Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: The Meaning of the Title

Icona dopo il restauro senza corone

We have come now to the most special day, the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. During the past 9 days, we did not just pray the Novena but also contemplate on the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help–the meaning of the whole Icon and its parts for nine days.

On this feast day, we will reflect on the meaning of the title, Our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH).

The title OMPH has profound meaning that can help us develop a meaningful and fruitful devotion to Mother Mary. The title originated in the text itself accompanying the original icon. The Blessed Virgin herself chose this name to serve as an encouragement to us all to have recourse to her with complete confidence in all our needs.[1]

Let us now reflect on each of the word of the title.

Mother

Mother is written in the icon. MP OY = Meter Theou: Mother of God (in the two upper corners of the icon). OMPH is one of the few titles that call Mary, mother (the only other titles that I am aware of are Mother of God and Mother of Mercy). Other titles are mostly called our Lady of _______________ which is oftentimes connected to a particular place.  Thus, other times, OMPH is also called Our Lady of Perpetual Help. While others are called by their local names, OMPH transcends the local. Brazilian Redemptorist Fr. Ulysses da Silva expounds,

It is not a title bound to a location (such as Aparecida, Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje, etc.), nor to a privilege or accolade of Mary (like Assumption, Mystical Rose, etc.), nor to the Passion event, as would be the original characterization of the Icon. It is an invocation that identifies the maternal attitude of Mary in relation to her Son and to all of us. It is a universal title in relation to time as well as space, whenever or wherever someone is found in need or in danger.[2]

Indeed, Mother is a universal title. OMPH is universal as it appeals to us all of our universal experience with our own mothers.

Similarly, Pope Francis in his homily on the celebration of the first feast of Mary, Mother of the Church on the 21st of May, 2018 in the Vatican, said that Mary is not referred to as “the lady” or “the widow of Joseph,” but is rather called “the mother of Jesus.”  Mary’s motherhood is emphasized throughout the Gospels, from the Annunciation to the foot of the cross.[3]

Perpetual

The adjective perpetual (laging) is always active rather than passive. Mary is not just waiting for us to call upon the help of God but she is always accompanying and encouraging us to come to Jesus. Likewise, this also emphasizes the perpetual quality of help. This implies that God through the prayers of OMPH is forever helping us in all our predicaments.

The ever active nature of perpetual can also be seen in the context of how we, the devotees, continue the help of God, through the intercession of OMPH, by helping others. We accept that the help we ask and receive is perpetual; it does not stop within ourselves. Having freely received blessings from God, we are inspired to freely help others even as those who have not yet received theirs petitions are encouraged to continue to ask.

Help

Saklolo (help) is almost a desperate cry in distress. This is the plea of many of us who are her devotees: help me, saklolo! Many of us are desperate, we have no one to turn to and thus, any help will do. Mary under the title of Ina ng Laging Saklolo (OMPH) appeals to the very situation that we find ourselves in real life. We are all creatures in need as we seek the help of God and of one another through prayer and action.

Perpetual Help

Whenever we show the Icon and ask the people: Who is the perpetual help? Most of them immediately answer: Mary is the perpetual help.  Most devotees think that the source of help and blessings is Mary. But Mary is the Mother of perpetual help; if Mary then is the mother of God—Jesus, then Jesus is the source of perpetual help.

The perpetual help of OMPH ultimately originates from the perpetual generosity and unconditional love of God. Mary, OMPH, is the greatest epitome of the perpetual generosity and unconditional love of God. So when we look at Mary we can learn to look at our own lives more profoundly in the spirit of the perpetual generosity and unconditional love of God.

The meaning of perpetual help can also be understood in the context of the most profound message of the icon. In the context of the whole icon, perpetual help means the perpetual showing by Mary to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Thus, the name, OMPH can also be appropriately called, Our Lady of the Way.

Let us now pray,

O Virgin Mother of Perpetual Help,
I come before your Sacred Icon,
And with childlike confidence,
invoke your aid.

Show yourself a Mother to me now,
And have pity on me.

O Mother of Perpetual Help,
For the love you bear to Jesus,
Help me in this my necessity.

I leave it all to you in the name of the Father.
I leave it all to you in the name of the Son.
I leave it all to you in the name of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Happy fiesta everyone!

Mary-birthday


 

[1] “Give this message to your mother and to your grandfather: Holy Mary of Perpetual Help requires that you remove her from your house, if not, you will all soon die”. Ferrero, The story of An Icon, 133.

[2] Ulysses da Silva, C.Ss.R., ““Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Popular Piety,”” #43.

[3] Pope Francis, “The Church, like Mary, is woman and mother,” Vatican News, 21 May 2018. Accessed at  https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-05/pope-francis-mass-santa-marta-mary-church-woman-mother.html

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