HEY, IT’S SUMMER COMMENTS WEEK!

Beginning today (June 19th) and running through Wednesday, June 27th, is Summer Public Comments Week on this site.

As regular readers know, comments sent to this site are ordinarily kept private — seen only by me.  But every now and then, I like to give readers a chance to comment publicly if they wish.  This is your chance to express your opinions about the site, whether positive, negative, to make suggestions, or just to blow off steam, etc.

Readers here live in many different countries and speak many languages.  If you don’t feel comfortable writing in English, write in your own language if you wish, whatever it may be.

Keep in mind that this is not a religious site, but deals with icons from an historical and cultural perspective.

I have been posting a lot lately, so this week will not only give readers (and there are many new ones, I see) a chance to catch up, but also will give me a little break.

So, if you have anything you would like to say about this site, this week is your chance to say it publicly.  If you want your message to be kept private (seen only by me), just write PRIVATE at the beginning of it, and it will not be posted on the site.

After this week, all will return to private comments again — and the public comments will disappear.

To comment, just use the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of this page.  To read comments, scroll down near the bottom of the page, and used the reply box.

David

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A CONTENTIOUS BEGINNING

You will recall from an earlier posting that in Eastern Orthodoxy, the Evangelist John is commonly called John the Theologian.  Icons of him are very common, and so is the text one usually finds on the book he holds, whether written in Greek or in Church Slavic.

Here is a Greek example from the end of the 14th century:

(Ecclesiastical Byzantine Museum of Mytilene)

Here is a closer view of the text:

It is slightly worn, but we can easily emend it:

Left page:

ΕΝ ΑΡ
ΧΗ ΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ΚΑΙὉΛΟ
ΓΟC ΗΝ
ΠΡΟCΤονΘΕΟν

Right page:

ΚΑΙ ΘCΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ὉΥΤΟCΗΝ
ΕΝΑΡΧΗ
ΠΡοC ΤοΝΘΝ
ΠΑΝΤΑΔΙΑΥτου

You will note the common abbreviations:
ΘC with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟC/Theos, “god.”
ΘΝ  with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟΝ/Theon, “God” in the accusative form.

This is such a common text in icons and so frequently used a phrase in Christianity that everyone interested in icons should know it in Greek, at least as it is found in John 1:1-5.  The portion used in the above icon text is in bold type here:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

En arkhe en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton Theon, kai theos en ho logos.  Houtos en en arkhe pros to Theon.  Panta di autou egeneto kai khoris autou egeneto oude hen.  Ho gegonen en auto zoe en, kai he zoe en to phos ton anthropon.  Kai to phos en te skotia phainei, ka he skotia auto ou katelaben.

“In [the] beginning was the Word/Reason, and the Word/Reason was with [the] God, and god was the Word/Reason.  All through him came-to-be, and without him nothing came-to-be that has become.  In him life was [or, depending on punctuation, ‘That which came to be in him was life’], and [the] life was the light of [the] men.  And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome/taken/understood it.”

Huge amounts of ink have flowed through history on both the proper translation and the interpretation of this.  “Logos” — ordinarily translated as “Word,” was actually a common term in Greek philosophy, used more in the sense of “Reason” as the reasoned order behind the universe.  Philo of Alexandria — influenced by Greek philosophy — used it to refer to the divine Reason of God — an emanation of the invisible and hidden God through which he acts in the material universe — a “second god,” as Philo called it/him.  This is the usage adopted in the Gospel called “of John,” saying essentially that this Reason was in the beginning, it was with God, and it was theos — that is, god by nature — divine.   Theos indicates here the nature of the Logos, just as we would say of a person, “He is man, not animal.”  In the same sense the Logos is god by nature.  The Greek is deliberately ambiguous, to indicate a distinction of this Logos from the hidden God.

Of course this grammatical ambiguity has resulted in endless theological bickering over the centuries as to precisely in what sense Jesus as Logos is theos, — and it continues to this day among Christian denominations.

