TEN SUNDAYS AND THEIR ICONS

(Prepare yourself; get cup of tea and a cookie or twenty, because this is mind-numbingly long)

In the liturgical calendar of Eastern Orthodoxy, there are five pre-Lent Sundays, followed by five Lent Sundays.  There is an iconographic image associated with each.

The pre-Lent Sundays with their appropriate commemoration and iconography are;

FIFTH SUNDAY BEFORE:  SUNDAY OF ZACCHAEUS:
Here is a 14th century Serbian Fresco showing Jesus and his disciples at left, and at right Zaccheus up a tree.

Here is the title inscription:

It reads:

Х[РИСТО]С  ПРИЗИВАЕТЬ ЗАКХЕИ ОТ СИКОМОРIЕ
KHRISTOS PRIZIVAET ZAKKHEI OT SIKOMORIE
“Christ calls Zacchaeus out of the Sycamore.”

I have transliterated the Church Slavic inscription using a modern Russian font, but note that the original uses the old symbol for ot (meaning “out of,” “from”), which looks like a Greek omega with a small T atop it — in other words, a combination of o and t:

And in the word Sikomorie/Sycamore, it uses that same “omega” symbol — minus the T — for the letter o.

The story of the encounter of Jesus with Zacchaeus — a staple of Sunday School classes for little children — is found in Luke 19:1-10:

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, who was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said to him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at your house.

And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

And Zacchaeus stood, and said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

And Jesus said to him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

4TH SUNDAY BEFORE: SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND THE PHARISEE:

Here is another 14th century Serbian fresco, the image for this Sunday:

The title inscription, which is rather difficult to see in this illustration, reads:

ПРИТЧА О МИТАРИ И ФАРИСЕЙ
PRITCHA O MITARI I PHARISEI
“[The] Parable of [the] Publican and [the] Pharisee.”

If you are wondering what all those brackets are about, remember that Church Slavic — like Russian, has no definite or indefinite articles — no “the” or “a,” so we have to supply them for good English.

The  short words above the two figures are just abbreviations of “Pharisee” (Фарисей; the central figure at left) and “Publican” (Митар; the central figure at right).

Note that the icon is really divided into two halves, and we see two images of the Publican and two of the Pharisee.  At left the proud Pharisee is praying and thanking God that he is not like that miserable Publican, toward whom he gestures with his left hand.  Below him is the Publican, shown humbly striking his breast with both fists.

In the right half of the icon we see the Publican, represented as the righteous one of the two by the halo that is now given him.  Notice the ray of heavenly light extending to his head.  Below him is the Pharisee, skulking out of the Temple with no halo — a sign of his divine rejection because of his pride.

In the upper portion of the image, we see the long reddish cloth hanging from building to building.  This is the velum — the old standard symbol telling us the scene is taking place in an interior.  At the center of the image is the temple altar, shown in the form of an Orthodox Church altar.

The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee is found in Luke 18:10-14:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.

Perhaps you noted the similarity between the prayer of the Publican and the “Jesus Prayer” repeated over and over in Russian Orthodoxy:
Господи Иисусе Христе, Сыне Божий, помилуй мя, грешного.
Gospodi Iisuse Khriste, Suine Bozhiy, pomiluy mya,greshnogo
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

THIRD SUNDAY BEFORE:  SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON:

Ιcons of the Prodigal Son vary in their details and complexity.  Here is a modern page showing one Greek example:

The incriptions above the two figures in the foreground are:
Left:  ὁ άσωτος ὑιός — ho asotos huios — “the prodigal son”

In modern Greek, it is pronounced “o asotos eeos.”

Right: ὁ φιλόστοργος Πατήρ — ho philostorgos Pater — “the loving father”

At upper left the Prodigal Son is shown sitting depressed and hungry among the pigs, and at right we see him leaving the pigs and walking back to his home.

The rather lengthy and well-known story of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke 15:11-32.  I won’t repeat it here.

Note the signature in the lower right corner of the image.  It reads:

Χειρ φωτιου Κοντογλου
Κheir Photiou Kontoglou
“Hand [of] Photis Kontoglou”

If you are a long-time reader here (I keep saying that, don’t I!), you will not only be able to read that inscription on your own, but you will also recognize the name Photis Kontoglou (Φώτης Κόντογλου, 1895-19650).  He is noted for his 20th-century revival and adaptation of earlier iconographic styles and the creation of a new “retro” movement in modern Greek icon painting, which had a wide influence.

