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» Icons and Holy Cards » Holy Cards

The Prodigal Son

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PCM528 Package of 25 icon holy cards


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3 x 5

Item Details:

This icon recounts Jesus' parable from Luke’s Gospel 15:11-32, commonly called the Prodigal Son. Here we observe the moment when son who squandered his inheritance has returned in shame only to be embraced by his father. This is an original design by Sr. Marie Paul, but is a familiar depiction in Western art. It is a wonderful aid for meditating on God’s infinite mercy.

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.

Image Origins

This icon recounts Jesusí parable from Lukeís Gospel (15:11-32), commonly called the Prodigal Son. Here we observe the moment when the younger son returns to his father in shame after squandering his inheritance. He had hoped to be accepted with the status of a servant. The father sees his approaching son from a distance, runs to him and embraces him. This scene of forgiveness and unconditional love is an original design by Sr. Marie Paul, but the way the scene is commonly depicted in Western art (e.g., the famous painting by Rembrandt) makes it immediately familiar to us.

Theology and Symbolism

We are told in the biblical story that the father embraced the prodigal son and kissed him. Here the head of the father is slightly bowed as if ready to kiss his lost child's head. The son, whose face shows deep guilt by icon standards, crumples in his father's arms. Because there is no weight given to the figures they become very flat. Yet the shape of the son (tapered at the head and feet, fuller in the middle) makes him appear to float. He kneels and yet is almost carried by his father. The full stance of the father, the diagonal flow of his outer garment and the supportive lines of the mountain peaks in the background give a solidity to image of the father--the strong figure to whom the remorseful son has returned. This very emotional scene is calm and comforting, much like icons of the child Jesus being held by the Theotokos (Mary) who shields him from angels that hover with symbols of the crucifixion.

The contrast between the rags that the son wears and the thick drapery of the father is striking. The father's green garment is wrapped in red and he appears to take his son under its covering. This may be an allusion to Christ who is commonly depicted wearing blue wrapped in red to indicate divinity wrapped in humanity. There is a halo around the head of the father to symbolize sanctity. The son wears a torn, white tunic; white is symbolic of new life -- Christ wears white in his glorified state in iconography. This is fitting in light of the fatherís announcement that his son "was dead and has come to life" (Luke 15:32b).

The story of the Return of the Prodigal Son reminds us of Godís infinite mercy. Even when we sin we can trust that by turning to our Father, we will always find welcome. He reaches to us offering the treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven. Contemplate this icon to imagine being comforted in the bosom of Godóa God whose love for us is infinite.

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