A reader kindly shared some photos of the dome fresco in the katholikon (main church) of the Pantokrator Monastery at Mount Athos. The much earlier frescos in the katholikon were painted over in 1854 by Matheos Ioannou of Naoussa, so what we see is comparatively recent.
Our purpose in looking at this fresco today is to examine the Greek inscription. Long-time readers here already know that icons of God the Father painted as an old man are extremely common throughout Eastern Orthodox iconography, with a history going back many centuries.
Here is a closer look at the inscription:
Ὁ ΑΝΑΡΧΟC ΠΑΤΗΡ — HO ANARKHOS PATER — “THE BEGINNINGLESS FATHER.” So the image represents God the Father.
The Pedalion (The Rudder, a treatise on Orthodox Church canons by Nicholas the Hagiorite, 1749-1809) says:
ὁ άναρχος Πατήρ πρέπει να ζωγραφίζεται καθώς εφάνη εις τον προφήτην Δανιήλ ως παλαιός ημερών.
“The Beginningless Father should be painted as he appeared to the Prophet Daniel, as the ‘Ancient of Days.‘”
You will recall from a previous posting here (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-ancient-of-days-trinity-icon-and-how-to-read-it/) that there is an ongoing controversy in Eastern Orthodox circles as to whether the “Ancient of Days” type should be used to represent Jesus, or whether it should be God the Father. But in the study of icons we pay no attention to modern doctrinaire quibbles over what this or that person thinks painters should have done. Instead we simply go with historical reality — with what a painter actually did in a given case. And in this case the image is quite clearly identified as the “Beginningless Father” — God the Father. You will recall that in Russian iconography, God the Father is commonly titled “Lord Sabaoth.”
Note the triangle halo with the faint HO ON (“The One Who Is” ) inscription in it — an inscription generally found on icons of Jesus. The triangle with its three points is of course a “Trinity” symbol, and more often found in late Orthodox iconography.