By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
As you have noticed, we have a new Icon of Jesus Christ in the ceiling of our Church. The area that we placed the Icon is called the Soleas in Orthodox terminology. The Soleas is where the faithful receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The Icon of Jesus Christ is called the "Pantocrator", which means "King". Jesus Christ is our King, He is the Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven that will have no end.
Why is it important for us to have an Icon of Jesus Christ in the highest point in our Church?
It is the philosophy of the Orthodox Christian Church to "Let the walls teach" this also includes the ceiling and the whole Church as well.
We learn from having the Icon of Jesus Christ mounted in the ceiling that He is above all creation.
By placing Him in the highest, place in the Church - people are reminded that Jesus Christ is the entire reason for the Church, He is God, He is the Lord, and the King of all.
Notice that in the halo above His head you see the words "I AM". The words "I AM" is the name of God; its use indicates a Theophany, or revelation of God. These two little words, "I AM" are the most powerful words in our lives. We will focus on these two powerful words today.
In the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 8 we read: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. Then the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, 'I AM'".
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one." John 10, verses 27 through 30.
After His Resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ appeared to His Disciples saying, "All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I AM with you always, even to the end of the age."
In the Scriptures: Matthew 18 verse 20 we read: "For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, I AM there in the midst of them."
We see from the words "I AM" that He has promised to be with us when we gather in His Holy Name. Indeed, Jesus Christ is with us in teachings of His Gospel. As we celebrate the Divine Liturgy He blesses the hearts of the faithful believers with His Holy, enlightening presence.
When the Sadducees came to Jesus Christ, claiming that there was no resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ astonished the multitudes when He said, "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God saying, I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
In the Gospel according to St. John Chapter 6, verse 35 we read: "And Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."
Jesus Christ said "I AM" the bread of life, and truly His Holy presence is in the Communion we share as Orthodox Christians.
Have you ever felt a thirst for knowledge concerning Jesus Christ? His words are like living water that flows from Heaven into our thirsty hearts.
Remember in the Scriptures when Jesus Christ asked the Samaritan woman at the well to give Him a drink of water. We read in John Chapter 4, verse 10, "Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water." He went on to say in verses 13 and 14, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
In the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, we find the teachings of God the Word, or Jesus Christ. His words are a wellspring of living water. Life cannot be sustained without water, and neither can a soul be sustained without this living water that comes from God Himself. To draw from this everlasting fountain we need to read the Scriptures and follow a life of frequent prayer.
The woman at the well said to Him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. When He comes He will tell us all these things. Jesus said to her, "I Who speak to you AM He."
When the man who had been born blind was brought to Jesus Christ to have his sight restored, the Disciples asked Jesus who had sinned and caused this man to be born blind, his parents or the man. Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him Who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I AM the light of the world."
From the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 12: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep."
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I AM lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."
And finally, we read in St. John, Chapter 15, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing." In this Scripture passage, Jesus Christ is telling His Disciples that He is the Vine, and His Disciples are the branches of the vine. Without the vine, the branches will wither and die, so in order for the branches to thrive and bear fruit, they must remain part of the vine. His Disciples were instructed that they must abide in Him to bear fruit. This means that they should follow and teach His precepts faithfully and without heresy or distortion, and continue His Ministry until the end of this world.
"Be still and know that I AM God." Psalm 46:10. Truly two small words can teach all the wisdom of the ages.
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