In a previous posting, we saw this image in the center of a multiple icon:
As you know if you are a long-time reader here, it is an example of the icon type known as the “Image Not Made by Hands”:
Literally, “IMAGE NOT-HAND-MADE”
— which by tradition (fiction, not history) was the first icon, supposedly created miraculously by Jesus when he pressed a cloth/towel to his wet face, and the image of his face appeared on the cloth.
It is a very common type in Russian icons, both as a primary and a secondary image, and I have discussed it more than once in postings you will now find in the archives, among them this one:
and this one:
As you will know from those past postings, the inscription at the base of the cloth reads С[ВЯ]Т[ЫЙ] ОУБРУСЪ/SVYATUIY OUBRUS/OUBROUS/UBRUS — meaning “Holy Cloth/Towel.” There are variations in spelling, which is common in Russian icons.
When used as a primary image — which it very often was — the cloth is frequently held by angels, as in this example from the latter part of the 19th century:
My point in discussing it again today is simply to give you another title inscription variant to add to your Church Slavic vocabulary.
Here is the title inscription on the icon:
НЕРУКОТВОРЕННЫЙ УБРУСЪ ГОСПОДЕНЬ
NERUKOTVORENNUIY UBRUS G[OSPO]D[E]N’
NOT-HAND-MADE CLOTH [of the] LORD
In normal English, “The ‘Not Made by Hands’ Cloth of the Lord.” The “Not Made by Hands” part refers of course to the image on the cloth, not to the cloth itself. One does not often see it titled this way, but now when you do, you will recognize the variation.
You should be able to recognize all the other standard abbreviations found in this icon — the IC XC borrowed from the Greek Ιησούς Χριστός/Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ,” which in Russia is found as Исус Христос/Isus Khristos among the Old Believers and as Иисус Христос/Iisus Khristos in the State Orthodox Church. And by now you should know the Ὁ ѠΗ (ΗΟ ΟΝ) inscription commonly found in the halo of Jesus, meaning “The One Who Is” — the Septuagint translation of the title of God that is rendered in the King James Version of the Bible as “I Am That I Am” (Exodux 3:14).
It is important also to remember this abbreviation:
It is the letters А Г (A-G), which abbreviate Ангел Господень /Angel Gospoden’, meaning “Angel [of the] Lord.” It is an abbreviation found in countless icons with angels.
Finally, you probably noticed that this particular icon is a combination of traditional stylization and “Westernized” naturalism. It keeps the old form found in traditional painting, while using more natural folds to the cloth and robes, and more naturalistic coloring and color transitions, though still showing some of the more stylized traits of traditional painting.
Incidentally the expression “not made by hands” is also found in a different context the New Testament, in 2 Corinthians 5:1:
Here it is in Church Slavic:
Вемы бо, яко аще земная наша храмина тела разорится, создание от Бога имамы, храмину нерукотворену, вечну на небесех.
Vemui bo, yako ashche zemnaya nasha khramina tela razoritsya, sozdanie ot Boga imamui, khraminu nerukotvorenu, vechny na nebesekh.
And in Greek:
Οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι ἐὰν ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους καταλυθῇ, οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἔχομεν, οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.
Oidamen gar hot ean he epigeios hemon oikia tou skenous kataluthe, oikodomen ek Theou ekhomen, oikian akheiropoieton aionion en tois ouranois.
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building from God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”