Fortunately, all we need worry about is learning to recognize this common inscription on the book held in icons of John.

A TRICKY ONE AND AN EASY ONE

Here is an 18th century Greek icon.  It depicts a fellow dressed as a bishop, but to know who he is, we must read the title inscription at upper right.

(Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

Here it is:

It is rather faint, but it reads:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΙΑΚω
ΒΟς Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟ
ΘΕΟς

If we put it all together, it is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙΑΚΟΒΟC Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΘΕΟC
HO HAGIOS IAKOBOS HO ADELPHOTHEOS
“[The] Holy Jacob/James the Brother [of] God”

In Greek he is called Iakobos — Jacob — but in English that is traditionally rendered as “James” when referring to this person.  Adelphotheos is a composite word made from adelphos (“brother”) and Theos (“God”).  That title comes from what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18-19:

Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε· ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον, εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.

Epeita meta ete tria anelthon eis Hierosolyma historesai Kephan, kai epemeina pros auton hemeras dekapente. heteron de ton apostolon ouk eidon, ei me Iakobon ton adelphon tou kyriou.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days.  But of the other apostles I saw none, except James the brother of the Lord.”

Given that in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus is considered to be God, the title was adapted for James as “Brother of God.”

And here is his scroll text:

It is a rather tricky one, because it consists of two joined excerpts from the Liturgy of St. James.  Here is the first part:

ΙΔΕ Ὁ ΑΜΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ Ὁ ὙΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ Ὁ ΑΙΡΩΝ ΤΗΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΣΦΑΓΙΑΣΘΕΙΣ ὙΠΕΡ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΖΩΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑΣ
Ide ho amnos tou Theou ho huios tou Patros ho airon ten hamartion tou kosmou sphagiastheis huper tes tou kosmou zoes kai soterias

“Behold the Lamb of God, the son of the Father, who takes away the sins  of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.”

The second part is abbreviated in phrasing, but I have added in brackets what is missing:

Ὁ ΜΕΛΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC [ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΜΕΡΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC ΚΑΙ ΤΟΙC ΠΙCΤΟΙC ΜΕΤΑΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟC] ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΔΑΠΑΝΩΜΕΝΟC ΕΙC ΑΦΕCΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ [ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΝΥΝ  ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΙC ΤΟΥC ΑΙΩΝΑC]
Ho melizomenos [kai me merizomenos kai tois pistois metadidomenos] kai me dapanomenos eis aphesin hamartion [kai zoen ten aionion nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas]

Who is parted [and not divided, and distributed to the faithful] and not expended; for the remission of sins [, and the life everlasting; now and always, and into the ages.]”

That refers to the Eucharistic bread, which is, in Eastern Orthodox belief, the “Lamb of God” — Jesus.

Here is another icon of James, painted in a much simpler manner, and from the end of the 18th century”

(Velimezis Collection)

You should be able to easily read the title inscription.  But let’s look at the text on the book he holds:

This one — if you have been a careful reader of this site — should be rather easy too, if you note the common abbreviation.  Remember how I always say that icon inscriptions are very repetitive, so learning a few enables one to read many icons?   Well, we just saw this inscription (at least most of it) in the preceding posting on Antipas of Pergamum, and we also saw it earlier on an icon of St. Nicholas of Myra.  In this example it reads:

Left page:

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚΣ ΕΓ
ω ΕΙΜΙ
ἩΘΥΡα

Right page:

ΔΙ ΕΜΟΥ
ΕΑΝ ΤΙΣ
ΕΙΣΕΛ
ΘΗ σω

It begins with the words

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚC

ΕΙΠΕΝ/EIPEN means “said.”
Ὁ /HO is of course the masculine definite article “the.”

