Flowers have always been humanly perceivable as a precious gift of the Creator, and have been endowed with all kinds of symbolism that has been especially advanced in Western Catholic tradition. But in the Orthodox culture many flowers and plants as well had the settled symbolism of their own. Rose has been traditionally associated with the Mother of God. It is considered that “the queen of flowers” has been created by God without a thorn, as an image of perfect chaste purity and beautiful righteousness. But after the Fall thorns appeared on the fine flower as a sign of the universe being out-of-order. The Mother of God became the “Good Rose”, a rose without a thorn. She restored «the good flower” in Herself, radiating “the light of virginity” and as if making “a wreath of unfading flowers of the spiritual garden” (St. Andrew of Crete). Therefore roses (especially since 17th century) have been often painted beside the Mother of God images. This small icon of the Mother of God “Seven Arrows” is as well decorated with them.
On the “Seven Arrows” icon the Most Holy Mother of God is portrayed as if pierced with seven arrows. That is the image of sorrow of Mother who has seen Her Son suffering. Just as the body of Christ was pierced with nails and lance, His Mother`s soul was stricken with “lance” of grief and “nails” of heartache. According to the Orthodox doctrine the Lord has been crucified for human sins, and keeps being crucified every day during Liturgies for new sins of recent human beings. Therefore seven arrows as well symbolize seven mortal sins bringing new sorrows to the Mother of God.
The iconography of the “Seven Arrows” icon was created for words of St. Simeon the God-receiver that he said in the Jerusalem temple whereto the Most Holy Mother of God and St. Joseph brought Christ child on the fortieth day after His birth. According to St. Luke, Apostle and Evangelist St. Simeon had been forecast that he would not die until his meeting with the Messiah. The holy old man met the Holy Family on the threshold of the temple and was inspired to see the Incarnate Savior in the infant Jesus. He has taken Him in his arms and has said the famous words that now are spoken at the end of every evening service: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word”. After that St. Simeon prophesied: “Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted”. And looking at the Most Holy Virgin Mary he foretold: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed” (Lk. 2, 34-35).
The Most Holy Mother of God in Her wonder working icon “Seven Arrows” is worshipped as quieter of hostility, defender from ill will. The image is offered up prayers for intestine strife to be stopped, for enemy hearts to be propitiated, as well as evil thoughts and hostile feelings to be overcome in one`s own heart. Everyone resorting to this icon with a prayer feel that heart softening results in alleviation of not only mental but also of bodily suffering. And if one’s enemies are prayed for in front of this image, hostile feelings make way for clemency, the mordant hatred abating.
The icon “Seven Arrows” is observed on August 26 (13).