Icon of Friendship

This is a copy of the Coptic icon which belonged to Brother Roger Schultz, the former prior of Taize.  Brother Roger, while leading a prayer service in Taize on the  16th August, 2005, was stabbed to death by a mentally ill woman.  The Community of Taize now keep Brother Roger’s icon in the Church of Reconciliation at the monastery.  The original icon dates from seventh century Eygpt. It is usually called “Christ with the believer” but is just as frequently referred to as “ the icon of friendship”.

Although simple in its presentation, it is nevertheless a sophisticated image.  Jesus is shown putting His arm around the shoulder of a friend; this man is called Menas, but he represents each one of us.  Jesus does not face Menas, rather He stands alongside him; He accompanies him, sharing in the burdens of life.

In His left arm Jesus holds the Scriptures, God’s word.  The word tells the story of the love between God and humanity; the tireless love of God for His people in spite of the  limitations and unfaithfulness of their love.  The face of Jesus commands attention, not in a triumphal way, but with a calm and silent authority.  His eyes, large and open, accentuated by strong eyebrows, and deep round shadows are not severe or judgemental but gentle.  His gaze is still, focused and intense.  He looks beyond the world to His Father.  Just as, with a gentle hand on the shoulder, Jesus guides Menas to contemplate in wonder the love of the Father for all, so does He guide us.

Menas holds in his hand a small unopened scroll; perhaps this symbolizes God’s loving but not fully revealed plan for Menas’ life.

The gentle expression of friendship depicted in the icon allows for a glimpse into the all embracing love of Jesus revealed on the Cross and a great reminder to us in the Parish of Antrim that Christ is always with us on our journey.  He will help us to “ to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God”