An icon of Jesus hangs in my office. An icon is more than a simple
painting. It tells a story. Particularly, this icon tells a story about Jesus
for those who cannot read – either those who are illiterate or live where
Scripture is not readily available. A clergy friend of mine wrote (painted) the icon of Jesus who watches over me.
In Saint Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, he wrote, “Jesus
is the visible image of the invisible God.” The word we translate in English to
“image” in the original Greek is “eikon” from which we get “icon.” I think of
Jesus as iconic of God. This word is used once in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus said,
“Show me a coin. Whose eikon (image) and inscription does it have? They said, Caesar’s.” (Lk 20:24)
The icon in my office is called the Pantocrantor. It is an ancient
image of the haloed Christ who looks at the viewer with a solemn, loving stare.
His right hand is extended to teach, and in his left hand he holds the Holy
Scriptures. Pantocrantor is the Greek version of the Hebrew phrase, “El
Shaddai,” which translates into English as God Almighty.
Jesus to me is The Pantocrantor – the visible image of God
Almighty, conceived by the iconographer with a loving stare. As I try to live
deeper into my faith, this is an icon I try to emulate – one hand for teaching
and blessing and the other holding the Bible.
Who is Jesus to you? What is the image of God that you receive in
Paul continues to write in the letter to the Colossians, Jesus is
the head of the Church and through Jesus, God reconciles all things to himself
in heaven and earth. (1:18, 20) This is a different persona from the
Pantocrantor – the icon of God as an outreaching hand. In this other revelation,
Jesus is the reconciler, the head of the Church, and brings all things to
himself in the glory of God. An icon for this might be Jesus sitting on a throne
and bringing all things into his kingdom. For my office wall, I prefer God the
teacher and holder of truth. But you might prefer the enthroned reconciler of
all things in heaven and earth. Rest assured, Saint John’s, like the church in
Colossae, is big enough to hold many images of Jesus – teacher, holder of truth,
enthroned ruler, reconciler, first born of all creation, head of the Church,
healer, friend, God incarnate and God Almighty.
Let me take this a step further. The image we embrace of God
through Christ encourages and informs the way we live into our faith. I like to
bless and teach. Others like to reconcile. Yet we are one in Christ. Let us
remember that we are all created in the eikon of God. May we be that icon, image, likeness, to others in our
- Fr. Marshall