2ND SUNDAY BEFORE:  SUNDAY OF THE LAST JUDGMENT:

Another name for this day is “Meatfare Sunday,” because it is the last day on which believers can eat meat before Lent.

The icon for this Sunday is the Страшный суд Strashnuiy Sud — “Terrible Judgment” as the Russians call it, representing the judging of all the living and dead at the second coming of Jesus. Here is a 15th century example from Novgorod:

(Tretyakov Gallery)

Here is the link to my previous discussion of this icon type:
https://russianicons.wordpress.com/tag/terrible-judgment-iconography/

1ST SUNDAY BEFORE:  CHEESEFARE SUNDAY/EXPULSION OF ADAM AND EVE FROM PARADISE:

The icon for this day (as you might have guessed from the heading) is the “Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise”/Изгнание Адама и Евы из Рая/Izgnanie Adama i Evui iz Raya.  The tale is found in Genesis 3:22-24.

Here is a 17th century Russian example — a fresco from the portal of the Church of Nicholas Nadeina in Yaroslavl (in case you are wondering where the Nadeina comes from,  it derives from the name of the wealthy merchant who paid for its construction — Епифаний Свешников/Epiphaniy Sveshnikov, who was nicknamed  Надей/Nadey.  The church was so called to distinguish it from other St. Nicholas Churches in that city.

It depicts Adam and Eve exiting through the gate of Paradise, and an angel making sure they leave and do not return.  This image is often found in combination with other scenes relating to Adam and Eve.

The rather odd English name of this Sunday derives from the Church practice of making this the last day on which believers are allowed to eat dairy products such as cheese (as well as eggs) before the beginning of the Lenten fasting (they are already fasting from meat).    The Russian name for this day is Масленичная неделя/Maslenichnaya Nedelya — “Butter Sunday,” and the week before Lent is celebrated as МaсленицаMaslenitsa — from the Russian word for “butter” (масло/maslo).  Maslenitsa is a very old Slavic celebration dating to pre-Christian times, when it was the festival welcoming the sun and the beginning of spring.  The standard Russian food for Maslenitsa is блины/blinui/bliny — the little round thin pancakes made of flour, eggs, milk and butter or oil.  Their round shape represented the sun.

Another popular Russian name for this Sunday is Прощёное Воскресенье — Proshchonoe Voskresen’e — “Forgiveness Sunday.”

The Greeks call Cheesefare Sunday Κυριακή Της Τυροφάγου — Kyriake Tes Tyrophagou — “Sunday of Cheese-eating.”

Now we move onto the The Lent Sundays with their appropriate commemoration and iconography.  They are:

1ST SUNDAY:  THE TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOXY:

This celebrates the triumph in the year 843 c.e.  of those who favored the making and veneration of icons (the Iconophiles) over those who decried it as an unchristian survival of paganism (the Iconoclasts).  The main figures in the icon are the byzantine Empress Theodora, shown crowned at left, with her son Michael III.  In the center is the Hodegitria (“Way-shower”) icon.  To its right stand the Patriarch of Constantinople, Methodios, and Bishop Theodoros.

(British Museum)

2ND SUNDAY: ST. GREGORY PALAMAS:

As one might expect from the name, this Sunday commemorates Gregory Palamas (Γρηγόριος Παλαμάς/Gregorios Palamas, c. 1296 – 1359).  Gregory was an Athonite monk and prominent defender of Hesychasm — the meditative practice in Eastern Orthodoxy — and its theology.  He later became Archbishop of Thessaloniki, and was glorified as a saint in 1368.  Here is a 15th century Greek icon of him:

(Pushkin Museum)

The inscription is rather worn, but still legible.  The top line is read from the left to right sides, and the remainder also from left to right.  Here is the left side:

At the top is the partly-obliterated Ὁ Άγιος/Ho Hagios/”The Holy,” followed by a word divided into two parts — Αρχιεπί-σκοπος/Arkhiepiskopos/”Archbishop.”

And here is the right:

At top is the name Γρηγόριος/Gregorios/”Gregory,” followed by two divided words.  The first is Θεσσαλονί-κης/Thessalonikes/”of-Thessaloniki, and the second is  Ὁ Παλα-μάς/Ho Palamas/”the Palamas.”

