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St. Lawrence icon

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By Theophilia   |   
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© 2015 - 2020 Theophilia
St. Lawrence of Rome icon
© Cecilia Lawrence
September 25th, 2015
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf


“My soul clings to you, my God,
because I endured death by fire for your sake.”

~ Antiphon for the Feast of St. Lawrence

“Do not be afraid, my son, for I am with you;
if you should walk through the fire,
the flames will not harm you,
nor will the odor of burning cling to you.”

~ Antiphon for the Feast of St. Lawrence

I finished a number of icons for saints with feast days in August so I will slowly be uploading them as I finish coloring them and writing their descriptions. Someone wanted to order a print of St. Lawrence, so I finished him up more quickly than the others. In my depiction of St. Lawrence I have shown him as a young man in the garments of a deacon (decorated with little palm motifs in reference to his martyrdom) with a martyr-red deacon’s stole, and holding a slightly miniature gridiron to indicate the mode of his martyrdom. He is also holding a palm branch (the token of victory in Greco-Roman culture, indicating his triumph over death for Christ’s sake) and a book of the Gospels, again indicating his office to preach the Gospel as a deacon.

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:+: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF THE SAINT :+:

Saint Lawrence (c. 225 – August 10th 258 A.D.), from the Latin "Laurentius" meaning "laurelled" was born in the Spanish city of Osca (modern day Huesca). Not much is known of his early life, but while still in Spain he met the future Pope Sixtus II in the city of Caesaragusta (now known as Zaragoza), a place famous for its culture and learning. Sixtus was a deacon to Pope Stephen I and was a renowned teacher of Greek descent. St. Lawrence probably became one of his most devoted pupils while listening to his teachings and sermons. In 257, the Emperor Valerian had sent a letter to the Roman Senate ordering them to force the Christian clergy to sacrifice to the Roman gods or face exile. During this time, Pope Stephen I died (or was martyred), and it was probably for this reason that Sixtus and Lawrence left Spain together and traveled to Rome. The Greek teacher was elevated to the Chair of Peter in 257 and is now known to the world as Pope St. Sixtus II. Sixtus ordained Lawrence to the deaconate when he was about 32 years old. He was appointed Archdeacon of Rome and was first among the seven deacons of Rome. These were the personal assistants to the Pope and they were in charge of the care of the treasury (the alms and donations given to the Church by the faithful) and were responsible for distributing these alms and foodstuffs to the poor and to the Christians who were languishing in prison due to the persecutions. This was a position of great trust, and it meant that the seven deacons had to be men of great personal courage and integrity, as well as be persons who were mindful of the suffering and the poor.

At the beginning of August in 258, the Emperor Valerian sent another letter to Rome commanding the Senate to capture and execute the Christian clergy. If they were Romans of nobility, they either had to sacrifice to the gods or, if they refused, they would be exiled and their property confiscated. Those belonging to the Imperial household who refused would be reduced to slavery and bitter labor. The persecution was aimed at destroying the Christian leadership throughout the Empire and was generally less concerned with the laity. On August 6th, while he was celebrating Mass in the cemetery of St. Callixtus, Pope Sixtus II and four of the seven deacons were captured. While the Pope and his companions were being led to their execution, Lawrence ran up to Sixtus and cried: “Where, father, are you going without your son? Where, holy priest, are you hastening without your deacon? Never were you wont to offer sacrifice without an attendant. What are you displeased at in me, father?” Lawrence continued weeping and begged to be allowed to suffer martyrdom with him, saying, “Offer me whom you have trained, that you, confident in your choice of me, may reach the crown in worthy company.” Sixtus replied, “I am not leaving you, my son, I am not abandoning you; but even greater trials are reserved for you. Because we are old an easier track to the contest was allotted; you are young, for you there is fated a more glorious triumph over tyranny. You will be coming shortly, so cease your weeping: you’ll follow me within three days.” Shortly after, Pope Sixtus, along with four of his deacons, were beheaded.

