesus has been asleep, seen his sufferings in a dream and woken with a frightened start, kicking off his sandal. His mother seeks to comfort him. She wants to help us too.) Nevertheless, the icon also conveys the triumph of Christ over sin and death, symbolised by the golden background (a sign of the glory of the Resurrection) and the manner in which the angels hold the instruments, i.e. like trophies gathered up from Calvary on Easter morning.
In a very beautiful way, the Child Jesus grasps the long slender hand of the Blessed Mother. He seeks comfort from His mother, as He sees the instruments of His passion. The position of Mary’s hands– both holding the Child Jesus (who seems like a small adult) and presenting Him to us– convey the reality of our Lord’s incarnation, that He is true God who became also true Man. In iconography, Mary here is represented as the Hodighitria, the one who guides us to the Redeemer. She also is our Help, who intercedes on our behalf with her Son. The star painted on Mary’s veil, centred on her forehead, highlights her role in the plan of Salvation as both the Mother of God and our Mother.”
The Church has given us this beautiful prayer to help us direct our call to Mary for assistance:
O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of thy Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy, graciously hear and answer me.
Who better to call upon than our Blessed Mother under her title, ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’? She has promised she will come to the aid of all who implore her help in their time of need. Throughout the entire history of the Church, holy popes and saints have never tired of reminding us of this.
“Let us ask the Lord to grant us one very special grace—to love Our Lady, especially through all the work we do for Jesus, with Jesus, and to Jesus. We must ask Him to deepen our love for Mary, making it more personal and intimate. We want to: Love her as he loved her. Be a cause of joy to her as He was. Keep close to her as he did. Share everything with her, even the cross, as he did when she stood near the cross on Calvary. We must love her unconditionally, trust her fully, abandon ourselves to her totally and without reserve. Nothing is impossible for those who call Mary their mother. During the day, let us often raise our hearts to her and ask her how we can love God as she loved Him, that we, too, can love Him with her heart.” – Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta