The reading that this year is illuminating and accompanying the Seminary community treats the visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary in Bethany (Lk 10:38-42). This reading from the Gospel is represented in the icon that has been placed in the chapel. The icon is a daily reminder to us of the call to strenghten our bond with Christ. In fact, in line with the iconic tradition, the icon helps those who see it, or better, those who read it, go deeper into the mystery of Christ.
According to Vincent Mangani, who was entrusted with the writing of this icon, the scene is set indoors. In the iconic tradition, this indoor setting is depicted by buildings on both sides of the icon joined by a piece of cloth. Jesus visits the house of the two sisters. This house in Bethany evokes “the hotel” (literally, “the house that welcomes everything and everybody”) that Luke mentions just before this episode in the parable of the Good Samaritan (cfr Lk 10:34). We, too, are invited to welcome Jesus in our room (cfr Mt 6:6) and to welcome him in the presence of others.
The figure of Christ in the icon is majestic: he is the Pantokrator sitting on the throne. The step beneath his feet shows power. The scroll, which Christ holds in one hand, is a sign of the authority to teach. The other hand is raised in sign of blessing. The following phrase, written on the scroll and taken from Saydon’s Bible, reads: “One thing is useful…” (Lk 10:42). It is necessary that, in his years of formation, the seminarian acknowledges Christ as the Lord from whom every blessing originates, the Master whom he should heed and the Lord whom he must serve faithfully by choosing the one thing that is useful – to stay with him and heed his words – irrespective of all worries and problems.
At the central part of the icon, there is the figure of Mary – it is a diminutive figure that indicates the attitude of smallness of somebody who shows true respect to the Lord. This is explained by the figure of Mary on her knees, with one hand ready to welcome the Word of Christ and with the other hand covered with a veil as a sign of respect (women used to keep their hands covered when approaching the Emperor). Martha features in the other part of the icon; she is holding a bowl in her hands, to remind us that she is worried and upset about many things (cfr Lk 10:41). At the lower end of the icon, there is the phrase that the Seminary community chose for this year: she sat at the Lord’s feet (cfr Lk 10:39).
The empty space in the centre of the icon is to be filled with the person who is meditating the icon as he realizes that he too is called to choose the thing that is useful. In this way every action that this person performs knows its beginning and its end in Jesus Christ.