May 4th: Our Lady of Smolensk

Our journey starts with what is probably the very first icon ever written: The Virgin Hodigitria, or Одигитрия, in Russian. "She who shows the Way" is an iconographic depiction of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for mankind. This icon is also called “Our Lady of the Way” in the Western church.

The Smolensk icon is of Bizantine tradition and on it, the head of the Theotokos is covered with the maphorion and three stars: above the forehead and on the shoulders. The stars are the symbol of perpetual virginity, and are a development of the three crosses that usually accompanied the Theotokos on the more ancient icons. The archangels present in the top two corners are Michael and Gabriel. The Infant Christ sits on his mother’s lap, holding a scroll and blessing the world with his right hand.

According to tradition, this icon is said to have been painted by Saint Luke and was blessed by Our Lady who said: “My blessing will remain always with this Icon.”

But how did this miraculous image end up in Smolensk? This, we will find out tomorrow…

Rejoice, you through whom joy shall shine forth.
Rejoice, the Restoration of fallen Adam.
Rejoice, the Redemption of the tears of Eve.
Rejoice, O Height beyond human logic.
Rejoice, O depth invisible even to the eyes of Angels.


Dominique Leboeuf