Physical ~ Icons at St. Paul’s
Have you noticed the new icons in our church? There are three new additions: An icon of the Holy Trinity just above the votive candle stand. This is a copy of a famous icon by Adreij Rublev and it depicts God’s visit to Abraham and Sarah at Mamre (cf. Genesis 18). The story has long been understood as a foreshadowing of the revelation of God as the Three-in-One and the icon celebrates this most central aspect of our Christian Faith.
Above the credence table just to the South (right) of the High Altar, you can now find an icon of The Three Hierarchs and an icon of The Myrrh-bearing Women.
It is a long-held tradition to place icons of bishops close to the altar as a sign of the unity of the church throughout space and time and as a reminder of the sacramental nature of the church.
Unfortunately, though, there are no Eastern Orthodox icons of women-bishops, because the Eastern church has not yet heeded the movement of the Spirit that revealed the full inclusion of women in all aspects of ministry. There are, however, quasi-sacramental images of women even in the Christian East: On icons depicting St. Mary Magdalene, for example, she is described as the Apostle to the Apostles, because she proclaimed the good news of the resurrection to the disciples who had hidden in fear after the crucifixion. Mary Magdalene is the first to claim the apostolic office. She could easily be termed the first bishop of the church.
Similarly, all the women (Mary Magdalene included) who came to Jesus’ tomb on the first Easter morning, did so carrying myrrh, a spiced oil used to anoint for healing and to anoint the dead. They came to reveal love in the midst of darkness and death. This is, therefore, not just an act of obedience and love, but a deeply sacramental rite. Thus, the icon of The Myrrh-bearing Women is a profoundly sacramental image, not just celebrating the healing ministry of the church, but also the rightful place of women as presiders over the sacraments. The icon of The Myrrh-bearing Women balances the icon of The Three Hierarchs. Together, they unite men and women at the table.