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What is an Icon?

The word ‘icon’ means ‘image’, and the story of icons in the Christian Church is a story of learning to gaze into the mystery of God. A great deal of religious art can be merely decorative. It expresses the religious imagination of the artist and it is often charged with human emotions. Some of it is very precious to us. The icon, however, is a window through which we glimpse another world – the world of God. In the icon we are brought into the presence of the holy person or incident pictured; we ‘see’ the gospel before our eyes and the icon speaks to us. The icon is the occasion of a sort of revelation – in line and colour – of the kingdom of God. Hence the very icon itself is a sacred reality. To paint an icon is a religious activity requiring detailed discipline; to pray before an icon means to be drawn into some aspect of the mystery of God-with-us; to let an icon speak to us requires a depth of silence and a purity of heart which can only come from the Spirit. When we pray with icons we begin to acquire the characteristics which the icons symbolize.

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Reading the Icon: The brilliant white of the risen Christ dominates all icons of the Resurrection. The actual moment of Resurrection is never portrayed, nor can it be. Both the gospels and the icons observe a mystical silence about this greatest of all mysteries, so, the central event of all history is presented in Eastern icons by showing the Lord of Glory pulling Adam and Eve from their graves. Dying he destroyed our death, so below the Victorious Christ the gates of hell are thrown open and the guardians of the underworld (Hades) are themselves now shadowy prisoners.. Rising he restored our life, so on the left of the icon we see John the Baptist (now canonized with a halo) and two king-prophets from the Old Testament, while on the right we see the astonished friends of Jesus, Peter, James and John. The icon bears the simple title “The Resurrection” (Anastasis). Praying with the Icon: ‘By your cross and resurrection you have set us free’. The blaze of light, the Risen Light, dazzles us. We simply enjoy this burst of brilliance. We see everything now in the light of Easter. In his light, we see light. We see the mystery of redemption, we see our destiny, we see the God who never gives up on us. But we too are silent in the face of this mystery of mysteries, words and images cannot encompass this reality. In praying with this icon we let Jesus take each one of us by the hand and draw us clear of sin and death. He draws us into his risen Life. He draws us into the inner life of God.


How to read the Icon: We may be used to paintings of the crucifixion of Jesus from a Western perspective: very crowded with several holy women, Roman soldiers, chief priests, elders, passers-by and of course two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. By comparison this Orthodox icon reduces the scene to the minimum as if to concentrate our minds on the essentials. Entitled ‘Staurosis’ (crucifixion) we see on the cross bar the abbreviations for ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’. To the left Mary is described as ‘Mother of God’ and on the right, over the figure of the young disciple Jesus loved, is written ‘The Apostle, John’. Jesus hangs on his cross, his head turned towards his mother, his eyes closed in death, blood dripping from his hands and feet, with ‘blood and water’ pouring from his right side (John 19:34). The city walls stretch across the icon reminding us that ‘Jesus suffered outside the gate to sanctify the people with his blood’ (Hebrews 13:12). Around the head of the dead Christ there is a golden halo and Mary and John and the whole sky share that symbol of victory and of heaven. The title atop the cross is not Pilate’s inaccurate words but St Paul’s inspired text: ‘The Lord of Glory’ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:7-8). Praying with the Icon: Prayer before the icon of the Crucifixion takes us into the mystery of the death and New Life of Jesus. We have still to make our personal Passover but in contemplating the Passover of Jesus we are already embraced by the New Life. With the restraint of Mary, with the tenderness of John, we glimpse in our prayer the New Creation in which the old Adam (seen in the open earth beneath the cross) is at last redeemed. In the end the icon speaks to us about the infinite delicacy of God’s love, a love unto death, a love greater than death. The barbarity of the Cross gives way to the beauty of the crucified. Years of prayer before the Lord of Glory reveal the secret of suffering, the secret of death and of New Life.

