I haven’t done much blogging lately, but have instead been painting as much as possible. A kind fellow blogger who is also an iconographer offered to teach me some new techniques. His iconographic style is distinctly Romanian, and my earlier training was Russian, so it was hard sometimes to discipline myself to stick with his instructions and learn this new way. I was so tempted to fall back into old habits, to do it my old way–but there would be no learning at all if I had done that.
So, I persevered, and my friend and most excellent teacher Cornel Apostol (you may know him from his wonderful photography blog called Words: “A picture is worth a thousand words”) led me patiently through all of the steps. The icon is nearly complete. I wanted to have it finished by the Feast of Corpus Christi. It didn’t happen, and the icon is still not done, but I did want to share it with all of you now, as it has become such a vehicle of prayer and contemplation for me.
The image is of Jesus breaking a loaf of bread. At first viewing of the original model, I was not really drawn to it. The Lord’s gesture seemed too forceful, too exaggerated. But then, as one needs to do with icons, especially ones that challenge, I began to really look at it. To gaze and to pray. It reminded me of something I had seen before. I believe that it has been patterned after the figure of Christ in a very famous wall painting in the Monastery of Chora in Istanbul.
That image is of the Anastasis: the Orthodox icon for Easter, showing Jesus descending into hell–breaking down the gates in victory over death. King David, Solomon, John the Baptist and numerous Old Testament prophets stand watching.
The Lord grasps Adam and Eve by the hands, and through them, all of us, bringing them from death into eternal life. It is the image of salvation, the core of our faith.
And here, in this new icon, the similarly-posed figure of the Lord grasps not Adam and Eve but the bread of the Eucharist. Our salvation is before us here and now in every celebration of the Mass, of the Divine Liturgy.