Icon of Christ and His Friend

Icon of Christ and His Friend 1Nowhere is this image of God drawing close to us more profoundly demonstrated than in the 5th century Egyptian icon of Christ and Abba Menas currently hanging in the Louvre in Paris. The French, however, do not call it Christ and Abba Menas they title it Christ and His Friend. Reflection upon this icon can be used to demonstrate what it is to live the Christian life, to do pastoral work and, more specifically, how to form disciples in Christ.

In the icon we notice the unusual position of Christ with his arm around “the friend.” This embrace can be seen as demonstrating the change of status we have with Christ. He no longer calls us servants but rather friends. “No longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I called you friends, for all that I have heard from the Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

The second thing this icon teaches about the relational love of the Lord for us is the position of the eyes. Christ has an eye on the friend and another looking out. We need to follow Christ’s example, we can have one eye on Christ and one eye on those under our care. “Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

This icon shows the Lord Jesus Christ holding the scriptures, symbolizing that He is the Word, the truth. We are like the friend in the icon, we also have been given something to share, as signified by the small scroll that the friend is holding. But we are only given enough wisdom to rely on God to provide more.

The next detail of this icon to consider is that Christ has no feet. The fact that the friend has feet can be understood as being sent out like the Father sent the Son. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’” John 20:21

Finally, there is a silence found in this icon as in all icons. Christ and His friend have their mouths closed. The friend, however, is painted with very prominent ears. We are to primarily listeners of God. There is a silence in the icon. A prayerful silence where not a word is spoken. Mother Teresa was asked what her secret was and she said, “My secret is simple, I pray.” So someone asked her what she said when she prayed and she said, “nothing, I listen.” So the interviewer asked, “OK, when you pray what does God say?” And Mother Teresa answered, “Nothing, He listens.” Prayer is a mutual listening.



Filed under Orthodox Christianity, Sources of Orthodox Tradition: Series

5 responses to “Icon of Christ and His Friend

  1. Wow, very nice analysis of this ancient icon. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Beeeaaaauuuuutiful, Father! Thanks for that. Prayer is a mutual listening — stunning. I’m going to be thinking about that all day. . .

  3. PW

    I have never read an interpretation of an icon before! This has certainly opened my eyes to the beauty and deep meaning of what icons can be. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    btw, when I read the part about the Friend having the feet I thought about the Scripture references. I looked on Biblegateway.com and found the following references to “feet….who bring Good News”
    Isaiah 52:7
    Nahum 1:15
    Romans 10:15

  4. gerardfc

    Thanks for the description about the icon.

    The icon is meaningful for me in another way. I got the icon from my very best friend. He bought two icon, one for me and one for him. Through this icon we remember our friendship. I always look at the icon everyday to keep our friendship alive.

  5. beautiful post, beautiful icon.

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