On the mind of the Rev. Canon George Brandt

May 10, 2024

The icon now mounted in the Chapel of the Resurrection was acquired by me in Rhodes when I traveled there with friends in 1989. It is an Eastern Orthodox representation of Jesus’ Incarnation.

All of the ‘traditional’ personnel of the Christmas story can be seen – the shepherds, the animals, the ‘wise men’, the heavenly host. Yet there are theological elements in Eastern iconography and theology that are present and meant to provoke thought, reflection and faith.

Our Lord’s infancy is not shown in a cute stable surrounded by smiling livestock in a shed. Rather the infant Jesus is in an elaborate carved sarcophagus in a black cave; and in the lower left of the frame we see St. Joseph in a gesture of puzzlement and a man standing and speaking to him. The clue to this is the red undergarment of the other man. He is Satan attempting to convince Joseph that the birth of the child was not of God but of Mary’s and thus human sin.

The cave speaks to the mystery of God’s presence and activity in the creation. The elegant carved sarcophagus points to Jesus’ kingship and significance and ultimately His earthly fate; and the figure in red points to the Satanic effort to draw Joseph and thus mankind to disbelief in God and thus lose Faith.