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Our Icon of Christ the Pantocrator

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordJune 7, 2024
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June 7, 2024:

My dear parishioners:

This past winter, one of our parishioners, Gina Scola, brought to my attention the work of a Lebanese-Canadian iconographer, Mabelle Aboumrad.  Upon discussions with Mabelle, we asked her to provide an icon that could be placed on the north wall of the tabernacle alcove in our church.  Further discussions with Mabelle led to the idea of an icon of Christ the Pantocrator.  This icon required over 160 hours of painting, plus much time of spiritual reflection beforehand.  

Below is an explanatory summary of the icon as provided by Mabelle.  As you read it you will be amazed by the glorious complexity of the process as well as the theology behind it.  Nothing in the icon is superfluous - every item, every colour, has meaning.  And all for the glory of God!

A special word of thanks and blessing goes to Mabelle for this precious legacy of faith, and to Gina Scola for her donation for the icon.  

Peace and prayers, Fr. Michael Machacek.

THE ICON OF CHRIST THE PANTOCRATOR (Jesus Christ the King and Ruler of All!)               by Mabelle Aboumrad.

MEANING OF THE WORD ICON: It comes from the Greek language “IKONA”, meaning image of the reality. It is a handwritten dialogic of the truth with its viewer. It is an “open window into the Divine” that teaches God’s word to those with open spiritual eyesight.

ICONOGRAPHERS:

o St. Luc was the first to assist those who could not read, by writing icons full of spiritual teachings.

o An Iconographer is said to write the icon and not paint it. It is a handwritten visual conversation with the viewers, taking them on a biblical journey.

o An Iconographer is a university graduate in Theology.

o The Iconographer must fast during the writing of the icon and recite the Iconographer and the Lord’s prayers before beginning the work.

o The Iconographer must depict and explain all the details written in the icon, so that the reader can easily read and appreciate the icon.

COLOURS: All the colours applied match nature’s colours and have their place, meaning and value. This is an expression of praise for God’s creation.

Gold (Halo): Symbolizing the everlasting divine light. It invites man to strengthen his Christian faith and become like gold. Gold is initially extracted from earth, boiled on high heat, and then poured into a mold where it solidifies and lasts forever.

Dark Blue (Sky): Indicates the infiniteness of the universe and is a symbol of everlasting Celestial Kingdom.

Royal Blue (Jesus’ Cloak/ outer robe): Represents celestial royalty.

Red (Jesus’ Inner Robe): Represents man & divine. Red is the color of heat, passion, love, life and life-giving energy. It is a symbol of the divine life and sacrifice often associated with Christ’s blood and His resurrection. A color of the victory of life over death, and a celebration of eternal life.

Reddish Clay/Brown(Borders): It is the color of the bare earth, dust, and all that is temporary and perishable. The color of reddish clay or red soil represents God’s creation of man and naming him ‘Adam’ which means a combination of soil and blood.

Green (Beads on robe collar): Green is the color of natural and living things. It is the color of grass and leaves, flowering, youth, hope, eternal rejuvenation, fertility and nativity.

The 4 Corners of the Icon: There are beings in each of the 4 corners of the icon: a man, a lion, an ox and an the eagle symbolize the 4 Gospels written by the 4 Evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These traditional images of the evangelists are based on Ezekiel 1: 10-11 and Revelation 4:6-8

Grey (Bible Pages): It represents history and the aging time of white, referring to the old and new testaments. It is a mix of 99% White color and 1% black. Grey symbolizes darkness (black) mixed with (white) to form purity, newness, holiness & simplicity.

Canvas Base color (Yellow Ocher): This dark yellow color is painted all over the canvas to assist the luminous light from within the character/subject and radiate outwards towards the icon reader.

Jesus’ Face & Hands (colours start from the darkest to the lightest):

o 1st Layer Coat (Yellow Ocher mixed with red and a touch of black)

o 2nd Layer Coat (Yellow added to the 1st coat)

o 3rd Layering Coat (White added to the 2nd coat)

o Final Coat (White Highlight Strokes): signifies the Holy Trinity. *There are no shadows in icons because in God’s Kingdom, everything is filled with light.

