On June 25, 2022, I received an email from a man named Brandon LeTourneau. He wrote “I am reaching out to you on behalf of the Seabury Society. We are an Anglican Devotional Society within the Anglican Church in North America. As you know, yesterday on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Roe vs Wade was overturned! In thanksgiving to God, we have commissioned an icon of St. John the Baptist leading children to Christ. The icon will be 18”x 14.5” containing both St. John the Baptist surrounded by children and our Lord. The icon will be written (painted) by the highly esteemed Roman Selivachov, Ukrainian Iconographer.
I am writing because we would like to dedicate this icon to Anglicans for Life. Would this be alright? We have reached out to the Provincial Pro-Cathedral (Christ Church) in Plano, Texas, asking if the icon could be stored there in a place where all may come and pray for the continued protection of the unborn.”
To say that Anglicans For Life was surprised and humbled by this unexpected honor would be an understatement!
The Icon was delivered in December, and we decided to dedicate and bless it during the Prayer and Worship Service held in conjunction with the Life SUMMIT events in January. Brandon, his wife Marta, and their new baby boy, Augustine were able to attend the dedication and Brandon explained the symbolism behind the icon.
The Seabury Society seeks to help people within the Province deepen their understanding of Anglican devotion. Then when Roe vs. Wade was overturned, we wanted to give thanks, and do it in a way that expressed our devotion to God, so we commissioned this icon. It is St. John the Baptist, and he’s leading little children to Christ.
St. John the Baptist has long been a symbol for the cause for life. His story in Holy Scripture has been an icon for life for a couple of reasons. First, he is promised to his father, Zechariah, even before he is formed in the womb. He is a foretold gift to his parents. The prayer book tells us that children are gifts, and it has this interesting, and beautiful rubric that says, “Priests, when children are born, are obligated to give thanks despite the circumstance.” It says, “Even through pain, we are obligated to give thanks because of the giftedness of children.”
When the Blessed Virgin visits her cousin Elizabeth, St. John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. Again, he represents the sanctity of life. Not only is he consecrated to a particular ministry in the womb, but he also recognizes the holiness of Christ in his mother’s womb.
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer tells us that holy baptism is sacred because Christ himself entered into it and sanctified the waters of baptism. Well, the same thing has happened with the womb. Christ has sanctified it, right? He did not abhor the Virgin’s womb. And St. John, as his witness, recognizes that and leaps for joy. In the Lutheran tradition, they recognize that moment is when St. John received his prophetic call, through the voice of the Blessed Virgin.
Even St. John’s death is life-affirming. St. John is beheaded for witnessing to the sanctity of the family, to biblical sexual ethics. It is because he accused the king of his sexual sin and not respecting the family as it had been revealed to Israel that he dies, and he gives his life for that cause.
Now, we are good apostolic Christians. We believe in the communion of saints. We believe that St. John is still praying for us and praying with us in this cause for life.
As you may know, Roe vs. Wade was overturned on St. John’s Feast Day. So as good apostolic Christians, we are always looking back. We look at history and we see God’s providential hand moving in history. When the whole Christian world saw what had happened on St. John’s Day, we collectively said, “Hey, he’s still praying for us!”
So why an icon? Well, Job tells us that we are to inquire of bygone ages, of what God has done in their day and the Psalmist says, “One generation declares the glory of the Lord to another.”
The Great Litany which we traditionally pray three times a week, says, “Oh Lord, our fathers have declared unto us the noble works that thou didst in our days.” Declaring the glory of God, the work that he has done in every generation is a Christian obligation.
Historically, this has been done through monuments. Our Father, Jacob, dreams that the heavens were open, and he saw the ladder with the angels ascending and descending, he anointed the rock his head rested on and calls the place Bethel. He says, “Surely, this is the house of God.” When Joshua leads us through the Jordan, he erects a monument. We’re doing the same thing today. We are obligated to declare the glory of God in our generation for the next generation, and in the church, in Holy Scripture, this is done through tangible means. And so, we have commissioned this icon as an icon of this age.
I’ll say one last thing, and it’s about the Iconographer. He’s Ukrainian Orthodox, and he’s in Ukraine right now, in a war-torn country. And I would get calls from him saying, “Hey, I really wanted to work on this today. I had to move my family because of the bombing.” But even he, despite his circumstances, despite the difficulty that he was encountering, still said, “No, this cause for life, that’s worth working towards. Of course, I’m going to find time to work on this.”
The Icon will be housed at the Provincial Pro-Cathedral as a symbol to all of what God has accomplished in our generation, of the things that are happening in our point in history, and how God has providentially led us to this moment, and we can look to it, and we can pray to Christ, and we can pray with St. John for the work that he has continued to do in this generation and in the future.
Archbishop Foley Beach then blessed the Icon and prayed that those who look upon it would be inspired to protect life, and to advocate for life.
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