The icon of mercy
Throughout the year 2015, our Community at Taizé is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its foundation, and invites people to remember its founder, Brother Roger, 100 years after his birth and ten years since his passing to the life of eternity. The theme especially proposed for reflection this year is “Towards a new solidarity”; and the Community has decided to have an icon painted telling the story of the Good Samaritan. This Bible text from chapter 10 of St. Luke’s Gospel gives a clear example of solidarity put into practice. The icon was made by the Icon Workshop of St John of Damascus in France.
The main person visible on the icon is Christ, standing in the centre. His figure is elongated and wears a garment coloured white with a greenish tint. The most significant part of the figure is his kind and welcoming face. With his right hand, he makes a gesture of blessing, and in his left hand he holds an open book of the Gospels showing the Greek letters alpha and omega.
Christ is surrounded by a long halo or mandorla made up of deep blue and red bands and of white and gold lines that give its surface mandorla an undulating movement. A thick white band forms the mandorla’s outer edge. This band does not just follow the outline, but twists outwards into loops that make six circles placed regularly around the edge of the mandorla. Within these circles, the parable of the Good Samaritan is represented in six episodes.
So from top to bottom and from left to right, the images on either side of Christ recount the gospel passage. The first image shows the robbers attacking their victim. In the second, we see the victim lying on the ground, as the priest and the Levite pass by on the other side in prayer, but leaving the victim on the roadside. Then the Good Samaritan arrives with his donkey, leans down to the man and lifts him up. He tends his wounds. At the inn, the wounded man is in bed, and the Samaritan stands beside him. In the final image, the victim, the Samaritan and the innkeeper are seated together sharing a meal around a table.
Above and below the mandorla with Christ at the centre, four angels are depicted worshipping God. Three are in red, and the last is in a greenish blue. At the very top, behind the angels, is a red ribband with a waving movement, and at the bottom, behind the angels, is a green ribband. On the ribbands are the words (in French) “Whatever you have done for the least of my brothers or sisters you have done for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Christ, dressed in white, is the heavenly Christ, transfigured, as he will come at the end of time. By his presence he blesses us and he tells us the story of the Good Samaritan. The mandorla signifies the mystery of God that is beyond our understanding. But, dressed in white like a newborn child, Christ comes to us and reveals God to us.
In the images telling the parable story, the victim is also represented clothed in white: Christ is present in the wounded person who needs our help. In several of these images, the position of the victim echoes moments of Christ’s passion (the scourging, the taking down from the cross). The good Samaritan is dressed in green, a colour that symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is true that it is not easy to come to help those who are in need, but if we begin to do so, the Holy Spirit comes into us and works through us.
In the first image, three figures are visible: the two robbers and the victim they are attacking. It is the image of a disfigured trinity. Recalling the story of the murder of Abel by Cain at the beginning of the Bible, the parable begins by showing harmony broken by sin. Humanity, though created “in the image of God”, is no longer in his likeness. In the last image, again we see three persons. They are sitting around the table, on which stands a cup – as on the icon of the Holy Trinity: the Trinitarian harmony has been re-established. While a piety that forgets one’s neighbour, like that of the priest and the Levite who pass by the victim, is only a form of idolatry, love, the work of charity accomplished by the good Samaritan, restores humanity to the likeness of God.
The icon was made using the traditional iconographic technique handed down in the Orthodox Church: egg tempera and gold leaf on a wooden board covered in lefka (a white chalk-based gesso). As in most icons, the representational style is essentially that of Byzantine art. But since the art of the icon is not a gift reserved solely for the Christian East, different elements of the Western artistic tradition, especially that of the Burgundy region, have been introduced into the figure of Christ and to the composition as a whole. So the Christ figure recalls the image of Christ in glory in the Chapelle des Moines at Berzé, or Christ as he is represented on the tympana of Romanesque churches such as Vézelay. The composition as a whole, with the bands springing from the mandorla, is inspired by the art of manuscript illumination.
From the artistic point of view, the interest of this icon is in the fact that it is not a copy of a traditional image, but a new representation. It is a new image, born from reflection on the parable of the Good Samaritan, whose forms and colours reveal aspects the gospel with a new freshness. So the icon is a part of a living tradition in which the Holy Spirit enables us to keep rediscovering faith in a new way.
