SYMBOLISM IN THE EDMUND RICE ICON


Edmund Rice

Edmund dominates the central icon panel. The artist is keen to show him as commanding, relaxed and intent. He is a person of strength and vision. His eyes are large, taking everything in and revealing his compassion and understanding. This is not a vision of a man imprisoned in a protective uniform. Edmund loved his habit, it was for him a symbol of his life's dedication. He looks happy and at ease in it- like an old well worn suit, it suggests the drift of his being. Here he is very much a fatherly figure.

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The Spiral

This great whirling spiral is a symbol for God as creator bringing everything into being and calling others to help in that creative process. For thousands of years this has been the favourite way of the Celts to depict their sense of the Sacred. This great whirling spiral has an abundance of energy- something that Edmund was remarkable for even into his old age.

The spiral is also in flames representing the action of the Holy Spirit which set Edmund on fire with love for all especially the poor. It acted like the fire which draws us to its warmth when everything about us is cold.


Now imagine the vortex in the middle having no beginning but spiralling out to embrace everything. Edmund lived in that presence finding it in church, yes, but particularly among the poor. And in the way he put money to work for the poor he makes us realise that God is to be found in the world of business and finance as well. This is his special gift for out time.

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Mother Mary & Child

From ancient times Celtic people associated the feminine with God. It was easy for them therefore to hear the story of Mary and see her as the Mother of God with very special powers of intercession and presence.

Rings of fire surround the haloes of mother and child and evoke a lovely prayer poem from the Eastern Church in which Mary is praised and likened to: "The fiery chariot of God...the brightest morning...bearing the sun Christ." There are links here to Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange) the 5 000 year old religious monument celebrating the winter solstice, around which Christmas was later celebrated. There are also dots around the halo representing the rosary, called in Gaelic, Mary's crown. It was a prayer very familiar to Edmund.

Mary is looking directly at us. Jesus turns and looks at Edmund, and with a positive gesture recommends him to Mary. God's mother is being offered to replace Edmund's lost loved ones- Mary his young wife, and in another sense, Mary his only child.

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The Holy Spirit

Here we have bird-like shapes moving outwards and downwards repeating themselves in waves of movement. Edmund permitted the Holy spirit to flow through his being, like the wind moves in the trees, or music through a perfect instrument.

Edmund was completely open to the Spirit moving creatively within him, through his life, and in his work. You will find many different symbols for the Holy Spirit throughout the icon.

We find him as water, as spirals, as the streaming air in the skies, as flames and fire, as bird shapes, as light, as the well of living water, and so on.

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The Bird Figure

This dark bird shape, part eagle, part raven, is a symbol of evil which touches Edmund, and the two sisters whom he was very devoted to. (Point at their picture on the homepage to learn more.) We don't have to look far to encounter this presence of evil in our world.

The symbol for evil here stems from some of the ancient stories of the Celtic heroes and how they contended with evil.

The same sinister symbol rising off the green fields of Ireland is a reminder that during Edmund's early life the people of Ireland were still subject to Dublin Castle, the seat of British power in Ireland. Edmund himself experienced many occasions of harassment while he attempted to work on behalf of the poor.

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