This is the classic Eastern image of Jesus. It does not show us a white-skinned, blue-eyed Jesus, but a man from the Eastern Mediterranean, with olive skin and brown eyes. His face is strong – he is someone to be reckoned with.
This famous icon has been kept in the monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai for centuries and is older than any British cathedral.
This beautiful portrait of Jesus is a rare survivor. Late in the first millennium after Christ, the church had a major disagreement about whether images such as this should be painted, and many thousands of them were thrown onto bonfires or smashed up. This is one of the few really old images to have survived and it dates from the 6th century.
Images such as this one are called “icons”. They are placed in churches where Christians can see them and use them in their worship of Christ. People light candles before them, use them to pray to God and show their love of Christ by bowing before them and even kissing them. This may seem strange to a westerner, but it is essentially the same as having a much-treasured photograph of someone you love.
The purpose of this icon of Jesus is to encourage us to pray – not just to look. That is why Jesus is looking straight out at us. It is as if he is calling us to respond to him, calling us to come home to God.
Jesus, invincible power
Jesus, unending mercy
Jesus, radiant beauty
Jesus, unspeakable love
Jesus, Son of the living God
Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner
Jesus, hear me, for I was conceived in iniquity
Jesus, cleanse me, for I was born in sin
Jesus, teach me, for I have been a fool
Jesus, enlighten me, for I have been in darkness
Jesus, purify me, for I am defiled
Jesus, restore me, the prodigal
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.
Hymn from the Eastern Church
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Christians have been making images of Jesus since the early centuries of the church. In this section, we look at pictures of the face of Christ – some of them centuries old, some of them from today.
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