Tag Archives: Icons

Sunday Afterwords: Reading an Icon

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob. ~Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1

The Chrysler museum has a very beautiful exposition of icons from the British Museum and the Museum of Russian icons in Massachusetts.

On Gaudete Sunday we mark the halfway point of our journey through the Advent season in preparation for the celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord. During these final days of preparation we can experience this exhibit as an oasis of tranquility and peace in the midst of all the busyness that often distracts us from what is most important, that is, our life in Christ.

When you enter the exhibition let an icon draw you into its gaze. Take a few moments and be attentive to the details. An icon can draw you into contemplation of the beauty of the Christian mystery. Take time to notice details that can stretch our religious imagination. There is a way of reading an icon, that, more than looking at art, draws one to contemplate the beauty of heaven, which is our human destiny. An icon can draw you into the mystery of the divine presence of God. This short video will help you read several icons and thus make your visit spiritually enriching.

Also remember the upcoming presentation at the Chrysler, Sound of the Saints.

The Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

During the season of Advent our thoughts turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are three ways in which the mother of God is often portrayed in iconography.

According to tradition, Saint Luke the Evangelist became the first iconographer when he painted the Mother of God from life. Known as the Hodigitria, Greek for “she who points the way,” the icon depicts Mary looking directly at the viewer while gesturing toward her son, the Christ-child — literally guiding the faithful toward salvation. A powerful reminder of God’s human incarnation, the subject also serves as a metaphor for the ability of icons to make the divine present on earth.   Subtle alterations to the Hodigitria led to numerous variations, while miraculous visions inspired entirely new Mother of God icons. Here you’ll find examples of the Hodigitria, in which the Mother of God looks out solemnly while the Christ-child delivers a blessing. In Icons of the Sign, the Mother of God raises her hands in prayer. In the Umilinya, or Tenderness, icon, Mary lovingly presses her cheek to her son’s. With more than 450 accepted ways of depicting her, the Mother of God is the most varied, and perhaps most popular, icon in the Orthodox tradition. (Text from the Chrysler Museum).

This icon depicts the Mother of God with her arms extended and hands raised in a gesture of prayer and receiving — what is known as the orans pose. A youthful Christ appears in a circle at her chest representing her womb. Her “sign” gesture and the icon’s symbolism together refer to a biblical prophecy from the book of Isaiah: “The Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Text from the Chrysler Museum).

 

This icon depicts the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would become the Mother of God. Typically, this icon only shows the Mother of God, Gabriel, and a red cloth draped over the architecture, which indicates the scene is taking place indoors. Here the Mother of God stands on a cushion, a symbol of her purity. (Text from the Chrysler Museum).

Saint John Paul II had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary which filled him with love for the Akathist Hymns written the early centuries extolling the Mother of God. May this ancient hymn lead you to deeper love for the Virgin Mother.

The icon exhibit at the Chrysler will only be open until January 11, 2016.

On December 19 from 1 to 3 pm, in the Kaufman Theater in the Chrysler Museum, there will be an event: “Sound of the Saints: Celebrate St. Nicholas and the holiday season with an enlightening Saints and Dragons presentation and a special choral performance. The Rev. George Bessinas of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral presents an illustrated talk about Orthodox traditions involving icons. Following his presentation will be a musical performance, in English and in Greek, from the cathedral’s chanters, choir, and youth choir.”

Sunday Afterwords: Saints and Dragons

Icon of John the Baptist. This Byzantine icon, which dates to about 1300 A.D., is currently at the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Icon of John the Baptist. This Byzantine icon, which dates to about 1300 A.D., is currently at the Chrysler Museum of Art.

When we walk into the icon exhibit at the Chrysler museum we are greeted with the words of Saint John of Damascus: “Visible things are images of invisible and intangible things, on which they throw a faint light.”

Who was Saint John of Damascus? This Doctor of the Church wrote treatises on the veneration of the icons against the iconoclastic Byzantine emperor. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, held in 787, upheld the teaching espoused by Saint John in these words, “Icons are to be kept in churches and honored with the same relative veneration as is shown to other material symbols, such as the precious and life-giving cross and the book of the Gospels”.

When we first walk into the exhibit we encounter art that is Christian art but in a form that is unfamiliar to many Western Christians. However, icons are a part of the fulness of the patrimony of the Christian faith whose art embraces both the Orthodox east and the Latin west. This video will give you some insight into what an icon is and how it functions in the liturgy. Icons have a part in revealing the truth of the Christian mystery, within the Liturgy of the eastern church.

On December 19 from 1 to 3 pm, in the Kaufman Theater in the Chrysler Museum, there will be an event: “Sound of the Saints: Celebrate St. Nicholas and the holiday season with an enlightening Saints and Dragons presentation and a special choral performance. The Rev. George Bessinas of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral presents an illustrated talk about Orthodox traditions involving icons. Following his presentation will be a musical performance, in English and in Greek, from the cathedral’s chanters, choir, and youth choir.”

As Christmas approaches, a visit to this exhibit would be a wonderful way to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord.