I hope that by now you all easily recognize the fellow in this icon:
Yes, he is the “Repentant Thief,” known in Russia as Rakh the Thief. I have discussed him and his distinctive Slavic name in this previous posting:
So why am I discussing him today? Well, because the Kampen Icon Museum kindly shared this photo of an icon in their collection with me, and it is a particularly interesting example. You would know just why it is interesting if you had seen a lot of “Rakh” images.
In most, he is shown very much as in this icon — standing in a loincloth and holding a cross, though here the cross appears to be behind his left hand rather than in it.
What is distinctive about this image is that in his other hand, Rakh holds a scroll with a Church Slavic text on it. It is very unusual for him to be depicted with a scroll, and that — aside from its overall pleasant appearance — is what makes this icon so interesting.
Let’s look at the scroll:
Видя разбойник Начальника Жизни на Кресте висяща, глаголаше: аще не бы Бог был воплощс[я, Иже с нами распныйся, не бы солнце лучи (своя) потаило, ниже бы земля трепещущи тряслася. Но вся терпяй, помяни мя, Господи, во Царствии Твоем]
Vidya razboynik Nachal’nika Zhizni na Kreste visyashcha glagolashe ashche ne bui Bog buil voploshchs[ya izhe c nami raspnuiysya ne bui solntse luchi (svoya) potailo nizhe bui zemlya trepeshchushchi tryaslasya no vsya terpyay pomyani mya Gospodi vo tastrsvii tvoem]
The portion in bold type is the portion used on the scroll. The remainder is the continuation of the text. It is taken from the Liturgy for Great Friday, and is the Troparion of the Ninth Hour — Tone 8:
“When the Thief beheld the Ruler of Life hanging upon the cross, he said: ‘If it were not that God in the flesh were crucified here with us, the sun would not have hidden his rays nor would the earth have quaked and trembled; But all-suffering one, remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.'”