If we put them together as they are meant to be read, we get:
Άγιος Γρηγόριος Αρχιεπίσκοπος Θεσσαλονίκης Ὁ Παλαμάς
Ho Hagios Gregorios Arkhiepiskopos Thessalonikes Ho Palamas
“The Holy Gregory, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, (the) Palamas”

It may seem peculiar that there is a major Sunday commemoration just for Gregory; the thinking behind it is that the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy celebrates the victory of the Iconophiles over the Iconoclasts (considered “heretics” in Eastern Orthodoxy), and Gregory’s triumph over those opposing the practice of Hesychasm similarly was another victory of what came to be considered Orthodoxy over opposing doctrines.

3RD SUNDAY: THE VENERATION OF THE CROSS:

There are two icons generally associated with this day.  The first is the same as that for the Major church feast called the “Elevation of the Cross.”  Here is a 19th century Russian example:

(Courtesy of the Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA)

The Inscription at the top reads:
ВОЗДВИЖЕНИЕ ЧЕСТНАГО КРЕСТА ГОСПОДНЯ
VOZDVIZHENIE CHESTNAGO KRESTA GOSPODNYA
“Elevation of the Honorable Cross of the Lord.”

The icon depicts the raising of the cross on which Jesus was crucified for the veneration of the people of Jerusalem.  St. Helena — mother of the Emperor Constantine, who legalized and supported Christianity in the Roman Empire — according to legend discovered the cross of Jesus buried in Jerusalem in 326 c.e.  In the icon Helena stands at left, and on the left side of the cross is Bishop Makariy/Makarios/Macarius of Jerusalem, and on the other side another bishop.

The second icon associated with the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross is the type generally called simply ПОКЛОНЕНИЕ КРЕСТА — POKLONENIE KRESTA — “Veneration of the Cross.”  Here is a 12th century Russian example.

(Tretyakov Gallery)

It depicts the empty cross ornamented with a wreath, standing on Golgotha with the skull of Adam visible within the hill.  At left is the sun, and at right the moon.  The Archangel Michael is at left, holding the spear of the crucifixion, and at right is the Archangel Gabriel, holding the sponge on a reed.  In the sky above are six-winged cherubim at the sides, and at each side of the upper bar of the cross are seraphim bearing ripida — the ceremonial fans used in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

The liturgical phrase associated with the Veneration of the Cross (and found on countless Crucifixion icons) is:

КРЕСТУ ТВОЕМУ ПОКЛОНАЕМСЯ ВЛАДИКО И СВЯАТОЕ ВОСКРЕСЕНИЕ ТВОЕ СЛАВИМЪ

KRESTOU TVOEMOU POKLONAEMSYA VLADIKO
I SVYATOE VOSKRESENIE TVOE SLAVIM

“We bow before your cross, Master, and praise your holy resurrection.”

4TH SUNDAY: JOHN OF THE LADDER:

This day commemorates the 6th-7th century monk and writer Ἰωάννης τῆς Κλίμακος/Ioannes tes Klimakos/John of the Ladder.  The Russians call him Иоанн Лествичник/ Ioann Lestvichnik/John the Ladder-guy.  He is discussed — along with the icon of the “Ladder of John Klimakos” — in this previous posting:
https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/

This commemoration celebrates the effort and virtue needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Here is a 13th century icon of John Klimakos from the St. Catherine Monastery on Mount Sinai, where he was abbot:

The title inscription is easy; it reads:

Ὁ ἉγιοςἸωάννης ὁ τῆς Κλίμακος
Ho Hagios Ioannes ho tes Klimakos
“The Holy John the [one of the] Ladder”

5TH SUNDAY: MARY OF EGYPT:

Mary of Egypt is one of the most common figures in Russian icons.  Traditionally, she was a desert ascetic living in the wilds in the region of the Jordan River.  She and her iconography are discussed in this previous posting:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/tag/mary-of-egypt/

This commemoration calls to mind the importance of repentance (Mary was once a raging nymphomaniac).

Here is a Russian icon of her:

Here is the title inscription:

It reads simply:
С[ВЯ]ТАЯ П[РЕПОДОБНАЯ] МАРИЯ ЕГИП[ЕТСКАЯ]
SVYATAYA PREPODOBNAYA MARIYA EGIPETSKAYA
“Holy Venerable Mary of Egypt.”