Easter Breakfast

Reading the Icon: Most visitors to the Holy Land have good memories of Tabgha. On the shore of Lake Galilee, it is the “lonely place” where Jesus fed the multitude; nearby is the site of the Sermon on the Mount. Here he healed a leper and here he appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection. In that appearance Jesus made breakfast for his friends and had a far-reaching conversation with Peter about their relationship. Here we find the tiny Church of the Primacy of Peter. Coptic (Egyptian) icons have a very simple and engaging style. The spiritual relationship with God is often expressed through large eyes, large heads. In this icon we see the Lord, risen but still bearing the marks of the nails on his hands and feet. He is preparing breakfast for the eager Peter (without his halo). The rest of the disciples are seen rowing quickly to join the breakfast party. This is the setting for the threefold question of Jesus and Peter’s threefold reply. Praying with the Icon: In our prayer we want to be like John, the beloved disciple, the first one in the boat to recognise the risen Jesus: ‘It is the Lord’. We want to be like Peter and rush headlong into an encounter with the Risen Lord. We want to be like the other disciples who share breakfast with Jesus – a moment of special intimacy. We want to hear in our hearts the question Jesus puts to us too: ‘Do you love me?’ We want to resonate with peter’s repeated confession of love: ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you; Yes Lord, you know I love you; Lord, you know everything, you know I love you’. We want to hear Jesus’ final words: ‘Follow me’. And we want to respond.

Icon of Peace

Reading the Icon: This icon, known as “The Vladimir Mother of God” is usually classified as an icon of tenderness, despite the depth of sadness it evokes. But the icon also captures an aspect of peace expressed in the loving-kindness between Mary and Jesus. Mary’s right hand supports her Child while her left hand points him out to all the world. Her mouth is very small (being a woman of few words) but her eyes are enlarged, seeing into the future and to the cost of salvation for her Son and to the cost of salvation for her Son and to the cost of discipleship for herself and his disciples. Her contemplative gaze includes us as we pray. The Child’s arms embrace his mother; his left arm stretches round Mary’s neck and we see his left hand reaches round to his mother’s face. The intimacy of their embrace evokes that peace which the world cannot give. Praying with the Icon: An icon is not just a ‘holy picture’. It is a revelation of divine truth. To see the Vladimir Mother of God as an icon of peace is to recognise that, as St Paul says, Jesus “is the peace between us” (Eph 2:14). To pray with this icon is to relate to Mary who holds us in her eyes of love. It is to relate to Jesus who reaches out to embrace us too. I can bring all my anxieties, disturbances and lack of peace to Jesus and Mary and with them understand the embrace of God. The undertone of sadness and of future suffering is not absent from Jesus or Mary.

Icon of Pentecost

Reading the Icon: This particular icon was written for a church in the Netherlands hence the inscriptions are in Dutch. It is entitled ‘Pinksteren’ (Pentecost). The background building is draped in a red cloth to signify that the event actually took place indoors. The Spirit is seen descending in tongues of fire on Mary and the Apostles. At Mary’s right hand sits Peter and at her left, Paul. Mary’s hands are raised in the classical prayer position while some of the Apostles carry books or scrolls signifying their gift of teaching the faith. At the bottom of the icons a symbolic figure of a king. He is in a dark place (De Kosmos/The World – without faith); he is aged (made old by the sin of Adam) but he holds twelve scrolls in a white cloth – symbols of the Light brought by the Apostles. The fire of the spirit unites all in the wondrous birth of the Church with Mary, Mother of the Church, at the centre of the event. Praying with the Icon: With great joy we enter the icon to sit in the company of Mary, Peter, Paul and the other Apostles. We wait our turn to be set on fire by the Spirit and to celebrate in our lives the gifts of the Spirit. Our personal world of darkness (emotional, social or spiritual) is forever illuminated by the light of the Spirit. Our personal Pentecost will mean that we will always be part of the Community of the Spirit – the Church. We will live by the Word and we will let the Spirit use us to build up the Body of Christ in our own context. In sitting with Mary and the Apostles we are taken up into the prayer of the Spirit – that prayer which goes on day and night, whether we are awake or asleep. We are taken up into the work of the Spirit which is to make us all one in Jesus. We can remain in this holy company even as we go about our daily lives.

