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Icon of Christ not made with hands

The icon that conveys the deepest truths of our faith is the "Icon of Christ Not Made With Hands," or the "Icon On The Cloth." Numerous legends of Prince Abgar of Edessa account for the origin of this icon-type. The significance of this icon lies in its value as theology in art.

The title of the icon comes from the Gospel verse: "I will destroy this temple made by human hands, and in three days I will construct another, not made by human hands." (Mk. 14: 58) This new temple is the "Temple of Christ's Body." (Jn. 2: 21) He is the true image of God, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God. Because of this, iconography creates images of the Savior according to faith. The iconographer paints not according to his own images, but according to the original image not made by human hands. He paints according to Jesus Christ, Who "is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures." (Col. 1: 15)

Man was originally created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1: 26). Through sin, this image was weakened but never destroyed. The all-loving God restored man to Himself, and makes it possible for men to become "sharers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1: 4). As death came through one man, Adam, now life, the greater and eternal life comes to those who live in Christ, the true image of His Father.

Iconography is the Church's participation in God's self-revelation. Every icon is sacred inasmuch as all icons relate to Christ. "Through Him all things came into being, and apart from Him nothing came to be." (Jn. 1: 3)

The Icon of Christ Not Made With Hands shows only the face of Christ. The face is framed in long locks of hair. Total symmetry allows this im passive expression to lead us to great spiritual awareness. The large eyes, attentive but subdued, saddened but concerned, are empowered to reach into our hearts, for "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (Jn. 3: 17)

Surrounding the head is a nimbus, bearing the cross-form in which the Greek letters "O—WH" express "I am Who am," the name which God gives Himself (EX. 3: 14). Outside the nimbus are the Greek letters IC XC, an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. These inscriptions identify all icons of Christ.

TROPARION — We bow before Your sacred image, O Gracious Lord, and beg forgiveness for our offenses, O Christ our God; for You, of Your own will, deigned to ascend the cross in Your human nature to deliver those whom You have created from the bondage of the enemy. Therefore, we gratefully cry out to You: "By Your coming to save the world, O Savior, You have filled all with joy."