If you managed to get through this posting, you are either a very serious student of icons, or you have nothing else at all to do.  I hope it is the former, but I have my suspicions.

 

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A “BUSY” GREEK ICON

Here is a Greek icon from the 16th century:

It is quite a “busy” icon, with so many things happening that it reminds me of an assignment my high school art teacher once gave — to draw “many people doing many things.”

First, we need to know what it represents.  For that we can look at the title inscription.  It is rather long, so here it is in two parts:

And here is the last part:

Though the inscription appears faint does not stand out sharply, nonetheless it reads:

Ἡ ΚΟΙΜΕCΙC ΤΟΥ ὉCΙΟΥ Π[ΑΤ]Ρ[O]C ἩΜΩΝ CΑ[B]ΒΑ ΤΟΥ ΙΓΙΑCΜΕΝΟΥ (ἡγιασμένου)

HE KOIMESIS TOU HOSIOU PATERAS HIMON SAVVA TOU ἹGIASMENOU (Egiasmenou)
“THE DORMITION OF THE VENERABLE FATHER OF-US SAVVA THE SANCTIFIED”

In normal English,
“The Dormition of Our Venerable Father Sabbas the Sanctified.”

We are accustomed to seeing the Greek word του as meaning “of,” or “of the,” but here it has more the sense of “the one.”

So this is a “Dormition” icon, but not the most common one, which is the Dormition of Mary.  This one is the Dormition of St. Sabbas/Savva the Sanctified, a prominent early monastic leader in the area of Jerusalem.

This image is essentially a copy of an earlier icon of the same type, an example of which is known from the 15th century.

In the foreground of the icon we see the liturgical service taking place at the bier on which the body of Sabbas lies, with an icon of Jesus resting on his chest.  One monk bends over to kiss Sabbas, while others stand all around.

The rest of the icon is essentially explained by the image of the monk just above the Dormition gathering.  He holds a semantron, which you will recall is the long wooden board beaten with a mallet, and acting as a kind of loud but dull-sounding gong to call monks to assemble.  So this fellow is going about beating his semantron to call the monks we see scattered over the remainder of the icon to come to the Dormition service of Sabbas:

We see some of the monks busy with various occupations.  Here they are weaving baskets, which Sabbas himself is said to have done.  Note the icon on the cave wall:

Here another monk is carving wooden spoons:

And here are monks as scribes writing books:

Near the top of the image, a monk sends provisions up to a stylite (pillar-dweller), using a woven basket on a rope, as another monk in his cave looks on:

 

We see various scenes of monks on their way to the Dormition service.  Here, by the semantron bearer, is a monk carrying an elderly monk on his back:

Here two younger monks carry an old monk on a litter:

Here is an old monk riding on a lion to get to the service.  A lion features in the hagiography of Sabbas, as well as in that of other monastic saints:

This one rides a donkey, while the fellow next to him is fishing:

Images in the icon are quite out of proportion, but that is just the old method of getting lots of things into an image without worrying about “real” perspective.  Notice that the body of water in the foreground has ships and birds on it, but both are the same size!

A number of creatures such as rabbits, a deer, birds, and so on have been included to add visual interest to the image, something the Cretan iconographers picked up from Italian art of the period, which helped to soften and enliven icons painted or influenced by the Cretan painters.

In the sky above, we see some black demons flying at right…

chort

But at left we see an angel bearing the soul of Sabbas heavenward, in the form of an infant:

dushasavv

In earlier examples of the type, the figure to the left of the angel is generally interpreted as Christ Emmanuel, to whom the angel is bringing the soul of Sabbas — as in this 15th century detail:

savvdormdet15thc

The painter of the icon we are examining today, however, may not have clearly understood his model, because he makes the figure look rather like a personification of the sun:

savvdorm16thcdet

As for Sabbas himself, he is said to have been a precociously pious 5th century Cappadocian boy who entered a monastery at the age of eight.  In Jerusalem he was a disciple of St. Euthymios, and eventually he founded the Mar Saba Monastery — quite a famous one that is generally seen on “map icons” of Jerusalem and its surrounding pious attractions.    There are all sorts of miraculous tales told about him, and interesting accounts of the monastery.

