In the depth of this remarkable icon, known as Our Lady of Elige, lays a long history of devotion to the holy Virgin, in Mount Lebanon.
The original icon settled in the Patriarchal Church of Elige, Mayfouq area, in the district of Byblos. It depicts the virgin Mother holding the divine Child on her lap.
In a while, this icon, that will come to be known as Our Lady of the Maronites, was the Maronite Patriarch personal icon and traveled with him to all the places he runs to inside Lebanon from the Mamluks and from all the Maronites’ enemies.
Years later, after the monastery housing the ancient piece has become the property of the Lebanese Maronite Order, this latter took a decision of restoration. The cloistered nuns of the Carmel of the Mother of God and Unity – at Harissa, were asked to accomplish this delicate mission which lasted for five years. And the advanced work on it uncovered the fact that this icon is built up over five or six layers embedded throughout centuries. Thus the whole task marked an event in the history of Maronite iconography.
Remarkable was the very first foundation design where the icon illustrated the Virgin Hodegetria, which literally means = "She who shows the Way": here the depiction of the Virgin Mary was planned in a manner showing her holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for mankind. The design is influenced by the tradition that initiated from the miniatures of the 6th century manuscripts.
The virgin is shown with eyes wide open as a sign of entering into God's world, a world of glory. Her robe is deep blue faithful to the Aramaic tradition…. Blue has been a color associated with royalty, peace, and nature like the sea and sky. So it makes sense that artistic renditions of Mary portray the Queen of Heaven and Earth in blue. And as is distinctive in icons, the Virgin Mother's hair is completely concealed and covered by the headband worn in the Semitic culture.
2 stars seem to shine on Mary's head and shoulder: These represent her permanent virginity before and after Christ's birth. Then we move to remark her right hand: with it, our Lady declares the duality of Christ's natures: divine and human.
As for the Divine Child: He sits in kingly purple signifying royalty. His white veil, symbolizes the light, purity, and sovereignty. He gives His blessing with His right hand, with His 3 fingers joined to signify the three Persons in one God; while the index and other finger point that He is both God and man.