Aaron was the brother of Moses. While God assigned the task of Israelite leadership directly to Moses, Aaron became an important leader in his own right.
At his first encounter with God, Moses expressed concern that he was not well-spoken enough to gain the peoples’ trust and asked that God send someone better-suited. God reminded him that his brother Aaron was a Levite, from a priestly line, and was used to a position of authority and pastorship. God instructed Moses that Aaron would speak to the people in his place (Ex. 4:10-16). Aaron also frequently stood by Moses in the period before the Israelites left Egypt, and through him many miracles were accomplished that made their exodus possible.
Throughout the journey of the Israelites and God’s guidance of them, Aaron continued as “spokesman to the people.” Gradually the people established lasting places and forms of worship, and Aaron’s role became that of a rabbi or priest. In this way Aaron is also a precursor to the leaders of the Church.
Aaron is recognizable a by his vestments, which resemble an Orthodox priest’s vestments. Aaron’s red mitre (hat) shows that he is a high priest. He carries his miracle-working staff and a blue vessel painted with the face of the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary. This vessel holds the holy manna, the food God provided in the desert. The vessel points to Mary as the holder of the true Manna from heaven—Christ—who we receive as divine food at the Eucharist.
This icon was painted by Fr. Theodore Koufos.