Commissioned by Dr. David Coleman and the Humanities and Fine Arts
division at Chaminade University in anticipation of the 125th
anniversary of the Marianist presence in the Island of Hawaii, this icon
depicts the familiar image of Mary and Christ with Polynesian
characteristics. After a number of negotiations with Fr. Damien Higgins
of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, a frequent presenter of iconography
courses in Honolulu, the present design was agreed upon.
Based on the prototype of Our Lady of Kykkos
(c. 1668), it shows Mother and Child, but rather than gazing at one
another they are looking out to the viewer and inviting all to
participate in the relationship that they share with one another. The
primary theological reflection of every Icon of the
Theotokos ("God-bearer" or "One who
carries God"), is that of the mystery of Incarnation, whereby human and
divine come together and heaven and earth are reunited in true
Mary wears the insignia of an Ali'i,
a noble Hawaiian woman with royal associations. She is dressed in a wide
wrap of Kapa cloth imbued with patterns of plants associated with
Hawaiian culture and spirituality. The first set of patterns is the
Kukui Nut or the Tree of Light and the associations with Christ as the
"light of the world" (John 8:12), the next is the Taro, the staple or
"bread" of the Hawaiian people. The next is the Bread Fruit which is a
symbol of healing and finally, the white Hibiscus as a symbol of beauty and purity.
Mary rests on top of the Pacific Ocean on a Cherubim floating at her
feet. Two angels with Kahili stand at attention on either side as the
heavenly hosts witness the mystery of God becoming human. Above them are
the sun and the moon representing not only the heavens but all of
creation. They are commonly used in Byzantine hymnography to express the
feelings and yearnings of the material world created by God.
In the two circles above the sun and moon are the monograms for the
Mother of God, Theotokos,
with the stars directly above which are traditionally placed on the outside
of her veil representing the miraculous nature of her giving birth and remaining
a virgin before, during and after giving birth. Tahitian black pearls were donated to
represent all the islands. Christ has two Opals to reflect the glory of
the rainbow so present in Hawaiian scenery and as the promise of God to
Noah to create a covenant between heaven and earth.
The two side panels of the triptych include the founders of
the Marianist Community: Father William Joseph Chaminade, Mother Adele
de Batz de Trenquelleon, and Marie Therese Charlotte de Lamourous.
Included with each founder are scrolls expressing their faith in the
Incarnation. As an extension of this faith, Father Chaminade is
accompanied by the images of Chaminade University of Honolulu with its
roots in St. Louis College. The women are accompanied by the images and
symbols of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the people of France they
served and inspired. They too are set in the waters of the sea which
connect the diverse parts of the world together in one human family.
icons were prepared in Augusta, Georgia at Fr. Damian's studio. They are
painted on poplar boards that were aged, soaked in hide glues and then
covered with old alter linens and layers of
gessoe (crushed marble and rabbit skin glue). The 23k gold
leaf back ground and the haloes are set in red bole (clay with fish
glue) and the entire image was painted with egg yolk (egg tempera) which
was then varnished with olifa
(linseed and stand oil and Japan drier).