The San Damiano Crucifix
The picture of the San Damiano crucifix (pictured above) that has been introduced to our churches is a copy of the cross before which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when he received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church. It is a fitting icon for us to meditate on as we follow the Hope in the Future programme.
We say “read” an icon, because each particular detail of an icon is something to understand and not only a thing to look at as in a common picture. Therefore, we look at a picture and we read an icon. So it is with the icon of the crucified Christ that we see now displayed in our Churches.
Even theologians can find great pleasure in reading the immense and profound messages within this icon. In the large figure of Jesus, we can see the Primacy of Christ. His garment identifies him as a High Priest of the New Covenant interceding for us in heaven.
For us to spend time, on this page exploring the meaning of all the symbols we see in the icon, just to mention a few: the Seashells, the Crown of Glory, the Frame, the Veil, the Centurions, the Rock and the Rooster, we would run out of space in this Newsletter.
So, in the newsletter over the coming weeks we shall explore in greater detail each of the symbols and their meaning, so that the spirit of light can enlighten our hearts and enable us to appreciate and understand the profound teaching contained in this icon.
This icon, is often referred to as an Icon of Hope, for we see the Risen Jesus, victorious over death and evil. The black background represents evil and emphasises Christ’s victory over evil. The Virgin Mary smiles at John. Jesus shown ascending into heaven (at the top) is also smiling. All the characters are shown in a state of joy.
The border of the icon is formed of a number of shells. Among the ancients the seashell was a symbol of the beauty and eternity of heaven, because of its beauty and endurance. So, this border of seashells shows us that the icon is destined by its very nature to reveal a heavenly mystery. However, the border is not fully complete. It is not closed at the base but a space has been left free to allow for an entry. (For us when our time is right.) Right at the opening we see some characters that might be believers, they are already in heaven, possibly us in the future. Two of the characters are easily discernible; the others probably have been erased by the kisses of the faithful venerating the icon.