Our Lady Of The Pandemic

By Fr. Mark Dean, O.M.I.

Our Lady of the PandemicDuring the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, I painted an icon. The work began on Holy Thursday, April 9, and the last brush stroke was made on the feast day of Catherine of Siena, April 29.

For the basis of this icon I used a pattern based upon the icon of the Virgin of the Burning Bush, which shows an icon of Mary and the Christ Child lodged in a tree on an island. The tree has leaves with a flame.

I had made an icon several years ago in memory of my youngest brother, Jim, who died in 1992. I added in at that time a single iris flower, in honor of him because the iris was his favorite flower. The iris is indeed pretty, but unfortunately they don’t last long. My brother, who was in his last weeks of life at the time said, “And that is what they will say of me… ‘Jim Dean, he didn’t last long, but he was pretty while he was here.’”

The icon of the Virgin of the Burning Bush is in reference to the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, which was on fire but not consumed. The early Church saw this as a symbol of Mary and the Virgin Birth, she who gave birth yet remained a virgin.

One of the first changes I made to this pattern was to use the main Marian image the icon of Our Lady of Tenderness as displayed in the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, perhaps the most famous example of this style. I also brought into the icon the two angels depicted in the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

In the halo of Mary are included 12 abstract stars. Only nine are visible, for three are hidden by Mary and the Christ Child. While stars are not uncommon in icons of Mary, these stars were placed in a reference to Mary, Mother of Divine Mercy.

In the foreground I added a field of irises, for me a symbol of our dearly departed, who while out of sight, are not out of heart or mind or reach. Finally, in reference to the Covid-19 pandemic, I placed a symbol of the coronavirus on the cross borne by the angel on the right and later on I added in a bat, in reference to the origin of the virus.

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