Icon of the Ascension

Reading the Icon: The feast of the Ascension is both an end and a beginning. It marks the end of Christ’s visible presence on earth and the beginning of that in-between time until he comes again “Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there” (Acts 1:11). Icons of the Ascension therefore look back to the historic event and look forward to the coming in glory. The theological insights into the mystery of the Ascension are hinted at in the smallness of the figure of the Ascended Christ and the larger figures of Mary and the Apostles. In the lower half of the icon the figure of Mary is strangely calm and serene. She is flanked on both sides by the angels, holding sceptres and point upwards towards the Ascending Christ. To her right we see Paul and the other Apostles “staring into the sky” (Acts 1:10) while to her left Peter and the rest of the Apostles are likewise staring and pointing to the mystery. Jesus is ascending in glory, evoked by the mandorla (the round geometric figure composed of concentric circles, symbol of the high heavens) and supported by two angels. Jesus stretches out his right hand in a blessing of the whole of creation. The setting for this aspect of the mystery of salvation is the Mount of Olives – the rocks and olive trees bisecting the icon. The ground of the icon is gold and the spandrels of the arch are red. Everything speaks of glory, of beauty and of victory. Praying with the Icon: We take our stand with Mary and the Apostles as we are gathered ino this mystery. We are at once in heaven and on earth: we stare in amazement and wonder, but our feet are on the earth. We know that Christ has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope, to be present to us, indeed to be present in us, in a way beyond our imagining. With Mary and the Apostles we must go back into the city, we must continue in prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit and we must be available to the Lord in his new and real presence. Our prayer with this icon helps us realize that where He has gone, we hope one day to follow.

Icon of the Trinity

Reading the Icon: ‘No one has ever seen God’ (Jn 1:18). How then can art depict God? The icon tradition has found a way to evoke the inner nature of God as tri-personal. In this famous icon by Andrei Rublev the Holy Trinity is foreshadowed by the three mysterious visitors who come to Abraham and Sarah at the oak of Mamre in Genesis 18. These three men (described in the text as the Lord) are now depicted as angels to evoke the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. This manifestation to Abraham was like an annunciation of God, Father, Son and Spirit. The angels are seated at a table under the oak. The house of Abraham and Sarah is in the upper left background. On the table is a chalice. The almost identical faces of the angels hint at the single nature of the three divine persons. The impossibility of depicting the first person of the Trinity is hinted at in the indefinite hue of the garments of the angel on the left. The strong colours of the central figure suggest the Incarnate Word and the green of the angel to the right suggest the Holy Spirit. Praying with the Icon: Am I not invited to sit at the empty space around the table? Am I not drawn into the very life of God in baptism? Am I not loved into deeper and deeper participation in the divine life through the Bread that is Broken and the Cup that is shared? Is not silence the best prayer when I am face to face with God? The brilliance and beauty of the icon of the Trinity leads to the brilliance and beauty of God in whom all things find their beauty. Beauty becomes an irresistible door into the divine.

Icon of Truth

Praying with the Icon: This icon, while contemporary, is classical in style. Such icons are known as “The Pantocrator” (Ruler of All) and they express under the human features of the Incarnate Son, the Divine majesty of the Creator and Redeemer who presides over the destiny of the world. Often these are huge icons dominating a whole church and evoking the solemnity of the Last Judgement. In this particular icon all fearfulness is gone; rather there is a calm serenity and a deep compassion on the face of him who has come to take away the sins of the world. We are face-to-face with Christ, fully human and fully divine. His divinity is evoked by the gold background and by the special halo decorated with the Greek letters standing for the revelation of God’s name: ‘He Who Is’ (Ex 3:14). The icon is entitled “Jesus” (top left hand corner) and “Christ” (top right hand corner). The radiant blue garment also proclaims the divinity of Christ while the yellow-brown tunic suggests his humanity. The left hand of Christ holds the Book (Good News) with the famous quotation from the Gospel of John (14:6) and his right hand points to that text and indeed to himself at the same time. Praying with the Icon: This icon reveals the face of the Risen and Glorified Lord, Jesus the Christ. If I am still looking for a path through life, Jesus offers himself as the Way. May my path merge with Jesus the living Way to the Father. Having Him, I don’t need to run after the latest trends. If I am still perplexed or hesitant about my own inner integrity or about my Christian heritage, Jesus stands before me with divine confidence announcing himself as The Truth and drawing me by his own integrity. If my life is slipping away or I am at a loss about its meaning or significance, Jesus is The Life that will make my life wonderful again. Can I set out on The Way? Can I face The Truth? Can I enjoy The Life?

