Every figure in an icon is important, because each one shows a person transformed by the love of God. I have been giving much thought to the individuals in the Blessing of the Children image. Although the children are not specifically identified in the Scripture story, tradition holds that the child in the Lord’s lap is St. Ignatius. Ignatius, the story goes, was tremendously influenced by his blessing and face-to-face encounter with Jesus. He became a disciple of St. John the Apostle when he grew up, defending the new faith against heresy in 7 epistles that are still in existence today. He was appointed the third Bishop of Antioch. He became one of the first martyrs of the Church, condemned by the Emperor Trajan. He was eaten by lions in 107 A.D. in the Colosseum in Rome.
No doubt every person with whom Jesus interacted was profoundly changed by the encounter, whether their names and stories are known to us or not. The gospel mentions many children being blessed. How were each of their lives affected? What about the Samaritan woman at the well, and those in her village? The boy who had the basket of bread and fish which fed 5,000? What ever became of him, after he saw what had happened?
I think people have always wondered about these ordinary folks whose names are lost in history. For example, do you remember the 1953 movie called The Robe, based on the Lloyd Douglas novel about the Roman soldier who won a throw of the dice and gained possession of Jesus’ robe at the crucifixion?
Icons of the blessing of the children usually show 2 or 3 disciples whispering in the background, in accordance with the Gospel story. One of them is often Peter, although he is not named in the story. As I sketched in the figures, I wondered which apostles to depict. But of course! what better choice than two of the Evangelists, who would observe and eventually write this story down for us to ponder 2,000 years later. I chose St. Mark and St. Luke for this icon, as I am using their accounts of this event as my source material. They watched, reacted, listened to a new teaching, witnessed the event with changed hearts–and then recorded it so that we, too, could know and follow the teachings of Jesus.