We continue to explore the symbols of the Icon of the Christ of San Damiano, now hanging in our three churches…
The figure on the right in the red cloak is the centurion whose son was cured by Jesus. It is from his act of faith that we take the words before receiving Holy Communion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof… On his left shoulder we can see his son’s face and if we look attentively behind the boy there are what is thought to be the foreheads of three persons. These three persons represent the centurion’s family who had all been brought to the faith. The painter did not place a halo around the centurion’s head, probably because he felt it more important to have space to include the centurion’s son. However, the faith of this man is expressed in two ways. First of all, his eyes are focused intently on Jesus; the three extended fingers of his right hand symbolise his belief in the Trinity, while the two fingers that remain closed show his adherence to the two natures of Christ. The centurion represents the multitude of people who coming to faith in later life have responded faithfully to the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
Near the left leg of Jesus, the artist has painted a rooster. This is not the cock that crowed as Peter denied Christ three times, because the icon shows Christ glorified with his chosen ones; the time of denials is past. Rather in past ages, when we lived close to nature, the rooster became a symbol of the rising sun. The cock is a symbol of what St Peter wrote in his letter that Jesus is the true light now and forever rising on the world. Clouds may obscure this Sun, but they are only clouds. We walk in his light in order not to stumble on obstacles along the way.
At the very base of the icon there appears to be a stone or rock. There are a number of options here. It could refer to the altar on which the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated to mystically and seamlessly connect us to the one sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. It may also recall the words of Jesus to Peter “You are Peter and, on this rock, I will build my Church”. Or it may be a personal message for each of us, reminding us of Jesus’ advice: “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them is like the man who, when he built a house, dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But someone who listens and does nothing is like the man who built a house on soil, with no foundations; as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed and how great was the ruin of that house.”