The Mar Saba Monastery, by the way, is the place where the biblical scholar and historian Morton Smith said he discovered a copy of a lost letter of Clement of Alexandria in 1958, describing a “secret” Gospel of Mark that was only for certain advanced Christians, and not to be revealed to all.  Here is a photo of the Mar Saba letter:

Now as you can imagine, this caused great controversy in the world of biblical scholarship, with some accusing Smith of a hoax, while others regarded the text as authentic, revealing a previously unknown side to early Christianity.  To this day the matter remains unsettled.

 

THE “LAZARUS SATURDAY” ICON

In the Eastern Orthodox Calendar, Lazarus Saturday –which commemorates the raising of Lazarus — marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter (Paschal) cycle.  It is called Лазарева Суббота — Lazareva Subbota — in Russian, and in Greek Το Σάββατο του Λαζάρου (To Sabbato tou Lazarou).

It has its icon, which is the “Raising/Resurrection of Lazarus” — in Greek Ἡ Εγερση/Ανάσταση του ΛαζάρουHe Egerse/Anastase tou Lazarou .” In Russian iconography it is usually titled “Resurrection of Lazarus” — Воскресение Лазарево — Voskresenie Lazarevo.  Icons of the type are usually much the same.  Here is a Byzantine example from around the beginning of the 15th century:

(Russian Museum, St. Petersburg)

We see Jesus at left, in a brilliant blue garment that must have been painted using powdered lapis lazuli, an expensive mineral pigment:

At right we see Lazarus, called forth from his tomb and still standing in the grave wrappings, which are being removed by two men.  Two others carry the long cover of the open tomb.  The two imploring women kneeling before Jesus are the sisters Mary and Martha of Bethany.

This icon requires no lengthy explanation,  The story of the raising of Lazarus is found only in Chapter 11 of the Gospel called “of John.”

In Eastern Orthodox tradition, the rather gloomy raised Lazarus later became the first bishop of Kition/Kiteia, which is modern-day Larnaca on the southern coast of Cyprus.  Latin Christianity had a quite different tradition in which Lazarus, Mary and Martha were set adrift in a boat by hostile Jews, and miraculously floated to Marseille on the southern coast of France, where Lazarus became the first bishop.  It is a legend that seems to have developed by the 13th century, and likely confused the biblical Lazarus with another bishop in France.

“GOT ANYTHING TO EAT?”

Today we will look at a 16th century fresco from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece.  Unfortunately, part of the image is blocked by the gaudy, gilt baroque-style woodwork in front of it, but nonetheless we can see enough of the image for our purposes.  Here it is:

This icon image is a good example of how helpful it is to have general biblical knowledge when trying to identify a scene.

Obviously, it is a boat full of men fishing, and one man swimming toward shore:

If we look to the right, we can see a figure (partially hidden by the woodwork in the foreground) identifiable as Jesus.  How do we know?  First, he has the halo with three points of the cross visible in it.  That is characteristic of Jesus.  Second, we see the Greek letters IC XC above his head, abbreviating  Iesous Khristos  — “Jesus Christ” — so there is no doubt about who it represents:

We should also look down below Jesus, where we see — again partially hidden by the woodwork — a round loaf of bread marked with a cross, and part of a fish lying on what look like red rocks.  That is another clue.

If you know the New Testament reasonably well, you probably already identified the scene.  But if there is any doubt, we need only look at the fragment of Greek inscription at upper right:

The beginning is not visible, but we can see at least this much:
–ΑΔΕΞΙΑΜΕΡΗΤΟΥΠΛΟΙΟΥΤΟΔΙΚΤΥΟΝ
ΚΑΙΕΥΡΗCΗΤΕ

As is common in older Greek inscriptions, the letters are all run together, without spaces separating the words.  At the beginning of this portion, we see a T followed by the joined letters O and U, with the U looking like a V and placed on top of the O.   can see the ligature joining the letters O and U.  And we also see at the end the joined letters T and O, with the T placed atop the O.  You will be familiar with those ligatures from past articles here.

