By Barbara A. Schoeneberger
A few weeks ago I began a search for
an icon of the face of Christ that would speak compellingly to people in
great distress since I am meeting so many of them in my life right now.
I thought that if they had an image of Jesus that they could look at,
perhaps their hearts would calm and they could begin to find peace. I
also wanted a prayer to put on the back. After a few days devoted to
this task and rejecting image after image, I found the following icon at
a Russian site. It is late 19th century, held in a private
collection and the writer unknown. The icon type is “Icon of the Savior
Not Made by Hands”, a most intriguing title.
This is one of the oldest image
types of the Eastern Church and has been written many times over the
centuries. Via Wikipedia and research from other sources:
According to the legend, the fame of
Jesus’s miracles had spread throughout the region and into Syria as
related by Matthew 4:24. King Abgar of Edessa,
though not having seen Jesus but believing in him, desired to be cured
of leprosy, according to some accounts. He could not travel into Roman
territory because of a treaty with Caesar, so he sent his court painter,
Ananias, to find Jesus, give him the letter, and paint His portrait.
Ananias was unable to get near enough to Jesus to render an image
because of the crowds, but Jesus called Him over and gave him a letter
for Abgar declining his invitation but praising his faith and promising
to send one of His disciples to him. Along with the letter went a
likeness of Jesus said to have been formed by Our Lord wiping his face
with a towel. Upon beholding it, Abgar was healed.
This legend was first
recorded in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea,
who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in
the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa. The apostle “Thaddaeus“, known as “Addai” in Syriac, went to Edessa after Pentecost, was welcomed by Abgar, preached the Gospel and healed many.
Continue reading at Barbara's blog Suffering With Joy.
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