The Body and Blood of Christ

Reading the Icon: To read this icon we need to recall the story of the crestfallen disciples (cleopas and his companion) and their sad story on the way to Emmaus. Their world had come to an end with the execution of Jesus on Friday afternoon. Some think that Cleopas is the same person as Clopas whose wife, Mary, was present with the other holy women at Calvary (John 19:25) and who was the mother of the disciple James. The icon brings us into another upper room, this time in Emmaus, with Jerusalem in the distant background (left hand corner). Jesus is seen blessing the bread; the cup of wine is on the table. The Greek word for ‘fish’ is ‘Ichtus’, which the early Christians used as a kind of short-hand formula of faith: I = Jesus, CH = Christ, TH = of God, U = Son, S = Saviour. Hence the fish on the table. Jesus is looking at us but the disciples are looking at Jesus. Their eyes are open as they recognise Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. The disciple on the left raises his hands in the prayer of awe and wonder, the disciple on the right points with his right hand to his heart ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ In this icon we read that hope is restored to the disciples: ‘our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free’. But it is restored in a way undreamed of. In his resurrection and his continued presence in the Eucharist, Jesus sets everyone free in a radically new way. Praying with the Icon: Surely our first instinct is to take our place at the round table with Jesus and the two disciples. We are drawn to the Supper at Emmaus by the Spirit of the Risen Lord. Let us sit with the Risen Eucharistic Lord. We also echo the disciples’ invitation: ‘they pressed him to stay with them’. Stay with us, we pray, aware that it’s more likely that we will not stay with him. The disciples had their eyes opened; they came to recognise the Stranger in the Breaking of the Bread. We too pray to have our eyes penned, to recognise Jesus in the stranger and to recognise the stranger in Jesus. Most of all we marvel at the depth of communion with the Risen Lord in his Eucharist. Through the gift of his Body and Blood we become one body, one spirit in Jesus. Our very flesh is given a guarantee of new and immortal life. In our co-mingling with Jesus we share the radiance of his glory, even in our bodies. O sacrament most holy, O sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment.

The Bridegroom Icon

Reading the Icon: If we were asked to give a title to this icon we might call it “Behold the Man” (Ecce Homo) as it shows Jesus bound, crowned with thorns and dressed in a scarlet robe. But in Eastern Christianity it is called “The Bridegroom” (O Numphios). The gospel texts on which the icon is based are Matthew 27:27-30 (the crowning with thorns and the mockery of Christ) and Matthew 25:6 (from the parable of the ten bridesmaids). The startling paradox is that in the midst of his humiliation and torture, the eyes of faith can see Jesus as Bridegroom. It is precisely through his sufferings that Jesus prepares the marriage feast of the Kingdom of God in which we are wedded to God. He himself is the Bridegroom ‘the bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him’. Alone in his suffering and anguish, the tortured Christ is dressed in scarlet, crowned with thorns, hands roped together; he is mocked, spat on and yet his gaze is one of absorption in the unfolding mystery. The crown evokes the marriage crowns still used in Eastern marriages, the scarlet robe points to Christ’s divine Kingship and the tied hands a symbol of the bondage to sin from which we are released by his suffering. The head bent from sorrow and exhaustion speaks of his voluntary submission to suffering for our sake. The bridegroom is named ‘Jesus’ (top left hand corner), ‘Christ’ (top right hand corner). He is described by the three Greek letters in his halo as ‘He who Is’ (remembering Exodus 3:14 and Revelation 1:4,8). In the Eastern Church the Numphios Icon is carried into the Church on Palm Sunday and remains there until Holy Thursday.
Praying with the Icon: Despite the barbaric treatment of Jesus there is a stillness and a beauty about the icon. The eyes of Jesus invite a contemplative response and the title “The Bridegroom” draws us to a level deeper even than the physical sufferings. Surely the real secret of this beautiful icon is the incredible love which endures so much and which longs for a response in love. Jesus asks us to ponder the price of our redemption and the enormity of the love involved. Can we wear the crown in our nuptials with God?