Here is the visible portion of the inscription again:

–ΑΔΕΞΙΑΜΕΡΗΤΟΥΠΛΟΙΟΥΤΟΔΙΚΤΥΟΝ
ΚΑΙΕΥΡΗCΗΤΕ

If we separate it into words, we get:

–[T]Α ΔΕΞΙΑ ΜΕΡΗ ΤΟΥ ΠΛΟΙΟΥ ΤΟ ΔΙΚΤΥΟΝ
ΚΑΙ ΕΥΡΗCΗΤΕ

It is not a title inscription.  It is Jesus talking, and we find his words in the Gospel called “of John,” chapter 21:

 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Βάλετε εἰς τὰ δεξιὰ μέρη τοῦ πλοίου τὸ δίκτυον, καὶ εὑρήσετε.
Ho de eipen autois Balete eis ta dexia mere tou ploiou to diktuon, kai
euresete.

“And he said to them, Cast to the right side of-the boat the net, and
you-shall-find.

So that tells us this is a scene from the story told in John 21.  It is the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.  Here is the portion relevant to the fresco image:

1.  After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and in this manner he showed himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

Simon Peter says to them, I am going fishing. They say to him, We also are going with you. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.  Then Jesus says to them, Children, have you anything to eat*? They answered him, No.

And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to pull it [in] because of the multitude of fishes.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord.  Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer garment around him, (for he was naked,) and cast himself into the sea.

8 And the other disciples came in a little boat; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

Notice that in this story, as mentioned in previous postings about the ability of Jesus to appear in “another form,” the disciples do not at first recognize him.

Also, it is interesting to note that the word translated above as “anything to eat,” when Jesus asks the disciples if they have any, is προσφάγιον/prosphagion in the original Greek.  It commonly means cooked fish as food, but it can also mean other things eaten with/on bread — literally something “to eat.”

Notice that we also now know what the little “red rocks” are that the fish is lying on in the fresco — they are the hot coals mentioned in 21:9:

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

The round loaf of bread is reminiscent of the Eucharist.

The image of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is a common part of later Russian “Resurrection” icons that combine several related scenes.  If we look at this central image from a 19th century Palekh (that famous icon-painting village) icon of the Resurrection and Major Church Festivals, we see the “Appearance at the Sea of Tiberias” at lower right:

The painter of this image has given the disciples a rather grand sailing ship with three masts.  We see Peter in the water, and Jesus standing on the shore at left.

THE POLYMORPHIC JESUS

Here is a seldom-seen but very interesting Greek iconographic type.  This example — a fresco in the Protaton Church at Karyes, Mount Athos — was painted near the end of the 13th century by Manuel Panselinos (Μανουήλ Πανσέληνος):

(Source: https://toeilhtarion.blogspot.com)

Who is it?  Well, the clue lies in the halo, which shows three points of the cross.  As you know, the halo with the cross is found on icons of Jesus.  But as you can see, this does not look at all like conventional images of Jesus.  So again, who is it?

Here is the answer:  it is Jesus.  But it is Jesus in an uncommon form.  In Greek this iconographic type is called Ὁ Χριστός ὁ εν ετέρα μορφή — Ho Khristos ho en hetera morphe — “Christ ‘the one in another form.'”

In Mark 16:12-13 we read:

Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα δυσὶν ἐξ αὐτῶν περιπατοῦσιν ἐφανερώθη ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ, πορευομένοις εἰς ἀγρόν.  Κἀκεῖνοι ἀπελθόντες ἀπήγγειλαν τοῖς λοιποῖς· οὐδὲ ἐκείνοις ἐπίστευσαν.

After that he [Jesus] appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest: they did not believe them.”

And the Gospel called “of Luke” (24:13-32) tells the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus, after the Crucifixion of Jesus.  On their way Jesus appears to them, but they do not recognize him:  “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.”  When they finally arrive at Emmaus and are sitting at supper, and suddenly realize who he is, he immediately disappears.

Here is a modern image of the type:

(Source:http://iwannisfoteinopoulos.blogspot.com)

The notion that Jesus could appear in a different form to different people — sometimes even at the same time — is very old.  It is found, for example, in the Acts of John (87-93), in which Jesus is said to have appeared looking like John, then James saw him as a child while John saw him as a man, and again John saw him as a balding man with a thick beard, while James saw him as a youth with a beard just beginning.  Sometimes he was seen as a small and unattractive man, at other times as tall as heaven.

