The Swansea Mother of God Hodegetria
(Iconographer Canon Brian Bessant)
Whilst Icon painting has been particularly linked with the Churches of the Orthodox tradition, in more recent times, it has been embraced in many other churches as recognising the richness of the tradition of which we are all heirs.
There are several types of icons of the Virgin and Child. The Swansea Mother of God Hodegetria is in the tradition of the THEOTOKOS HODEGETRIA or 'the Mother of God pointing the Way'
As you look at the icon you will see how the right hand of Mary points to Jesus who sits enthroned on her left arm. He faces out from the icon with a scroll in his left hand and his right hand raised in blessing. The Son in the arms of his Mother is not shown as an infant, but as God’s Word made flesh, who has come into the world, and who has the divine authority to bless and instruct.
Mary here is the 'one who points the way', the guide who points away from herself to her Son who is ’ the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14.6).
Her gaze is one of quiet contemplation, of inward attentiveness grounded in personal knowledge and love. She draws us into the mystery of the divine presence that is manifested in the Son she presents to the world.
The historic terms used to describe Mary as 'Mother of God' and ‘the God-bearer’ stress the reality of the Incarnation: the divinity as well as the humanity of Jesus.
But Mary also stands before us as a symbol and sign of the Church and the Christian vocation: to point away from self to Christ. Through the life of prayer and worship she encourages us to have an inner awareness of his presence in ourselves.
The figures painted in icons cast no shadow since they are filled with the light of God. This is because the icon's purpose is to draw us into heaven and make God’s presence real to us. This why icons are often referred to as ‘doors to paradise’.
Iconogapher – Canon Brian Bessant, Vicar of Llanwrtyd Wells, AD 2003
Blessed by the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, All Saintstide 2003
The Icon is dedicated in memory of Islwyn Phillips, one-time Churchwarden of Swansea St Mary, and his wife, Grace.