ΚC/KS, you will note, has a horizontal line above it, signifying that it is an abbreviation.  It abbreviates ΚΥΡΙΟC/KYRIOS, meaning “Lord.”  That gives us

ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/EIPEN HO KYRIOS

So literally it reads “Said the Lord,” but in normal English order we translate that as:
The Lord said.”

Then it continues with the beginning of that now familiar (I hope!) text:

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σω– [θήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει].

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, so-[thesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.]

And of course it is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be sa- [ved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture].”

AN INSCRIPTION REVISITED

Here is an 18th century Greek icon:

The title — which you should be able to read on your own if you have followed past postings here — is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΑΝΤΙΠΑC
Ho Hagios Antipas
“The Holy Antipas.”

This Antipas is  the Hieromartyr (Priest-martyr) Antipas of Pergamum — traditionally the go-to saint for those suffering from toothache.

In this icon he is a serious-looking fellow:

He holds an open book of the Gospels.  Usually we find book texts in Greek icons written in upper case letters, but this inscription includes lots of lower case, rather cursive letters:

Don’t let it worry you.  Cursive inscriptions, when clearly written, are not that difficult; and in fact we have already seen this inscription on an icon of St. Nicholas:
(https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/a-greek-nicholas-text/)

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σωθήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει.

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, sothesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.

It is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

This inscription adds to that earlier text, continuing with the beginning of John 10:10:

ὁ κλέπτης οὐκ ἔρχεται εἰ μὴ ἵνα κλέψῃ [καὶ θύσῃ καὶ ἀπολέσῃ· ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν].

Ho kleptes ouk erkhetai ei me hina klepse [kai apolese. ego elthon hina zoen ekhosin kai perisson ekhosin.

“The thief comes not but to steal [and kill, and destroy: I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.]”

As one often finds on Greek icons, there are two inscriptions at the base.  Here is the first:

ΧΕΙΡ κονσταντινου του κονταρινε
KHEIR Konstantinou tou Kontarine
“[The] Hand of Konstantinos Kontarines”

That is the painter’s signature.  He lived from 1699-1738, and we see the date 1738 above the end of the signature.

And here is the second:

ΔΕΙCΙC ΤΟΥ ΔΟΥΛΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ CΠΑΝΟΥ
DEISIS TOU DOULOU THEOU MIKHAEL SPANOU
“Prayer of the Servant of God Mikhael Spanos.”

That is the standard form giving the name of the patron who had the image painted.

As for the subject of the icon, according to hagiographic tradition (which we know is generally quite unreliable), Antipa was a disciple of John the Theologian (the supposed Evangelist John), and was bishop of the city of Pergamum during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 c.e.).

Antipa is said to have preached against the worship of the traditional gods, irritating the priests of the older religion.  When he persisted and refused to venerate the Gods, the priests are said to have taken him to the Temple of the goddess Artemis, where he was placed inside a hollow, red-hot copper image of a bull/ox.  That is what we see in this image:

The inscription reads:

ΜΑΡΤΥΡΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ἉΓΙΟΥ ἹΕΡΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΟC ΑΝΤΙΠΑ
MARTYRION TOU HAGIOU HEROMARTYROS ANTIPA
Martyrdom of the Holy Priest-martyr Antipas.”

Christians retrieved his supposedly unburnt body, and placed it in a tomb in Pergamum, which later became a pilgrimage site for those seeking healing of illnesses.

Antipas of Pergamum, because of his supposed help with tooth problems, was very popular in Russia as Антипа Пергамский — Antipa Pergamskiy, and is a common subject not only in painted icons, but also in large numbers of cast metal icons.

THE VISION OF EVLOGIY

Today’s icon type is a monastic subject, so it is not surprising that the earliest surviving example is found as a fresco in the Ferapontov Monastery church in the Vologda region of Russia, painted by Dionysiy about 1502-1503.

It is another of those “Vision” icons.  Here is an example from the Entrance into the Temple Monastery in Solvychegodsk, from the latter half of the 16th century:

It is called ВИДЕНИЕ ЕВЛОГИЯ — Videnie Evlogiya — “The Vision of Evlogiy” (Eulogios in Greek form).