Last updated: 8 June 2015
THE CHURCH OF MERCYThe Church of Mercy Quotes (showing 1-30 of 35)
“To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change. To change! And why must I change? So that I can adapt to the situations in which I must proclaim the Gospel. To stay close to God, we need to know how to set out; we must not be afraid to set out.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Situations can change; people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good. Do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it with good.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Jesus on the cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God's love he conquers it; he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the cross. Christ's cross, embraced with love, never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“If we—all of us—accept the grace of Jesus Christ, he changes our heart and from sinners makes us saints. To become holy we do not need to turn our eyes away and look somewhere else, or have as it were the face on a holy card! No, no, that is not necessary. To become saints only one thing is necessary: to accept the grace that the Father gives us in Jesus Christ. There, this grace changes our heart. We continue to be sinners for we are weak, but with this grace which makes us feel that the Lord is good, that the Lord is merciful, that the Lord waits for us, that the Lord pardons us—this immense grace that changes our heart.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel, is the language of communion that invites us to get the better of closedness and indifference, division and antagonism.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with our Lord, who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“St. Paul says that “the love of Christ compels us,” but this “compels us” can also be translated as “possesses us.” And so it is: love attracts us and sends us; it draws us in and gives us to others.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened, and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life—welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk; you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid. Trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you, and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, because believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth that embraces and possesses us.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Do you allow yourselves to be gazed upon by the Lord? But how do you do this? You look at the tabernacle and you let yourselves be looked at . . . it is simple! “It is a bit boring; I fall asleep.” Fall asleep then, sleep! He is still looking at you. But know for sure that he is looking at you!”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
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“It is not creativity, however pastoral it may be, or meetings or planning that ensures our fruitfulness, even if these are greatly helpful. But what ensures our fruitfulness is our being faithful to Jesus, who says insistently: “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:4).”
― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness God brings us, the newness God asks of us. We are like the apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“to start anew from Christ means being close to him, being close to Jesus. Jesus stresses the importance of this with the disciples at the Last Supper, as he prepares to give us his own greatest gift of love, his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus uses the image of the vine and the branches and says, Abide in my love, remain attached to me, as the branch is attached to the vine. If we are joined to him, then we are able to bear fruit.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“worldliness, which is a homicidal attitude. Spiritual worldliness kills! It kills the soul! It kills the person! It kills the Church! PART NINE”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“But I am telling you: I would prefer a thousand times over a bruised Church to an ill Church!”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy: His First Major Book: A Message of Hope for All People
“This is what it means to be close to Christ. Abide in Jesus! This means remaining attached to him, in him, and with him, talking to him. Abide in Jesus!”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Let us remain with Christ—abiding in Christ—and let us always try to be one with him. Let us follow him; let us imitate him in his movement of love, in his going forth to meet humanity. Let us go forth and open doors. Let us have the audacity to mark out new paths for proclaiming the Gospel.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“A pastoral presence means walking with the People of God, walking in front of them, showing them the way, showing them the path; walking in their midst, to strengthen them in unity; walking behind them, to make sure no one gets left behind, but especially, never to lose the scent of the People of God in order to find new roads.”
― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
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“Let us pray to the Holy Spirit, who is truly the author of this unity in variety, of this harmony, that he might make us ever more “catholic” in this Church that is catholic and universal!”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“The prophet Ezekiel said, “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” This is the experience the apostle Paul had after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. It radically changed his outlook on life, and he received baptism. God transformed his heart! However, only think: a persecutor, a man who hounded out the Church and Christians, a man who became a saint, a Christian to the marrow, a genuine Christian! First he was a violent persecutor, then he became an apostle, a witness of Jesus Christ so brave that he was not afraid of suffering martyrdom. In the end, the Saul who wanted to kill those who proclaimed the Gospel gave his own life to proclaim it.”
― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy0 likes Like
“It is so very sad to find a worldly Christian who is sure—according to him or her—of that security that the faith gives and of the security that the world provides. You cannot be on both sides. The Church—all of us—must strip herself of the worldliness that leads to vanity, to pride, that is idolatry.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Humility, meekness, magnanimity, and love to preserve unity! These, these are the roads, the true roads of the Church. Let us listen to this again. Humility against vanity, against arrogance—humility, meekness, magnanimity, and love preserve unity.”
― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“Let each one ask him- or herself today, “Do I increase harmony in my family, in my parish, in my community, or am I a gossip? Am I a cause of division or embarrassment?” And you know the harm that gossiping does to the Church, to the parishes, the communities. Gossip does harm! Gossip wounds. Before Christians open their mouths to gossip, they should bite their tongue! To bite one’s tongue: this does us good because the tongue swells and can no longer speak, cannot gossip.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“The Holy Spirit is the mover. This is why prayer is important. It is the soul of our commitment as men and women of communion, of unity. Pray to the Holy Spirit that he may come and create unity in the Church.”
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“You could say to me, “But the Church is made up of sinners; we see them every day.” And this is true: we are a Church of sinners. And we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God.”― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
“The Church, which is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject us because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her; she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness, and the forgiveness of the Father,”
― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
PODCAST OF PETER KREEFT ON
Questions posed by Peter Kreeft:
The following questions do not divide Protestants and Catholics—and they are the most important questions of all...
Is God a transcendent, supernatural, personal, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, providential, loving, just Creator? Or is God an immanent cosmic force evolving in nature and man?
Do miracles really happen? Or has science refuted them? A transcendent God can perform miracles; a merely immanent, naturalistic God cannot. The three great miracles essential to orthodox Christianity are the Incarnation, the Resurrection and the new birth.
Is there a heaven? Or is heaven just all the good on earth?
Does God really love me? Or is that just a helpful sentiment?
Does God forgive my sins through Christ? Or is sin an outdated concept? In other words, is Christ a mere human example or a Savior from sin?
Is Christ divine, eternal, from the beginning? Or is he only divine “as all men are divine”?
