Over the years, I have developed a very special relationship with the Mother of God, and this specific Icon, The Joy of All Joys, has touched my life immensely. Every time I gaze upon it, I am swept up with wells of gratitude being reminded of the beauty of a personal God who interacts with our humanity. It has provided a lot of healing in my own life, and there is a personal story that goes along with it.
During 2016, my wife (Jessica) & I struggled with an entire year of infertility. Month by month would go by, and we would feel that lump in the back of our throats, and would need to further trust in God. Eventually, we took things into our own hands, we would go to clinic after clinic trying to diagnose why things just ‘weren’t happening.’ After every visit, our sadness grew & our prayers became more desperate crying out “help me with my unbelief.” Eventually, it became very hard to believe anything would change.
Then in 2017, looking for a way to connect with God, I saw Deb was having a class focused on the Joy of All Joys Icon. At first glance, I wasn’t sure if I should sign up. However, after reading more about it’s significance, I was compelled to paint it. Little did I know it was the distraction that I needed to heal from the sense of loss. While painting the icon, I prayed for two specific areas. First, to know the Mother of God more deeply & the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. Second, I prayed for my wife. With every brush stroke & dab of paint, I prayed she could have a ‘joy of baby joys’ experience in finding out she was pregnant. In the Icon, I would see Mary’s humble posture filled with gratitude, and wished for Jessica to be humbled by God & filled with immense gratitude in her future childbearing.
As I was close to completing the icon, we were overjoyed to find out we were going to have a baby! (Today his name is Samuel, and he is one). After a year of waiting, we experienced answered prayers. When looking at the Icon, I am reminded of the intercession of the Mother of God in our lives. In painting the icon with heartfelt sighing, I shared with Her my needs, sorrows, trials, and lamentations over sins. In doing so, I discovered, She, the Joy of All who sorrow, our heavenly Mother, spread unto us her sovereign protection, intercessions, and motherly compassion.
Today, our family of three now celebrates Annunciation Day every March. We do so by hosting close family and friends for a special dinner, planting some seeds in dirt, and remembering the mystery of the Incarnation through scripture reading & the following devotion that I wrote (while contemplating the Joy of All Joys Icon):
On this feast day we commemorate the holy icon portraying the moment of annunciation, Joy of All Joys. An image where Christ is paradoxically unseen yet seen in the mystical moment of the incarnation of our Lord. An Icon that speaks to the splendor of the Magnificat (Song of Mary). This icon teaches us about being partakers in the divine nature, and being vessels of humility, gentleness, gratitude & grace.
Contemplating the good news, the Mother of God lowers her gaze in deep humility & gentleness knowing she contains the uncontainable as her womb becomes a throne for the uncreated God. A womb that makes room for He who is greater than creation & more spacious than the heavens. The uncreated creator becoming a created recreator for the world.
Mary, the first to receive Christ, becomes an example for all Christians. With the power of the Holy Spirit, she shares in the divine nature of God, may we also share in the divine nature of God. In crossing her hands over her heart, she lifts her heart to God in a holy gesture of gratitude. May we also lift our hearts in holy gratitude to God each day. Through the Theotokos (God-bearer) as our example, teach us how to be vessels of your grace & partakers of your divine nature. ~Jordan Bronston