Knowing that he would soon be departing this life, Lawrence quickly began to gather up the Church’s possessions and treasures and property and sold them. With the money he had collected, he attended to the needs of the some 1,500 men, women and children throughout Rome who relied on the Church’s charity, knowing that he would be distributing these alms to them for the last time. The Roman prefect was informed of these activities and Lawrence too was captured by the authorities and dragged before the prefect of Rome. The prefect had heard accounts of the vast amounts of money that Lawrence had been collecting and asked after the reputed riches of the Church. He added that since God had no need of money, and that Christians were taught to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar” he ought to be patriotic and hand over the Church’s treasures to the Roman Emperor who was fighting a war in Persia. Lawrence replied tranquilly that “the Church is indeed rich, nor has the Emperor any treasure equal to what it possesses. I will show you its treasures; but allow me some time to make an inventory and set everything in order.” The prefect happily agreed and gave him three days.

St. Lawrence spent these three days going throughout Rome on foot, seeking out all of the people he had ever served throughout his time as deacon, all the people he had ever fed, clothed, and assisted, and, bringing them before the prefect when the three days had elapsed, he presented them before the Roman tribunal. The prefect was astonished to see the thousands of lepers, cripples, blind, maimed, sick, and impoverished beggars at the tribunal seat, and demanded to know where the promised Church treasures were. Lawrence said, "Why do you shudder? Do you call that a vile and contemptible spectacle? If you seek after wealth, know that the brightest gold is Christ, Who is the Light, and the human race redeemed by Him; for they are the sons of the Light, all these are shielded by their bodily weaknesses from the assault of pride and evil passion; soon they will lay aside their ulcers in the palace of eternal life, and will shine in marvelous glory, clothed in purple and bearing golden crowns upon their heads. See, here is the gold which I promised you—gold of a kind that fire cannot touch or thief steal from you. Think not, then, that Christ is poor: behold these choice pearls, these sparkling gems that adorn the temple, these sacred virgins, I mean, and these widows who refuse second marriage; they form the priceless necklace of the Church, they deck Her ears, they are Her bridal ornaments, and win for Her Christ's love. Behold, then, all our riches; take them: they will beautify the city of Romulus, they will increase the Emperor's treasures and enrich you yourself."

Furious and outraged at this answer, the prefect ordered Lawrence to be scourged, beaten with iron chains, and then to have his arms and limbs ripped from their sockets on the rack. After these tortures, the prefect said to him, “Sacrifice to the gods, or else the whole night long shall witness your torture.” Lawrence replied, “My night has no darkness, and all things are full of light to me.” His torturers struck him on the mouth but he just smiled and said, “I give you thanks, O Christ.” The prefect then condemned him to be slowly roasted to death on a large gridiron. As they slowly roasted him to death he said, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” And when they had turned him over after a long while he said jokingly, “This side is done too, turn me over and have a bite.” He died soon afterwards.

Many senators witnessing his extraordinary courage, his mighty spirit, and his marvelous tranquility became Christians, and they carried his body away to be buried. A church was soon built over his tomb, and he became famous as one of the great Roman martyrs. He has been widely celebrated throughout the Church ever since his death, and poems and hymns have been composed in his honor. The great Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens wrote this poem in his honor: www.thelatinlibrary.com/pruden…  In the 300s, the Emperor Constantine built an oratory in his honor over the site of his burial, as well as over the site of his martyrdom. Some years later, Pope Damascus I repaired the church where he was buried, now known as the Basilica San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (Saint Lawrence outside the Walls). The site of his martyrdom is commemorated by the church San Lorenzo in Panisperna. Another church in Rome dedicated to St. Lawrence (San Lorenzo in Lucina) houses the gridiron that is reputed to have been used in his martyrdom. His feast day is a solemn one, and his name, along with Pope Sixtus II’s, is said in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

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“The Roman Church commends to us today the anniversary of the triumph of Saint Lawrence. For on this day he trod the furious pagan world underfoot and flung aside its allurements, and so gained victory over Satan’s attack on his faith.

As you have often heard, Lawrence was a deacon of the Church at Rome. There he ministered the sacred blood of Christ; there for the sake of Christ’s name he poured out his own blood. Saint John the apostle was evidently teaching us about the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he wrote: Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. My brethren, Lawrence understood this and, understanding, he acted on it. Just as he had partaken of a gift of self at the table of the Lord, so he prepared to offer such a gift. In his life he loved Christ; in his death he followed in his footsteps.

Brethren, we too must imitate Christ if we truly love him. We shall not be able to render better return on that love than by modeling our lives on his. Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps. In saying this, the apostle Peter seems to have understood that Christ suffered only for those who follow in his steps, in the sense that Christ’s passion is of no avail to those who do not. The holy martyrs followed Christ even to shedding their life’s blood, even to reproducing the very likeness of his passion. They followed him, but not they alone. It is not true that the bridge was broken after the martyrs crossed; nor is it true that after they had drunk from it, the fountain of eternal life dried up.