The Dormition of the Mother of God

(Celebrated by Western Catholics as the Assumption) Tradition tells us that all the Apostles gathered together around Mary at the end of her life and that Christ himself came to take her soul up to heaven. This icon offers a contemplative reading (a silent prayer, gazing at the mysteries of God) of the Assumption Dogma. More commonly in icons picturing Mary and her son Jesus, we see the child Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary. However, in this icon the relationship between mother and son is reversed. The Son of God holds the Mother of God in his arms. In this icon we see the Virgin lying on a bier with closed eyes and arms crossed – this indicates her the end of her earthly life (St. Paul tells us: “we all have to die with Christ so as to rise with him”). A single candle stands burning in front of the bier, symbolising the Pastoral Easter candle – the light of the resurrected Christ; the light of the world. The resurrected Christ (the new Adam), stands facing his mother’s head and receives the Virgin’s soul in his outstretched hands. Christ appears in glory surrounded by a blue mandorla encompassing within its boarder a six-winged seraph (the highest order of the realm of angels) at the top and four angels, two on either side, with expressions and gestures of grief – this symbolises the heavenly realm of whom the Theotokos (the Mother of God) is Queen. Directly above Christ and the six-winged seraph, is the gate of Heaven. This stand open and we see two angels bending forward with their arms draped to receive the soul of their Queen into Paradise. The Apostles are grouped at the head and foot of the bier, with profound grief apparent in their postures, expressions and gestures. Peter is incensing the Virgin’s head, while Paul is bowed down at her feet – symbolising the Tradition of the Church of venerating Mary. Further back we see three bishops (identified by their white stole with black crosses on them) carrying open books – symbolising the importance of teaching the Traditions of the Church. Also in the background on the left are three women lamenting. Behind the gathered mourners are two buildings, which provide a backdrop to the scene – symbolising the fullness of Revelation through the Old and New Testament. Mary, the new Eve and the first Christian, precedes (goes before) us as the first to receive the glory awaiting us, where body and soul shall be united in the glory of God, our creator and our saviour. What is the meaning of the icon of the Lord’s Nativity? The task of iconography is to express the theological and spiritual content of revelation through images. The Nativity Icon is in sharp contrast to our western sentimental imagery often used to depict the birth of Christ. In the Icon there is no charming Bethlehem bathed in the light of the nativity star but only a rugged mountain with a few plants. The austere mountain suggests a hard, unwelcoming world in which survival is a real battle. In this icon, the whole Gospel message of the incarnation of our Saviour from the Virgin Mary is depicted, along with details added from the Holy Tradition. The focus of the icon, of course, is on the birth of our Lord from His most pure virgin mother Mary. The most prominent figure in the Icon is Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer, or Mother of God), who is shown larger than any of the other figures, reclining on a red blanket. The labour of giving birth is arduous, as we see in her reclining figure – and so is the labour to believe. Mary has completed this stage of her struggle, she believes, she is in essence the first Christian, but Joseph still grapples with his call to believe. Mary looks not at her new-born Son, but rather with love and compassion towards her spouse, Joseph, who is shown struggling with this most strange and divine birth. He is shown in the left bottom corner, conversing with Satan who is disguised as an elderly shepherd. The posture of St Joseph is one of doubt and inner trouble, for Satan is tempting him to wonder if it might be possible that the conception and birth were by some secret human union and not by the power of the Holy Spirit. In spite of these thoughts and temptations, he served the Mother of God and her divine Son and protected her from evil gossip. The child Jesus is shown in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. In Icons of Christ’s burial, you see He is wearing similar bands of cloth. In the Nativity Icon, the manger looks much like a coffin. In this way the Icon links birth and death. This reminds us that we bear our death within us from the moment of birth. The back-drop for the manger is a dark cave, which immediately reminds us of the cave in which our Lord was buried 33 years later, wrapped in a shroud. In the cave are an ox and donkey, which are details, not mentioned by the Gospels. The scene is included to show the fulfilment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “the ox knows his Owner and the donkey his Master’s crib, but Israel does not know Me, and the people have no regard for Me” (Isaiah 1:3). Above this central composition, in the very centre of the icon is the star coming from heaven, which led the Magi (Wise Men) to the place where our Saviour lay. Tradition speaks of the Magi being representative of all mankind: one being young (beardless), one being middle-aged (in the centre of the group), and one being elderly (closest to the cave). The holy angels are seen both glorifying God and bringing the good tidings of the Lord’s birth to the shepherds, who look in awe at the angles. The fact that Jewish shepherds and heathen magi were among the first to worship our Lord shows us the universality of this great event, meant for the salvation of all mankind. The final detail of this icon is the scene of the washing of the Lord by the midwives, in the bottom right of the icon. This image shows the humanity of Christ and his need to be bathed like every other baby; “he was like us in all things but sin.” Finally, as we look at the icon as one united composition, we can only be filled with joy for the news of our salvation so clearly proclaimed by the Incarnation. In it, all creation rejoices at the birth of our Lord: the heavens (a star and angels); the earth (the mountains, plants and animals), and especially mankind, represented most perfectly in the figure of the new Eve, the most pure Mother of God. All of creation is renewed and redeemed by the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ is Born! Let Us Glorify Him.

