As part of the evening, we looked at images of four icons which are accompanying the journey of the Congress Bell through Ireland in preparation for the Congress. I was particularly struck by the first of these icons, that of Our Lady of Refuge and St John the Evangelist. I borrow from the Congress website the image and the explanation.
The Icon of Our Lady of Refuge and St. John the Evangelist will be based on a 14th Century icon from the Poganovo Monastery. It shows John the Evangelist and Mary as they might have been beneath the cross, evoking the text of John 19:26-27.
This icon will be used to represent stage 1 of the Congress pastoral preparation programme: “Christ gathers us as a Eucharistic community.”
Our choice of this icon is motivated by the idea that it represents the formation of the Church at the foot of the Cross. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us the water and blood flowing from the side of Christ were symbols respectively of baptism and Eucharist. Mary is confirmed as mother of the Church. In the person of St. John, the whole Church is gathered at the foot of the cross. The beloved disciple looks out from the icon, inviting us into this new communion with Christ through Mary. The Icon thus highlights both the Marian and Johannine aspects of the ecclesial community – we are called to be fruitful bearers of the Word and Beloved disciples. "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." (Luke 8:21)
From the presentation at this evening's meeting, I think there is a discussion to be had about the way in which the work in preparation for the Congress, and the proposed programme, develop its theme. I will hopefully post on this in the next few days. Meanwhile, this page at the Congress website briefly outlines the theme, and indicates possible developments of it.
The Congress website now contains a wide range of material relating to the Congress, and is worth exploring.