The tale comes from the Skete Paterik (Скитский патерик), a very old collection of monastic and ascetic sayings, counsel, and stories.   Such an anthology is called a paterik in Russian and a πατερικόν/paterikon in Greek.

The story of Evlogiy is found in one version of the Paterik.  Originally, the story had a simpler form.  It said that a presbyter named Evlogiy had the ability to see the inner thoughts and intentions of monks attending the liturgical services — whether they did so piously or carelessly, with sincerity and diligence or without.  Later this simple tale became expanded into a vision of Evlogiy in which, at the blessing of the loaves at the end of the Evening Vigil service, he saw angels among the attending monks, anointing some with “myrrh,” censing others with incense,  distributing liturgical bread and symbolic spiritual rewards to the monks according to what they deserved for their efforts.  Some monks, he saw, received gold coins, some silver, and some only copper.  Some who had not the proper attitude and diligence during services left with nothing at all.

Evlogiy himself is seen at lower left, holding a scroll reading:

“не хвалитеся и не глаголите высокая в гордыни своей ниже да изыдет велиречие из уст ваших”.
Ne khvalitesya i ne glagolite vuisokaya v gorduini svoey nizhe da izuidet velirechie iz ust vashikh

“Do not glory and do not speak high in your pride nor let the speech leave your mouth.”

At bottom center we see two monks venerating the liturgical vessel containing the prosphora — the liturgical bread — representing the five loaves Jesus is said to have multiplied to feed the crowds in the New Testament (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:1-24).

Two angels at upper center hold scrolls reading:

“Друг друга тяготы носите и так исполните заповедь Христову”
Drug druga tyagotui nosite i tak ispolnite zapoved Khristovu

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the commandment of Christ,”

“Слово Христово да вселится в вас благодатно во всяко премудрость сердцах ваших”
Slovo Khrsitovo da vselitsya v vas blagodatno vo vsyako premudrost serdtsakh

“Let the word of Christ be established in you in all wisdom of your hearts.”

 

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

There are some odd accounts in the New Testament — among them that of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas on the Mount of Olives.

Here is one image:

We see the title in Greek at the top:  Ἡ ΠΡΟΔΟCΙΑ/HE PRODOSIA 

Notice that the Π is linked to the Ρ.

He Prodosia means “The Betrayal.”

Now in the account found in the gospel called “of John,” we find these Greek words used:

χιλίαρχος/khiliarkhos:  a khiliarkhos is a Roman military officer commanding one thousand men.
σπειρα/speira:  a speira is commonly a Roman cohort consisting of 600 to 1,000 men.

We read in John 18:12 of what is said to have happened on the Mount of Olives on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested:

Ἡ οὖν σπεῖρα καὶ ὁ χιλίαρχος καὶ οἱ ὑπηρέται τῶν Ἰουδαίων συνέλαβον τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἔδησαν αὐτὸν.

“Then the speira and the khiliarkhos and the subordinates/officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.”

A speira under a khiliarkhos?  That means the “band” of soldiers arresting Jesus was not just fifteen or twenty or thirty or forty men; according to this account, they must have been at least 600 to a thousand — just to arrest one person.

That is not the end of the strangeness.  There is the matter of the violence on the side of the disciples  Mark tells us vaguely (14:47):

“And one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

Luke is similarly vague as to who it was: (Luke 22:50):

“And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.”

Matthew is not much clearer (26:51):

“And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.”

John, however, gives a surprising name (18:10):

“Then Simon Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

Why does Peter even have a sword, if the disciples of Jesus are just a peaceful band?  And further, why do we find this mysterious exchange between Jesus and his disciples, just before going out to the Mount of Olives,  in Luke (22:35-38):

And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, and money, and shoes, did you lack anything? And they said, Nothing.  Then he said to them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his money: and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.  For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.  And they said, Lord, look, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.”

