On this day, on which we remember St Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus, we also celebrate the Petrovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, which was the work of his own hands.
This is one of the most intimate of the umilenie (tenderness) icons, in which the left hand of the Mother of God holds the Christ-child, whilst her right hand not only points to the infant Saviour, but caresses Him, holding Him against her chest, whilst the face of the Holy Mother and her Divine Son touch.
The Mother of God is still the Hodegetria (She Who Shows the Way) in this icon, but she does not do so with a gesture of regal formality, but in a movement that is characterised by love, warmth and familiarity as she diverts us from herself to the Son was the meaning of every second of her life. She does not even look at us, but averts our eyes, deep in contemplation.
This icon profoundly captures the motherhood of the Virgin, and is far from the icons which represent her as the Queen of Heaven, majestic and imperial. Rather, in this icon we see the grace-filled, humble humanity of the Mother of God.
Superfluous detail is ignored by the iconographer, and we – looking at the mutual love of mother and child – are left with only the simple incarnational and salvific Truth, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
This is the selfless and dutiful mother, who at the wedding in Cana will say, “Do whatever He tells you.” and from this icon, pointing to the Way, the Truth and the Life, she continues to say this to each of us.
Most glorious, Ever-Virgin, blessed Mother of Christ our God, present our prayer to thy Son and our God, and pray that through thee He may save our souls.