I tell you again and again, my brethren, that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of his martyrs. In it there are also lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of him is true: He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

Let us understand, then, how a Christian must follow Christ even though he does not shed his blood for him, and his faith is not called upon to undergo the great test of the martyr’s sufferings. The apostle Paul says of Christ our Lord: Though he was in the form of God he did not consider equality with God a prize to be clung to. How unrivaled his majesty! But he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, made in the likeness of men, and presenting himself in human form. How deep his humility!

Christ humbled himself. Christian, that is what you must make your own. Christ became obedient. How is it that you are proud? When this humbling experience was completed and death itself lay conquered, Christ ascended into heaven. Let us follow him there, for we hear Paul saying: If you have been raised with Christ, you must lift your thoughts on high, where Christ now sits at the right hand of God.”
~ from a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo

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“The Lord tested his chosen ones as gold tested by fire;
He has received them for ever as a sacrificial offering. ”

~ Antiphon for the Feast of St. Lawrence

:rose: The Feast of St. Lawrence is celebrated on August 10th. :rose:

St. Lawrence is the patron saint of chefs, cooks, tanners, and roasters, as well as numerous cities and the St. Lawrence River.

O God,
giver of that ardor of love for you
by which Saint Lawrence
was outstandingly faithful in service
and glorious in martyrdom,
grant that we may love what he loved
and put into practice what he taught.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Image size
1484x1936px 3.21 MB
Comments49
anonymous's avatar
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eleyba's avatar
How do we retain rights to use this image?
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
I as the artist retain all copyrights to this image.
eleyba's avatar
Would I be able to purchase the rights to print a limited number of prayer Cards?
TiphLaMerveille's avatar
TiphLaMerveilleHobbyist General Artist
SUre all your icons are awesome, but this one is the best... because it's my patron as my real name is Lawrence :)
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hahah, thank you! Glad you like it!! :aww:
lschatzfsc's avatar
Lawrence is my patron! How can I get a copy of this beautiful image?
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
All the information for ordering prints is located at the bottom of my journal, along with my contact information. :nod:
rjg98's avatar
Nice combination of the Latin dalmatic and Byzantine orarion!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Why thank you! :aww: I wasn't quite sure what style deacons would have worn during that period so I sort of settled on a compromise.
rjg98's avatar
I think it's also a great way of showing the universality of Mother Church!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Amen to that!
rjg98's avatar
I just drew a picture last week of Christ as a King and High Priest incorporating vestments from both rites. Christ has on a Byzantine miter (due to its crown shape) and bishop's omophorion with papal choir dress: cassock, surplice, mozzetta, and cope. On either side is an angel holding the cope open. Both are dressed as subdeacons, one Latin, one Eastern
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Oh cool! Have you uploaded the picture?
rjg98's avatar
No. I don't plan on it.
WilB-J's avatar
amazing
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you!
ariodante28's avatar
YES YES YES

I was hoping you would get around to him! :la:

I like that you made the gridiron flame; I don't think I've seen that before. Have you?
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
I hadn't ever seen it before, but I was a bit inspired by the mosaic of either Saint Vincent of Zaragoza or St. Lawrence (I don't know if there's yet a clear consensus on which saint it represents) in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia: www.oberlin.edu/images/Art335/…
ariodante28's avatar
That is quite a dynamic mosaic! It has an unusual sense of motion in the flames, the robes, and so forth. Your icon definitely resembles the saint (whoever he is). 
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Indeed! A lot of the earlier mosaics, I think, tend to be more dynamic, often because of their relation to models used in Classical sculpture. 
marcusaurelius777's avatar
May I do a request? I would love for you to do my Patron saint: Mary Magdalene. Love your art style, God bless. 
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
I will get to her sometime. I was going to work on my icon of her and St. Martha back in July but I just got really busy and never really got to it. We'll see if I can get to her by her feast day next year. :nod:
Meldelen's avatar
MeldelenHobbyist Writer
Hey, watch out with that grill, it's burning! :O
Hahaha wonderful icon, congratulations, keep up with the good work! :)
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hahaha, thank you so very much Meldelen!
anonymous's avatar
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