WHY IS MARY RED-FACED? THE OGNEVIDNAYA ICON

This is the “Fiery-faced” icon of Mary, also known as “Fiery Visage” and “Seen in Fire.” Its Russian title is Ognevidnaya —  ОГНЕВИДНАЯ.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Historically, there is little that can be said about this icon, because its origin and the date of its “appearance” are unknown. It depicts Mary without the Christ Child, seen shoulder length to half-length. It is found in Russian iconography of the 18th-early 20th century, frequently on multiple icons of Mary, that is, icons that depict more than one “wonder-working” icon of Mary on the same painted panel.

The icon is likely based upon the symbology that equates Mary with the Burning Bush seen by Moses in the Old Testament — the bush that burned with fire but was not consumed.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The connection here is that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, who is considered filled with the fire of divinity, as we see in the Ode 4 Second Canon Irmos of the Canon for the Festival of the Transfiguration of Jesus:

Thou have preserved the bush unharmed, O Master, though it was united with fire, and you have shown to Moses your flesh shining with divine brightness, while he sang: Glory to Thy power, O Lord…You were revealed as an immaterial fire that does not burn the material substance of the body, when you have appeared to Moses and the apostles and Elijah, O Master Who art one in two natures and both of them perfect.

So, Mary was filled with the fire of divinity (thus her fiery red face in this type) but was not harmed by having Jesus within her — the bush that burned but was not consumed.

We also find that Mary, in the Akathist Canon, is referred to thus:

Радуйся, престоле огненный Вседержителя.
“Rejoice, burning throne of the Almighty
and
Огнеобразная колеснице Слова
Fiery chariot of the Word.”

Here is a typical example of a multiple icon from the 19th century. This example is a four-part icon, which was particularly common, but sometimes even more icon types were included on a single panel.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The types in this example were very popular in that period. They are each identified on this panel in the Vyaz (Slavic linked calligraphy) inscriptions at top and bottom. They are, from upper left:

1. От Бед Страждущих — Ot Bed Strazhdushchikh –“Of the Suffering from Distress,” sometimes given the fuller title Избавление От Бед Страждущих — Izbavlenie Ot Bed Strazhdushchikh — “Deliverance of the Suffering From Distress.” In the Moleben to the Mother of God are the words Богородица Владычица, поспеши и от бед избавь нас “Lady Mistress, hasten and from distress deliver us.”

2. Огневидная — Ognevidnaya (Ognevidnuiya) — “Fiery Visage” Mother of God, discussed above.

3. Неопалимая Купина — Neopalimaya Kupina — “Unburnt Thornbush” Mother of God, discussed at length in this previous posting:
https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/spirits-of-fire-and-ice-the-unburnt-thornbush-icon/

4. Утоли Моя Печали — Utoli Moya Pechali — “Soothe My Sorrows” Mother of God. It is said that this icon was brought from Belarus to Moscow by Cossacks in 1640, and was placed in the Church of St. Nicholas in Pupuishev. A commemoration of the icon was established after a noblewoman was said to have been healed of paralysis of the legs by the icon. According to the origin story, Mary appeared to her and told her to pray before the icon Utoli Moya Pechali” — “Soothe My Sorrows” — which was to be found in the St. Nicholas Church in Moscow. The woman journeyed to Moscow and asked for the icon, but it was not discovered until the priest brought some neglected old icons down out of the bell tower, one of which was the “Soothe My Sorrows” image.  This motif of Mary appearing in a dream and revealing a miracle-working icon, often one that has been forgotten or neglected, is common in the hagiography of Marian icons. A prayer service (moleben) was held before the image, and supposedly the woman was able to walk out of the church healed. This was on January 24, 1760. A number of other supposed miracles are also attributed to this icon.

Incidentally, the four small border images depict at left the Guardian Angel and St. Peter, at right Venerable Vasiliy (Basil) Pariyskiy (Василий Парийский) and St. Paul.

David

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