THE ICON IN BABA’S ROOM

THE ICON IN BABA'S ROOM

Donna Bayet
One day in January 1980, we were visiting some friends when I noticed an icon on the wall. I asked my friend if he knew of any icon painters and his cousin who was visiting said, "Yes, my uncle in Limassol makes icons. I'll take you there some time if you want." As Limassol was only one and a half hour's journey from Nicosia where we were living, this seemed ideal, and I didn't bother to make any arrangement on the spot. I didn't realize that my friend's cousin had only just moved to Nicosia and that no one knew his address.

Time seemed to pass very swiftly and now there were only four weeks until our departure time for India and I had no idea how I was going to have the icon made. I was worrying about this as I was biking through town one day when there, standing on a street corner, was the answer to my problems — my friend's cousin himself. Not only that, but he told me, "I'm going to Limassol tomorrow. Come with me to my uncle's house."

This seemed so propitious that I was sure that from then on things would be easy. Imagine my dismay upon entering the uncle's studio to discover that the man had absolutely no painting skill or talent whatsoever! His portraits of famous people were unrecognizable; his still-lifes were more like "still-deaths"; his icons were flat and uninspiring. What could I do? I thought of abandoning the project altogether even if it meant embarrassing my friend's cousin and his uncle.

But I knew that if Baba wanted the icon, He would see to everything. So I said internally, "It's all in your hands now, Baba," and decided to go ahead and face the next problem — the subject matter. Icons cannot be made of just anybody. They must be of Jesus, Mary, or one of the saints recognized by the Greek Orthodox Church. To make an icon of anyone else is heresy and it was quite possible the painter would refuse to make such an icon.

Yet I boldly took out six photos of Baba and showed them to the painter. "Who is He?" he wanted to know. "A saint," I said nonchalantly, very aware of the thin ice I was walking on. "Oh yes," the painter agreed after looking carefully at the photos, "I can tell he's a very good man!" And he not only agreed to paint the icon in the three weeks time that was left before our departure, but he also agreed to use a pure gold background, to put a halo around Baba's head and to do the special scrollwork that I have never seen in any other icon anywhere.

Three weeks later our friend's cousin brought the finished icon to our house and we were overwhelmed by its power and beauty — the life and aliveness it expressed — the way the eyes seemed to look right at you. Remembering the painter's other icons, I knew that Baba must have been holding the paintbrush at all times Himself.

I never saw the painter again. I knew he would have liked to have known more about the "saint," but he had been too polite to ask at the time. He did mention, however, how impressed he was with Baba's gesture for "perfect" — the thumb and forefinger touching, forming a circle — for this is the way Jesus is portrayed in many icons as a gesture of blessing.

True to our original plan, a week later my husband and I were at Baba's Samadhi, pledging our love to each other and to Him. When we later visited Meherazad, we presented the icon to Mehera. She was very pleased with it and her spontaneous reaction was, "This is Baba as Jesus Christ!" This surprised me, but then I realized that the painter's love for Jesus must have been given true expression in his painting of Meher Baba. Mehera decided to display the icon on the wall in Baba's room at Meherazad.

I often think of the icon painter and how blessed he is to have been able to look so intently upon God's face for three weeks. I'm sure he knew that the icon he made for us was the best piece of work he had ever done. How fitting that his masterpiece should now be in the room of Beloved Baba — the Creator of all masterpieces.