Why do the disciples of Jesus need swords?  Is Jesus trying to make himself look like a rebel against Rome, and so be arrested as a criminal?  Or is there perhaps some connection here between the accounts of Jesus and Jewish rebellion against Rome that we do not understand?

And why, when we find the disciples of Jesus named in Luke (6:14-16) do we find what most scholars consider to be a zealot among them — a zealot in the political sense, meaning a rebel against Rome — or is he, as some suggest, merely “zealous” in the religious sense?

“Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.”

And is Judas Iscariot really to be understood as Judas Sicariot — Judas the “dagger man,” one of the terrorist assassins known as Sicarii, rather than being simply ish Keriot — “man of [the village of] Keriot?

And why do so many of the things that happen in the Gospels seem chronologically out of place when compared to what is known from secular sources of historical figures and events?

For what it is worth (and what it is worth is still not quite clear), there is an interesting study of the matter by Lena Einhorn, who has written two books on the topic:

The Jesus Mystery: Astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (Lyons Press, 2007)

A Shift in Time:  How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus (Yucca Publishing, 2016)

Einhorn herself admits her conclusions are an unproven hypothesis, but her books are nonetheless interesting for her examination of the apparent historical peculiarities in the chronology in the New Testament.

Iconographically, it is interesting that the image at the top of this posting shows Peter cutting off the ear of a boy servant —

— while other images — including the Western rendering here by Duccio di Buoninsegna — depict the servant as an adult male (at the far left of the image):

 

 

“OH, NO! NOT MORE GREEK!” OR “YAY! MORE GREEK!”

Depending on whether you want to learn to actually READ icons or not, you will either find this posting quite interesting or else unutterably boring.  In any case, here we go.

Today we will look at a Greek-inscribed image of  a rather generic-looking saint called in Greek Ὁ Άγιος Ιωαννίκιος ο Μέγας ὁ εν Ολύμπω/Ho Hagios Ioannikios ho Megas Ho en Olympo — “[The] Holy Ioannikios the Great, the-one in Olympus.”  You may also find him as Όσιος Ιωαννίκιος ὁ Μεγάλος/Hosios Ioannikios ho MegalosHosios Ioannikios ho Megalos.  You will recall that Hosios is the Greek title for a male monk-saint — the equivalent of the Slavic Prepodobnuiy, which is customarily loosely rendered as “Venerable.”  And ho Megalos here has the same meaning as ho Megas — “the Great.”

In Russian iconography he is called Преподобный Иоанникий Великий/Prepodobnuiy Ioannikiy Velikiy, which means simply “Venerable Ioannikios the Great.”

It is not so much the saint that interests us today as reading his inscriptions, which are good practice.  Here is his image:

If you have been a faithful reader of this site (you all are, aren’t you?), then you will easily be able to translate the title inscription.  Here is what we see at top left:

Γ
ὉἉ

That is obviously a common abbreviation for ἉΓΙΟC/Ho Hagios, “The Holy.”

Below that we find:

ΙΩΑΝΝΙ
ΚΙΟς

ΙΟΑΝΝΙΚΙΟC/IOANNIKIOS, the saint’s name.  Notice that the second letter of the name is the old form of the letter Omega, but I have used the common modern form in representing it.

At right we see:
Ὁ ΜΕ
ΓΑC

— which you have probably already read as HO MEGAS and have translated as “The Great.”

