March 2012 Prayer and Reflection

From the March 2012 cover of Living with Christ

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imageVatopedi Virgin: Mother of Consolation Written by Paula Howard, OSB Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kansas © 2000, Mount St. Scholastica, Inc.

By Living with Christ Staff

Having retired after decades of teaching and administrative work, Benedictine Sister Paula Howard (1922-) discovered her talent for creating icons at the age of 77. One of her early works, Vatopedi Virgin: Mother of Consolation (2000), is inspired by a 12th-century icon at a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. Through iconography, Howard seeks to convey the awe­someness of the invisible and divine reality and to lead the viewer to a consciousness of the divine presence.


We see the young Jesus, his right hand raised in bless­ing while his left holds a scroll, symbolizing the Sacred Word of God. Even as Mary lifts his tiny hand to her face, Jesus looks outward toward us.


The icon “speaks” in line and color, not in words. “What the word is for hearing, the icon is for sight,” explains Howard. “The icon is silent...the silence draws us to gaze in thoughtful contemplation until we have the courage to receive the gaze of the One who looks back at us, knowing us and loving us to a new­found transformation.”

Shall we respond as Mary did at the Annunciation: “Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)?

If you wish, sit quietly with the picture and reflect on the following questions:

  • As she holds Jesus’ hand to her face, what might Mary be thinking?
  • What does Jesus’ silent gaze evoke in me?
  • How shall I respond to his invitation?

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Living with Christ Staff