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This icon was written to celebrate the great Jubilee of the Lord’s Incarnation, but is timeless in its theme. At the center is Christ Emmanuel, the Child of the first coming, surrounded by signs of His second coming in Glory. Behind Him stands Mary, hands raised in prayer, “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet" as spoken of in Revelation. Six representative saints of Carmel hold out hands of prayerful intercession; the prophet Elijah, Teresa of Avila, Thérèsa of Lisieux, John of the Cross, Edith Stein, and Elizabeth of the Trinity.
Icon holy cards are 3" x 5", a convenient size for use as gifts or bookmarks. The backs are blank except for a faint colophon at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for custom imprinting with your own message.
This icon is a modern composition, written especially for the Jubilee of the Incarnation and the beginning of the third Christian millennium, but its theme is timeless. It looks back and gives thanks for the surpassing gift of God taking flesh in our midst and looks forward to His coming in glory. The composition incorporates themes from traditional iconography such as Christ Emmanuel, the Virgin of the Sign, and a pair of mandorlas. The surrounding saints are in prayerful poses as might be seen in a traditional Orthodox Iconostasis, heads inclined toward Jesus.
In the center of the icon stands Mary, her hands lifted in the "orant" posture of prayer. In this pose, she is known as the Virgin of the Sign, recalling Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14): "The Lord himself will give you a sign..." Thus the icon celebrates the great Jubilee of the Lord’s Incarnation. Yet Mary’s feet rest on the moon and the sun envelops her. She is also the Woman of the Great Sign spoken of in Revelation 12:1. She wears a dark red hooded cloak or homophorion, marked with stars at her head and shoulders symbolic of her perpetual virginity before, during, and after the birth of her Son.
Jesus is enveloped in a mandorla, a symbol of Divine Revelation that represents a window into heaven. This symbol is used in icons of Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Last Judgment. He is shown as Christ Emmanuel, the Child of the First Coming, but placed amid majestic signs of His glorious second coming. He wears a brilliant robe symbolic of royalty and the open book proclaims that He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.
The saints surrounding the central image are especially relevant in Carmelite history. Beginning at top left and continuing clockwise: Imitation of the prophet Elijah who worked miracles on Mount Carmel [1 Kings 18:17-46] has been an important component of Carmelite spirituality from its beginning. St. Teresa of Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites, holds a scroll bearing words from her book, The Way of Perfection, wherein she explains why she began her reform movement. St. John of the Cross, a great poet and mystic, founded the male branch of the Discalced Carmelites. Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity entered the Carmelites in 1901 at age 20 and died just six years later, inspiring many by her letters and the example of her faith. Saint Edith Stein was born a Jew, became a professor of Philosophy, converted to Catholicism in 1922 through study of the works of St. Teresa of Avila and became a Carmelite sister in 1933. The Nazis executed her at Auschwitz in 1942. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as "The Little Flower," became a Carmelite at the age of 15, dying of tuberculosis nine years later in 1897. Her book, Story of a Soul, helped many to rediscover God’s unconditional love. She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997, joining St. Teresa of Avila in that rare distinction. These surrounding saints hold up their hands in a posture of intercession. Their petition is written on the Virgin’s red mandorla: "Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus." It is the first prayer of the early Church and the prayer that will always rise in the souls of those who love the Lord.