In the icon of Merciful Love, the three Angels are represented in an attitude of profound and loving attention towards a youth completely abandoned to himself.
The attitude they assume, their looks, the very position of their hands, suggest their total dedication to the poorest, the neediest among men.
The faces of the personages (as in all icons) are the “colour of earth blended with light”: a transfigured complexion, which cannot be identified with any particular human race, because all cultures and races can be recognised in it.
The eyes of the angels are big and they offer vitality, invite us to be familiar with them, they look “within” us, search our heart with goodness and profound mercy. The colours of their clothes are red, blue, green and pink-lilac.
The Father, the angel at the right, is inclined on his “son” who has sinned, and with a firm grip he supports him with his hands. He is almost genuflected before “his” creature: “He does not want to lose the work of his own hands… He created man so that he might be happy” (Carlo di Barolo). His look is full of merciful love, He keeps watch over man with paternal providence and infinite tenderness. He wears a transparent pink-lilac mantle with golden veins, that highlights the impermeability of the mystery which completely envelops him, suggesting to us that He is the unknowable, the Father. The edifice behind him is a reminder of the universal Church. Its portals are opened to every person.
The angel at the left is the Son: “the second Person of the Divine Trinity, moved by love, offered himself to His Father as a sublime holocaust…” (Carlo di Barolo). He seems almost prostrated before man, he holds his feet, his position and the stole on his shoulders remind us of the washing of the feet, Icon of service. He wears a blue mantle with a red tunic; on his right shoulder one sees a red stole with golden stripes. The blue colour refers to heaven, it is a sign of divinity, of immateriality, of the absolute. The red indicates the blood of mankind and recalls the love which reaches to the point of sacrifice. The blue combined with red indicate the two natures: humanity wrapped by divinity, elements that make the angel resemble the person of Christ. Also the stole is the explicit sign of the symbol of the mission accomplished by Him: the incarnation, the death, the resurrection and the ascension to the Father. The tree placed at his shoulders refers to the tree of Life and is a sign of the wood of Cross.
The Holy Spirit, the angel at the centre, seems just descended from heaven, represented by a blue circle, placed at the top of the Icon, within which are engraved the stars. The movement of the wings underline his descent: he participates with the others in the work of “saving man”. The colours of his clothes are blue, symbol of Divinity and green, that symbolises water, therefore fertility, regenerating vitality, spring, youthfulness, maternity. At his shoulders are visible tongues of fire that flood the scene. It is the Divine Spirit who is transmitting life, strength and consolation to the human person. It is the Spirit who warms us up, opens our eyes, consecrates us and sends us into the world to “change the tears of desperation into the sweet tears of hope” (Giulia Colbert).
The wings of the angels symbolise persons who are not of this world but belong to another. Their movement animates the entire scene, diffusing on the icon the “sweet rapture of the Spirit”. They have sandals, indicating their presence in our midst: even though they are angels, they are not strangers to our world.
The young man at the centre of these three persons, is enveloped by their love and foresees our participation in the heavenly banquet. Surrounded lovingly by the Trinity, he is placed at the centre of the icon, on a richly refined platform lying on a red cloth. This description wants to tell us that all of us are very important for them, we are raised from the earth almost to foreshadow the eternal life to which we are destined and at the same time wrapped in royal (red) clothes: we are taken care of and are guided already on this earth; the careful attention and merciful love reaffirm to us how much we are loved: “God loves us and he wants our good more than we ourselves love and desire our happiness” (Blessed Enrichetta). The face of the young man recalls to us our mission: we are sent by the Trinity towards the young generations, towards the little ones and the poor, knowing that in each one there is “a soul of an infinite price, which Jesus Christ loves with an immense love” (const. 1846 art. 384).
The entire scene takes place on a mountain, symbol of “Theophany”, the manifestation of God; even the mountain, like the tree and the edifice, are transfigured.
The gold background of the icon is the Light, which represents the abode of God, Paradise.
The icon is constructed in an inverse perspective indicated in a particular way by the platform and the mountain: it is not we who go to meet the divine but it is the divine who comes towards each one of us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. (Jn 3:16).