The Icon of the Ascension
An "icon" in the Christian Byzantine tradition is an image of Christ, a saint, or a pivotal event in the Judeo-Christian history. The icon writer frequently begins a work session with prayer and meditation upon the mysteries of the image s/he is creating.
Traditionally there are twenty two steps in the creation of an icon in the St. Petersburg Russia School of Iconography. These steps include the stretching of a linen cloth over a solid hardwood panel of wood and the coating of the linen with a mixture of marble dust and hide glue. Once this base is dried, the icon writer begins the work of creating the images using natural mineral and plant pigments mixed with egg yolk, and oftentimes, even with gold leaf. Once the pigments are sufficiently dried, the icon is sealed with linseed oil. The entire process can take up to six months.
The faithful consider the final image to be "a window into heaven" and as a means to assist the faithful to enter into the mystery the icon incarnates in this world.
This icon was written in 2012 by Mr. Frank Weir, of Bastrop TX. It now graces the sanctuary of the Church of the Ascension, creating a "window into heaven" of the last mountaintop experience in this world of Jesus and His Church.
The Ascension icon shows Christ, with angels, being escorted back to His heavenly home. His Mother Mary ("Theotokos" or "The God Bearer") stands with angels and the faithful disciples.
The icon is divided into two parts, top and bottom, heaven and earth. The top is in order, the bottom, except for St. Mary, is in confusion. The figures are set against the landscape of the Mount of Olives, scattered with olive trees. It is painted with bright colors as a joyous icon.
Although the icon depicts the event described by Saint Luke, it is not meant to be a historical picture, but a representation of the Church.
Christ is shown inside the mandorla blessing all. This mandorla sphere is being carried up in glory by angels.
Even though we see Christ departing, the Church sees the second and glorious coming in the same icon. Jesus said he would return exactly as he ascended. The icon does not show direction of movement.
The focus of the lower part of the icon is St Mary, the God Bearer. The entire group, St. Mary and the disciples, represent the Church. The disciples are waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit to come later at Pentecost.
The disciples shown can not be the historical gathering, but again a image of the Church. The Apostle Paul who was still Saul, a nonbeliever at that time, is standing next to Mary.
Then two angels in white clothes said to the disciples, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem (Acts 1:11)
An Iconographer's Prayer
“O Divine Lord of all that exists, You have illumined the Apostle and Evangelist Luke with Your Most Holy Spirit, thereby enabling him to represent the most Holy Mother, the one who held You in her arms and said: ‘the Grace of Him Who has been born of me is spread throughout the world.’
Enlighten and direct our souls, our hearts and our spirits. Guide the hands of your unworthy servant, so that we may worthily and perfectly portray your icon, that of Your Holy Mother and of all the saints, for the glory and adornment of Your Holy Church. Forgive our sins and the sins of those who will venerate these icons, and who, standing devoutly before them, give homage those they represent. Protect them from all evil and instruct them with good counsel. This we ask through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Apostle Luke, and all the saints, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”