Did he physically rise from the dead? Or is the Resurrection only a myth, a beautiful symbol?
Must we be born again from above to be saved, to have God as our Father? Or is everyone saved automatically? Does everyone have God as Father simply by being born as a human being, or by being reasonably nice during life?
Is Scripture God’s word to us? Or is it human words about God? Does it have divine or human authority behind it? And can an ordinary Christian understand its true meaning without reading German theologians?
Most important of all, can I really meet God in Christ? If I ask him to be my Lord, the Lord of my life, will he really do it? Or is this just a “religious experience”? This question is really one with the question: Did Christ really rise from the dead? That is, is he alive now? Can I say: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”?
Affirmative answers to these questions constitute the most important kind of unity already: not unity of thought but unity of being, the new being, being “in Christ”.
The evangelical resurgence, the charismatic movement, and the born-again phenomenon are all indications that God is working in our time at precisely this center, this place of unity. No human can create new being, and therefore no human can create unity, for unity follows being. But although with man it is impossible, with God all things are possible. God can and does create new being in us, and therefore God can create new unity among us—and he’s doing it right now! We are witnessing with our own eyes in this generation the definitive solution to the problem of division in the Church. God is solving the problem in exactly the same way he solves all our problems. He has one answer to all our needs, and the answer is a Person.It’s working. You can see it, surely, at charismatic prayer meetings: without compromise, indifference, or watering down their faith, Protestants and Catholics are experiencing the kind of Christian unity New Testament Christians experienced: unity in Christ. And the world is noticing: “See how they love one another!”
St. Isaac – Mercy and Justice
by Fr. Stephen Freeman (Orthodox)
my source: Glory to God for All Things
There is a strain within some forms of Western theology that is deeply concerned with the “justice” of God. Some even go so far as to say that God is constrained by His justice – that He cannot deny its demands (to do so, they argue, would make Him “less than just”). It is common for Orthodox theology to find this problematic. Here St. Isaac of Syria states the case quite clearly:
Mercy and justice in the same soul is like the man who worships God and idols in the same temple. Mercy is in contradiction with justice. Justice is the return of the equal. Because it returns to man that which he deserves and it does not bend to one side neither is it partial in the retaliation. But mercy is sorrow that is moved by grace and bends to all with sympathy and it does not return the harm to him who deserves it although it overfills him who deserves good. … And as it is not possible for hay and fire to be able to exist in the same house, the same way it is not possible for justice and mercy to be in the same soul. As the grain of sand cannot be compared with a great amount of gold – the same way God’s need for justice cannot be compared with his mercy. Because man’s sin, in comparison to the providence and the mercy of God, are like a handful of sand that falls in the sea and the Creator’s mercy cannot be defeated by the wickedness of the creatures.
I understand that many have a passion for the justice of God – believing that in the end everyone will be requited in the proper manner and this “balancing” will somehow make right all of the evil that may have been tolerated for a while. There is no doubt that many times our evil actions bring evil consequences on us (not as punishment from God but as our own self-willed estrangement from His Divine Life). But the vision of the Fathers and the vision of Christ’s revelation of the Father as received in the Church is of the infinite mercy of God.
Abba Ammonas states:
Love is not in enmity with anybody, it does not abuse anybody, it does not detest anybody neither believer nor unbeliever or foreigner or fornicator, or unclean. On the contrary it loves more the sinners and the weak and the negligent and for their sake it toils and mourns and weeps. It empathizes with the wicked and the sinners more than it does with the good, imitating and drinking with them. Therefore when He wanted to show us which is the true love he taught saying ‘be then compassionate as your Father is compassionate'(Luke 6:36) and as he sends his rain on the good and the wicked and makes His sun rise on the honest and the dishonest, the same way he who truly loves, loves everybody and has compassion for all and prays for all.
This sort of discourse can provoke anger in some readers – particularly those who demand that justice must, in the end, be done. I cannot help but feel that those who demand justice of God are like those who stood about the woman taken in adultery and demanded her stoning. Christ rebuked them, seeking to show them the sin in their own heart (“he who is without sin let him cast the first stone). By a strange quirk of Christian theology, there are those who feel “righteous” in their own heart, arguing that, having accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, they now have the righteousness of Christ (“imputed righteousness”) and thus feel safe in calling for justice to be done to others (thinking, I suppose, that this threat will provoke repentance). But justice is a very dangerous thing indeed. Though it may be called for in the interest of provoking someone to repentance, it can quickly become a thing in itself, and gather us up into the company of those who are outwardly righteous but inwardly “full of dead men’s bones.”
Spiritually, it is of far greater benefit and safety to simply beg the mercy of God for those who are trapped in sin, and see and treat them with the mercy of God. We are commanded to love even our enemies. I can think of no commandment that says we are to judge the unrighteous.
By the same token, I think it becomes theologically dangerous for us to project this judgement onto God who has shown us His mercy in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This unbounded love of God is limited only by theologians who seek to set requirements on the reception of the love of God. Let them return to His mercy and first determine where it ends before they suggest the beginning of something else.