The Touch of Thomas

Reading the Icon: Christ stands at the top of a flight of steps in front of a closed door. He is showing a very young Thomas his hands, feet and specifically his side. Christ still bears the marks of his Passion, what believers will now call his glorious wounds. He is inviting Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nails and into the wound in his side. Thomas is looking straight at Jesus and is reaching out to put his finger into the wound. The left hand of Thomas expressed amazement at this intimate moment of truth. The other apostles look on in wonder. In the Western tradition we have focussed on the doubts of Thomas, finding more help and encouragement in Thomas’ scepticism than in the faith of other apostles. In the Eastern tradition, as in this icon, the focus is on the delicate touch of Thomas which is the moment of faith changing his life for ever. Often Thomas is depicted as holding a scroll in his left hand with his profession of faith “My Lord and my God”. Praying with the Icon: As we are drawn into this decisive encounter we are encouraged to face our doubts, our hesitations and our difficulties. Thomas teaches us to remain with the community of believers, especially when the journey of faith is clouded. In the delicacy of Thomas’ gesture of reaching out to the pierced side of Jesus he helps us also to reach out to the Risen Lord who defies all closed doors and all barriers of space and time. This beautiful icon shows us how Jesus deals with those “of little faith”. He trusts us; he believes in us. We reach out to respond with our trust and our faith. In the end it is a matter of ‘the loving kindness of the heart of our God’, the mercy of God shining out in the gentleness of Jesus.

The Way of the Cross

How to read the Icon: Across the top of this icon is written “Being dragged to the Cross” (Elkomenos epi Staurou), and at the bottom (unusually, since icons are not normally signed) “Painted by Nicolaus Zafuri”. This allows the experts to date the icon to the last decade of the 15th century. The icon of Jesus being led away to crucifixion (John 19 : 16-17) is remarkable in that it combines Eastern (Byzantine) elements and Western (Italian) developments. Jesus is without any human support. His only company are the soldiers/executioners. He wears a long red, almost purple tunic decorated with regal stripes. His knees flex under the weight of the (patriarchial Greek) cross. A rough rope round his neck is being pulled by the Roman soldier at the right of the icon. The soldier with his hand on Jesus’ shoulder and the others to the left of the icon are very Bysantine in appearance. It is the look in Jesus’ eyes which is so arresting. He is looking directly at the observer, at the one praying with the icon. Though dwarfed by the dramatic rock formations, the heavenly gold of the sky above the city walls hints at the final triumph of the gentle Lamb know being led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Praying with the Icon: It is not difficult to identify with the context of violence which this icon portrays. Surrounded by executioners, carrying an impossibly heavy cross, crowned with thorns, roped to the leading soldier, Jesus still looks calm and composed. That look in his eyes haunts all who occupy the space in front of him. As before, we come before him with our particular cross we are brought to a standstill by that look. Is it recognition? Is it surrender? Is it peace? Is it, in the end, love? Whatever cross we have to carry, he knows from experience our need of support and strength. He knows in a personal way the horrors of a brutal and violent society. We do not pray alone before this icon. We bring with us all the victims of violence being dragged to their death.