The icon of the Glykophilousa, the Sweetly Kissing, shows the bond of love between the Theotokos and her son and the physical expression of that love in a tender kiss. Often the Mother of God has a sombre, reflective expression, and her infant Son touches her face to comfort her.
This theological icon proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation. It points to the living, human relationship between mother and son. The infant’s hand is the hand of the Logos, cherishing the finest fruit of his creative love. Her embrace enfolds the Uncircumscribable whom heaven and earth cannot contain. The Glykophilousa shows Christ as a human child, relating to his mother as any other human child does, but also as a divine person whose every human expression, action, gesture reveals something of the Godhead.
This icon is virtually the obverse of the Hodegetria in which the Virgin points to her son as the way, the truth, and the life. Here she gazes at Jesus, not out of the icon at us. She does not point to him, she embraces and kisses him. And the infant is caught in movement as he turns in her arms, returning her embrace, his hand rising up to touch her cheek, drawing our awareness back to her. He does not point to her, he touches her tenderly, with loving trust.
As we contemplate the cyclic interplay of divine and human love, of mother and son, our own humanity is interpreted by the relation between.
Blackwell’s Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Edited by Ken Parry, David J. Melling, Dimitri Brady, Sidney H. Griffith and John F. Healey).