The Rev. Dr. Han van den Blink
St. Paul’s Church, Troy

He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
He set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
Psalm 40:2

continuation of January 22nd post

I immediately felt powerfully drawn to the ikon of the Sinai Pantokrator Christ. I had never before seen an image of Jesus that I sensed resembled what he might actually have looked like. It occurred to me that there may have been an oral tradition for a number of years that described our Lord’s features. At first I felt uneasy sitting prayerfully with this ikon. I was raised in the Reformed tradition and worries about idolatry began to rise in my mind. But after a while I was able to let go of my anxiety and be more open to the experience of praying with the ikon.

When I was able to do that, something completely unexpected happened. My eyes welled with tears. I felt as if the right eye of the Pantokrator Christ looked right through me, like an x-ray, seeing everything in me and about me, both the good and the bad, but in a way that was diagnostic, not judgmental. And then I noticed that the left eye, with a faint tear trickling down Christ’s cheek, gazed at me with enormous compassion.

I had this overpowering sense of Christ’s presence, of God seeing me through the eyes of this ikon of Jesus, seeing right through me, seeing also all the parts of me that I am ashamed of, seeing all my sins and errors, but at the same time seeing me with a look of profound compassion, letting me know that I am accepted, that I too am loved.

Even now, more than twenty years later, I am filled with gratitude that it was given to me to have this transformative experience. It felt and still feels like being given a surer footing for my faith.

Reflecting on this experience afterwards, I became aware of another aspect of this encounter with the Pantokrator Christ ikon. I can only describe it as a unexpected insight into the way belief in the Trinity may have begun, as it did with me that day, namely with prayer. I was certain that my strong attraction to praying with the ikon of the Pantokrator Christ was motivated by the Holy Spirit. And I became viscerally aware of the boundless truth and compassion of God as they were refracted through the eyes of Christ. This was a particularly powerful experience of the transformative energies of God in my life.