Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Icon

I love the art of icons. They are other-worldly and their symbolism can be a great blessing to one's devotional life.
Today I got a new one that I ordered from e-Bay. It is called "deisis." Deisis is from the Greek for prayer, as is described below. When I look and meditate upon the beauty of this man-made work of art, it makes me think of the faithfulness of Christ's holy servants, the Blessed Virgin and St. John, Baptizer and Forerunner.

O Lord Christ, Incarnate Word of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary, Lamb of God proclaimed by him who made straight Thy path, teach me through the faithful example of these Thy servants to put Thou and Thy Holy Word before self and vain strivings in this life. May Thou givest to me, Thy lowly servant, the grace and salvation which would cause my heart and life to be conformed to Thy Word. I beseech Thee, O Heavenly King, Incarnate Word, that with Thy holy and blessed Mother, Mary the God-bearer, and him who faithfully proclaimed Thee to be the Lamb of God, John the Baptizer and Forerunner, to hear the petitions we make to Thee alone here me as I call to Thee in Thy holy and mysterious name. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

The Origins of This Image
One of the most important architectural features of Orthodox churches is a screen called the iconostasis (accent on the third syllable) that separates the sanctuary, where the altar is located, from the congregation in the nave. This screen consists of several horizontal rows of icons. In early Byzantine times, the iconostasis consisted of a single panel or sometimes a triptych of the Savior, the Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist called the Deisis. The word in Greek means "prayer," and is pronounced "dee’-sis." By the 13th century in Russia, many more icons were added but the Deisis remained the centerpiece.
This icon we have reproduced for you is from an ancient Byzantine pattern, probably at least 1400 years old, dating from a time in which it would have been the focal point for the eyes of worshipers during the Eucharistic Sacrifice, providing for them a visual counterpart to the sacred scripture: "This is my body, given up for you."
Theology and Symbolism
Christ is seated on His heavenly throne, right hand raised in benediction and left hand resting on the Bible, open to the words (in Greek) from the Gospel of John, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) He is dressed in a tunic of red, signifying His humanity and His blood shed for us. Over the tunic He wears a robe or hymation of blue, signifying His divinity with the blue of Heaven. Christ’s halo, the iconographic symbol for sanctity, is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters omicron, omega, nu, spelling "HO ON." In English, this becomes "Who Am," the name used for God in Exodus 3:14.
Mary wears a homophorion, or combined veil and mantle over her dress. It is adorned with three stars on the head and shoulders. These are symbolic of Mary’s perpetual virginity; before, during, and after her Son’s birth. In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus officially declared that Mary is the Theotokos, or "God Bearer," she who provides the vital link between the divinity of God and humanity. Her pose in this icon with head inclined toward Jesus and hands extended communicates of submission to Christ and directing other to look only to Christ, her divine Son.
John the Baptist is usually referred to by Orthodox Christians as John the Forerunner. In iconography, he is always represented with long, unkempt hair in keeping with his life in the wilderness. Sometimes he is dressed in hairy garments with a leather belt as in Matthew 3:4, and sometimes in classical robes as in this image. John is included in the Deisis because of his role foretold in Isaiah 40:3, "A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord." Like Mary, his pose is one of prayerful supplication.
Above the figures are abbreviated inscriptions in Greek that name each person. The letters above Mary stand for Meter Theou, Mother of God, those above Jesus represent Iesous Khristos, Jesus Christ, and the letters above John translate as "St. John the Forerunner."
icon explanation from http://www.printeryhouse.org/mall/Icons/Saints/m01.asp

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