The icon of the Council of Jerusalem was presented to the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel by Brother Andrea Bergamini of the community of the Families of the Visitation, who wrote the icon, and blessed on the Feast of Saint James, celebrated by Rev. Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land on Sunday, May 5, 2013.

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This unique icon, titled the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem, represents a seminal event in the life of the Church, described at the center of the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15.

The icon shows the important figures at the Council: Saint James at the center, to his right Saint Peter (whom he called Simon) and to his left Saint Paul and next to Saint Paul, Barnabas. To the right of Saint Peter stand the Pharisees, believers in Christ and practioners of the Torah, who demanded that the Gentile believers be circumcised on entering the community. On the right side of Saint James and the left side of Saint Paul, each identified by a scroll in his hand, are the two envoys to Antioch who will carry the letter that explains the decision of the Council, Judas Barsabbas and Silas. Between Saint James and Saint Paul is John Mark, who will accompany Paul and Barnabas on their second missionary voyage.

In the hand of Saint James is a scroll on which is written the words of the Prophet Amos which James cites (Amos 9:11-12). “After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men (Edom) may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” (Acts 15:16-17).

On the altar before Saint James, are shown the menorah, symbol of the Temple and priestly worship, a scroll representing the Torah, as well as a chalice and a paten with the bread and wine of Eucharistic worship.

In the background are the three cities that represent the early Church in its movement from being a uniquely Jewish community in Jerusalem to being a community that brings together Jews and Gentiles in Antioch, “where the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). Jaffa also appears because it is the place where Peter was first called to go towards the Gentiles, arriving at the home of the centurion Cornelius in Caesarea, an event Peter retells before the Council.

Let us pray before this icon that we might indeed be a community that witnesses to Christ’s peace:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away
have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one
and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,
16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God
through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away
and peace to those who were near.
18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 In him the whole building is joined together
and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in him you too are being built together
to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:13-22)