John also says of Jesus in this apocryphal gospel, “Sometimes when I would take hold of him, I felt a material and solid body, and at other times again, when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and as if it did not exist at all.”  The general notion was that Jesus, being a god in essence, could take any form at all.  In the Gospel of Philip it is said:

“Jesus took them all by secrecy, for he did not appear as he was, but in the way in which they would be able to see him. He appeared to them all. To the great he appeared as great.  To the small he appeared as small.  To the angels he appeared as an angel, and to men as a man. Because of this, his word hid itself from everyone. Some indeed saw him, thinking they were seeing themselves; but when he appeared to his disciples in glory on the mount, he was not small. He became great, but he made the disciples great, so they might be able to see him in his greatness.”

We may recall other instances in the canonical Gospels when Jesus is not initially recognized, for example his appearance to Mary Magdalene in John 20:14-15:

And when she had thus spoken, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus says to her, Woman, why weep you? whom seek you? She, supposing him to be the gardener, says to him, Sir, if you have carried him hence, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Mainstream Christianity settled on the notion that Jesus had a stable bodily form instead of just appearing to be human, in contrast to what they considered the heresy of docetism, but nonetheless traces of the old “polymorphic Jesus” view remain in Mark, Luke, John, and the iconographic image of Jesus “in another form.”

Here is a second modern example of the type:

(Source: http://www.prophet-elias.net)

Whether alone or as the main figure in a “Supper at Emmaus” image,  the “Christ ‘in another form'” first appears in iconography of the early  Palaiologan period during the reign of Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328).

THE “TEN MARTYRS OF CRETE”

As you know, there are a number of “group” icons showing saints associated with a particular story, like the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, and so on.

Today we will take a brief look at another group icon.  Here is an example painted by Emmanuel Tsanes (Εμμανουήλ Τζάνες, 1610 – 1690):

It is identified by title (in Greek) as:

ὉΙ ἉΓΙΟΙ ΔΕΚΑ ὉΙ ΕΝ ΤΗ ΚΡΗΤΗ
HOI DEKA HOI EN TΕ KRETE
“THE TEN THOSE IN CRETE”

A fuller title would be:
ὉΙ ἉΓΙΟΙ ΔΕΚΑ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΕΣ ὉΙ ΕΝ ΤΗ ΚΡΗΤΗ
HOI HAGIOI DEKA MARTYRES HOI EN TΕ KRETE
“The Holy Ten Martyrs those in Crete.”

In normal English, it would be “The Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete.”

In this icon they are:

Top row, left to right:
Ευαρεστος  — Euarestos
Πομπιος  — Pompios
Ζωτικος — Zotikos
Αγαθοπους — Agathopous
Βασιλιδης Βασιλειαδης — Basilides/Basileiades

Second row:
Θεοδουλος — Theodoulos
Cατορνινος — Satorninos
Ευπορος — Euporos
Γελασιος — Gelasios
Ευνικιανος — Eunikianos

The name Pompios is sometimes replaced in lists of the ten by either Cleomenes or Mobios.
Each holds a cross of martyrdom.

The cult of the “Ten Martyrs” became particularly popular on Crete (then Candia) near the end of the rule of the island by Venice, which terminated in 1669.

The tales of their martyrdom is found in a work written sometime between the 6th and 8th century, though it is supposedly based on a lost earlier text.

We get a good idea of their hagiography from the pages of The Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Volume 12.  This massive work by Alban Butler was first printed in london from 1756 to 1759 (the pages shown are from an 1800 Edinburgh printing):

 

 

 
There is today a village on the Island of Crete called Agioi Deka — “Holy Ten,” because it is where these saints were said to have been martyred.  Around the turn of the century there was a small, dark and stagnant lake where animals were taken to drink at the edge of the village that traditionally had been called Αγία Λίμνη — Aya Limni in modern pronunciation — “Holy Lake.”  Its waters reputedly had healing powers.  There is a story that a young man had a vision of the Ten in 1898, and they told him to drink the water to be healed of fever.   In 1902 Bishop Vasileos Markakis of Gortyna and Arkadia had the waters drained, and what are said to be the “tombs” of the Ten were revealed.  A small church still called “Holy Lake” was then built over them in 1915-1917.  Here is an image of the “tombs” beneath the church:

As we see from the account of the Ten found in the work by Alban Butler, the remains of the Ten were said to have been long before taken to Rome.