Once the icon is finished and allowed to dry for 3 weeks, a layer of special vanish is poured lightly to preserve the work.

SYMBOLS:

The 4-Leaf Cross: Represent the creation of God’s fertile and rejuvenating life on earth. Also, a reminder to always be grateful to God for His generosity in providing man with all the survival necessaries of life. This cross is a symbol of the cycles of 4 seasons in the East, West, North and South. This type of cross is a recalling of Christ’s crucifixion for us sinners, and a symbolic encouragement for repentance at any time and from anywhere.

Circle/Ring of Sky: Circle means never-ending/eternal and the circle of life. The ring symbolizes a bound that embraces all of God’s earthly creation and eternal heaven.

Smoky Galaxy: Evocative of incense, an offering, a prayerful worship of the One-True and Holy Divine presence.

Celestial Stars: Scattered in groups with different sizes to create depth of the universe. It is associated with the divine and heavenly presence, representing hope and protection from above. It is a sign of peace and spiritual growth. Its radiating light is a reminder of our connection with God the greatest, and how far we have come. The star can also symbolize a new beginning or transition in spiritual life, like a journey of self-discovery that helps us to navigate our lives with courage and determination. The shooting strokes on the stars represent creation of human creativity and a bridge between the flesh and spirit. It also represents the truth, guidance and enlightenment, as well as hope and protection. The ancients used the light of the stars to navigate the night skies and find their way home.

The Decorative Winding Lines: Those connected semi-circles between the crosses and kneeling angel represent eternity and praying without ceasing.

Halo of Christ: A disk of gold rays of light, a sun glowing from the holiness of the Holy Trinity. The red ring around the halo is a symbol of the circle which has no beginning and no end, a sign that God’s love for us has no beginning and no end.

Cross on Halo (Cruciform): Reserved only for Jesus Christ. The cross is the principal symbol of the Christian religion, recalling the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and redeeming benefits of His passion, death and resurrection.

The Letters Ο W Ν in the Cruciform: The Greek letters (Omicron, Omega (small case) and Nu) are inscribed in the Cruciform.  The translation of this abbreviation is “The One Being” or “I Am Who I Am". These words are the answer Moses received on Mount Sinai when he asked for the name of HIM to whom he was speaking with.

IC~XC letters behind Jesus’s Head as the Title of the Icon of Jesus: These inscribed letters of the Greek alphabet - Iota and Sigma (small case) - and Chi and Sigma (small case) - are taken from the first and last letters of the words “Jesus Christ”. This style of letters in the icon are always known as: “Jesus Christ, the Ruler over All!”. Usually, they are written in Red but were not visible on the icon’s dark Circle. Therefore, they were colored in yellow representing gold as the light, and as symbol of everlasting glow.

JESUS’ FACIAL EXPRESSIONS:

Eyes: The right eye expresses compassion, understanding and tenderness. The left eye, however, expresses Jesus as the Ruler and Judge.

White Pouring out from Jesus’ Right Eye: suggests that He is constantly looking after/upon us.

Jesus’ Nose: Straight and long to signify no interruption in traditional faith.

Jesus’ Ears: They are written larger than normal; this is a message to the reader to listen carefully to the Word of God during church service.

Jesus’ Lips: They are sealed shut, which is a advice to keep quiet during the Divine Liturgy.

Right Hand: Held in gesture of blessing over us. The fingers shape the letters ICXC, meaning that The Father, The Son & the Holy Spirit are as One God! 

Jesus’ Left Hand: is holding/lifting up the Bible from the bottom, presenting a new beginning, and separating Old from the New Testaments.

Gospel Book Words: "I am the WAY, and the TRUTH and the LIFE” (John 14:6), is placed here as a message of hope and direction towards a stronger faith.

Green Beads on Collar of Jesus’ Red Robe: Represent precious gems suited for royalty, and an inheritance of everlasting treasure.