With respect to its teardrop shape, this scapular is a plastic replica of the icon St. Seraphim of Sarov used to have in his cell, which is commonly known as Eleusa (“Tender” or “Merciful” Mother of God), while the holy elder himself referred to it as “The Joy of All Joys”. Style-wise, the iconography of the image is Western in origin, as is the case with most other icons created in the 18th century, and has been modeled after the miraculous icon of the Theotokos of Ostra Brama/Vilnius. However, the changes introduced to the iconography by the artist have made this icon Orthodox in spirit, filled with Eastern contemplation.
The icon came to be a vivid illustration of the deep religious feeling referred to in Church Slavonic or Russian as “umileniye” – that is, humility, repentance and heartfelt contrition. The icon presents a powerful image on both the mental and the spiritual levels and radiates merciful compassion and boundless maternal love for the suffering human race, the oblivion to the self found in prayer, and the awe and trepidation experienced by those standing before the throne of the Almighty. When we fold our arms against our chest and prepare to take the Holy Communion in repentance and humility, our mind conjures up the image of the Theotokos Eleusa on its own accord. Our Lady, sometimes called the “Receptacle of the Boundless God”, an example of meekness and humility, invisibly participates in this sacrament along with ourselves and offers us spiritual support.
The strong emotional impact produced by the icon was reflected in the choice of shape: the scapular resembles a droplet, or, to be more precise, a penitential tear. This choice is further explained in the words of the prayer found on the reverse: ВLчце бцdе, души2 моеS ўмилeніе! Согрёй хлaдное въ вёрэ и3 любви2 сeрдце моE слезaми ўмилeніz… (“O Mother of God, Our Lady, source of tenderness for my soul! Warm my cold heart in faith and love, with tears of humility and heartfelt contrition…”)
The feast of the icon “Theotokos Eleusa” is celebrated on 28 July (10 August).