 

BOWING AND SCRAPING IN GREEK

As mentioned in a previous posting, the characters commonly called “The Three Wise Men” in the West are known as Magoi in Greek and Volsvi in Slavic.  Here they are in a fresco:

Let’s take a look at the Greek inscriptions

The first two should be easy for you.  They are:

ΜΡ ΘΥ and ΙωCΙΦ

As you already know, ΜΡ ΘΥ abbreviates Meter Theou — “Mother [of] God”, and you should be able to easily recognize the second as the name IOSIF — JOSEPH — with the first I written above and as a part of the letter ω.

Next comes this inscription:

As is usual, the words are not separated, but all run together.  When we separate them, we get:

Ἡ ΠΡΟCΚΥΝΗCΗC ΤΟΝ ΜΑΓΟΝ
HE PROSKYNESES TON MAGON

He, you will recall, is the feminine form of “the” in Greek.
Proskyneses is a phoneticized spelling of the Greek word common in the Bible and church literature, proskynesis (προσκύνησις).  Greek inscriptions often confuse Η (e) and Ι (i), because in later spoken Greek they both were pronounced as “ee.”

Prokynesis means to bow or prostrate yourself as a sign of respect or abnegation.  It began as an eastern custom in the royal court of Persia, and was adopted by Alexander the Great as the means of showing honor to him, though previously the Greeks had regarded proskynesis as something done only before a god or goddess.  Proskynesis — which could originally have been as mild as a kiss (pros means “toward,” kyneo means “kiss”) varied in its nature, and whether it was just a kiss or a bow or a full prostration on the ground (“kissing the ground”) depended on the status of those meeting.  The bow or prostration was a sign of obeisance or submission — and, in the case of a deity, of worship.

In the Gospel called “of Matthew” (no one knows who really wrote it; the earliest manuscripts are anonymous), we find this in 2:1-2:

Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ γεννηθέντος ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἐν ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου τοῦ βασιλέως, ἰδοὺ μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν παρεγένοντο εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα λέγοντες, Ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ τεχθεὶς βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων; εἴδομεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν προσκυνῆσαι αὐτῷ.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem, saying “Where is the one born King of the Jews; for we have seen his star in the East and are come to give him obeisance.”
Obeisance here is proskynesai — to perform proskynesis in front of him.

The King James translation commonly translates proskynesis as “worship,” so in that version the Magi say,
Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

So that is what we have in the fresco inscription:

Η ΠΡΟCΚΥΝΗCΗC ΤΟΝ ΜΑΓΟΝ
HE PROSKYNESES TON MAGON
“The Proskynesis [Obeisance] of the Magi.”

There is a lot of discussion in theological circles over whether the writer of Matthew intended to indicate the proskynesis of the Magi as that done to show honor to a king (as would make sense here), or whether proskynesis before a deity was intended (if Matthew considered Jesus to be a deity).  In any case, proskynesis was something done before a deity, a ruler, or it could even be before a highly-respected person, as a show of the performer’s subordinate status.  In Eastern Orthodox Church usage, proskynesis is done before icons and relics of the saints.

You may recall the common inscription on Russian crosses:

“We honor [bow before] your cross, Lord, and praise your holy resurrection.”

In the Greek liturgy of John Chrysostom, we find it as:

Τὸν Σταυρόν σου, Χριστέ, προσκυνοῦμεν καὶ τὴν ἁγίαν σου Ἀνάστασιν ὑμνοῦμεν καὶ δοξάζομεν·

Ton stauron sou Khriste proskynoumen kai ten hagian sou anastasin hymnoumen [praise in song] kai doxazomen.

“Your cross, Christ, we proskynoumen [perform proskynesis before] and your holy resurrection we hymn and glorify.”

On to the last inscription.  It is:

ΟΙ ΜΑΓΥ ΑCΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΥΝΤΕC

This again has a phonetic spelling in ΜΑΓΥ (Magy), which should be ΜΑΓΟΙ (Magoi).  Here again, in later Greek oi and y have the same “ee” sound when spoken.  But we should understand the inscription as:

ὉΙ ΜΑΓΟΙ ΑCΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΥΝΤΕC
HOI MAGOI ASTROLOGOUNTES
“THE MAGI ASTROLOGERS.”

We see in the fresco that one of the Magi is looking up in the sky, where the Star of Bethlehem would be.

In the next posting, we will take a closer look at who the Magi (Magoi) were, and trace their development in Christian art and icons.