This icon is also known as the Theophany (‘the appearance of God’) icon since all members of the Trinity become known at the same time – Christ in His incarnate body, the Spirit as a dove and the Father as a voice from heaven. You may notice a strange wiggly line proceeding from heaven underneath the dove; this is in fact a sound wave describing the invisible voice of the Father saying “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased”. In this icon two trees are shown. The tree that is fruitful is a symbol of the people of God, producing 7 spiritual fruits from their spiritual labours. The other is like the Pharisees, seeming to be a healthy tree but producing no fruit. An axe beneath the unfruitful tree refers to St John the Baptist’s words in the gospel of Matthew, as he says to the Pharisees ‘The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire’ (Matt 3:10). St John is dressed in the camel skin he wore in the desert and a red himation (Greco-Roman outer garment) to describe the blood he would shed in his martyrdom. The angels, who wait patiently bearing white cloths in their hands, are portrayed in this icon as a reference to the verse ‘angels attended Him’ (Matt 4:11) when Christ retreated into the desert to be tempted.

Epiphany

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