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Our Lady of Elige

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History

Deep within the history of devotion to the Virgin Mary in Mount Lebanon lies the profound significance of an iconic representation known as Our Lady of Elige.

Originally housed in the Patriarchal Church of Elige in the Mayfouq area of the Byblos district, this revered icon portrays the Virgin Mother cradling the divine Child in her arms.

Over time, this icon, later recognized as Our Lady of the Maronites, became the personal icon of the Maronite Patriarch, accompanying him throughout Lebanon as a symbol of protection against various threats faced by the Maronite community.

Subsequently, ownership of the ancient icon passed to the Lebanese Maronite Order, prompting a decision to undertake its restoration. This delicate task was entrusted to the cloistered nuns of the Carmel of the Mother of God and Unity in Harissa, spanning five years of meticulous work. The restoration process revealed that the icon was constructed over five or six layers spanning centuries, marking a significant event in Maronite iconography.

The original design depicted the Virgin Mary as the Hodegetria, "She who shows the Way," holding the Child Jesus and directing attention to Him as the source of salvation, drawing inspiration from 6th-century manuscript miniatures.

Mary's depiction in the icon features wide-open eyes, symbolizing entry into God's realm of glory, draped in a deep blue robe consistent with Aramaic tradition. Blue, associated with royalty, peace, and nature, reflects Mary's status as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. In adherence to Semitic cultural norms, Mary's hair is concealed beneath a headband.

Two stars adorn Mary's head and shoulder, symbolizing her perpetual virginity before and after Christ's birth. Her right hand signifies the dual nature of Christ—divine and human.

The Divine Child, clothed in regal purple, symbolizes royalty, with a white veil representing purity and sovereignty. Extending His blessing with His right hand, His three joined fingers symbolize the Trinity, while His index and other fingers affirm His dual nature as both God and man.

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