Now we come to the interesting part — the scroll inscription.  As you already know, saints in icons speak through scrolls, just as cartoon characters speak through cartoon bubbles.  Here is the inscription:

It reads (with spaces added, ligatures separated,  and abbreviations completed in lighter type):

Ἡ ΕΛΠΙΣ ΜΟΥ Ὁ
ΘΕΟC ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ
ΜΟΥ Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC CΚΕ
ΠΗ ΜΟΥ ΤΟ
ΠΝΕΥΜΑ ΤΟ ἉΓΙ
ΟΝ

From past reading here, you already should know several of the words — those I have put in bold type here:

HO ELPIS MOU HO
THEOS KATAPHYGE
MOU HO KHRISTOS SKE-
PE MOU TO
PNEUMA TO AGI-
ON

Here are those you don’t know, with their definitions:

ΕΛΠΙC/ELPIS/HOPE
ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ/KATAPHYGE/REFUGE
CΚΕΠΗ/SKEPE/PROTECTION

We can read the whole inscription like this:

Ho Elpis mou ho Theos;
Kataphyge mou ho Khristos;
Skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion

Literally,

The Hope of-me the God;
Refuge of-me the Christ;
Protection of-me the Spirit the Holy

And in normal English — the way we would translate it — it means:

My Hope is God;
My Refuge is Christ;
My Protection the Holy Spirit.

This inscription — which is a common inscription on icons of Ioannikios — is a variation on what was said to be a frequent prayer of his:

Η ελπίς μου ὁ Πατήρ, καταφυγή μου οὙιός, σκέπη μου το Πνεύμα το Ἁγιον, Τριάς Ἁγία, δόξα σοι.

He elpis mou ho Pater, kataphyge mou o Huios, skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion, Trias Hagia, doxa soi.

Literally:

The help of-me the Father, refuge of-me the Son, protection of-me the Spirit the Holy, Trinity Holy, glory to-you

In normal English,
“My help is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

In Eastern Orthodoxy, it has become a Trinitarian prayer that is often inserted into longer prayers.

Let’s look now at a late printed icon of Ioannikios that is inscribed in both Greek and Church Slavic:

We see his title written beside his head, first in Greek, then in Church Slavic, both of which you should now be able to read.  But what about his scroll text?

As we shall see, it is nothing to worry about.  It reads (I am using a modern Russian font):

Упование мое
Отец, прибежи-
ще мое Сын,
покров мой Ду-
х Святый, Тро-
ице Святая
слава Тебе.

Upovanie moe Otets, pribyezhishche moe Suin, pokrov moy Dukh Svyatuiy, Troitse Svyataya, slava Tebye.

“My hope is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

So it turns out to be precisely the same inscription — with a slight lengthening — that is common on Greek icons of Ioannikios — only here in Church Slavic.

If you can endure a bit more of this, we should probably take a look at another Greek inscription on a fresco of Ioannikios:

dd

You will easily recognize the triliteral abbreviation at left as Ho Hagios — “The Holy,” but it is the rest of the title inscription that concerns us here:

Though a bit worn, we can fill it in as reading:

ΙΩΑΝ[N]IΚΙΟ[C]
Ὁ ΘΑΥΜΑΤΟΥΡΓΟC

IOANNIKIOS HO THAUMATOURGOS
“IOANNIKIOS THE THAUMATURGE/WONDERWORKER

“Thaumaturge” is just the word borrowed into English from Greek, but in Greek it means simply “Wonderworker,” someone who works miracles.

So we see that there is another title for Ioannikios the Great:  “Ioannikios the Wonderworker.”

As for the hagiographic life of this Ioannikios, some say he was born in 754 or 755, others in 762 — in Bithynia, in Asia Minor.  As a boy, he tended his parents’ pigs, and was illiterate.  He joined the army, and is said to have been an Iconoclast (an opposer of the use of icons), but later in life converted to the opposite belief, becoming an Iconophile (an advocate of icons).  Troubled by the slaughter he saw in battle, he left the army and became a monk at the Antidion Monastery on Mount Olympus.

As a monk, he was said to have miraculous abilities, and could levitate and become invisible.  He predicted when a number of people would die.  He had power over wild animals, and could overcome snakes and dragons (the dragon part alone tells us that as with all Eastern Orthodox hagiography, we should maintain a healthy skepticism).

He is said to have died in 846 c.e.