Our Lady Of Vladimir Analysis

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In the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow hangs the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. Considered one of the masterpieces of Russian Iconography, the icon is the most venerated in Russia. Unlike other more austere Marian icons, Our Lady of Vladimir belongs to the Ἐλεούσα Eleousa or ‘tender-touch’ iconographic style. This style is known for stressing the humanity of Christ; a compassionate God who suffers with humankind.
Painted in the twelfth century, the icon depicts Mary and the child Christ. In this ekphrastic poem, Williams describes his encounter with the icon. The child possessively embraces Mary and with her right hand she draws our gaze towards her son. One of the child’s feet is thrust towards us as if in a desperate attempt to clamber higher into his Mother’s arms; one hand grasps the corner of
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There is almost a lovers tenderness in the line “no peace tonight my lady,” and a beautiful hush on the word “bower” that seems to recall the medieval carol I Syng of a Mayden: He cam also stylle / to his moderes bowr.
Williams, of course, is aware that the image of a ‘needy Christ’ raises a number of theological issues. Traditional Christian theology has always held that God needs nothing and, therefore, God does not love us in order to be, for want of a better word, fulfilled or complete. Williams, in fact, cautions us against seeing ourselves as being in any way necessary to God: “It would be a fantastic illusion, a terrible corporate self-deception to think that we are necessary to God’s happiness.” On the face of it, then, there appears to be a contradiction here between the poem and Williams’ theology. This disjunction is not lost on Williams. Writing elsewhere about the same icon, Williams attempts to fuse the poetic image of Christ with his theological conviction by reinterpreting the meaning of aseity with a characteristically subtle argument. It is not, Williams argues, that God needs us for anything; rather,

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