“Image of the Assembly of the Holy, Glorious Prophet John the Forerunner.”
Now we have seen the word Sobor before, and you may recall that it means a gathering — an assembly — so in iconography it represents a composition using persons related in some way — as all part of the same story or event; a Sobor is also a gathering or assembly of persons relating in some way to the main Eastern Orthodox church festival celebrated on the previous day. The “church jargon” term generally used for such a secondary festival in English is synaxis, which is just the Greek word that Church Slavic translates as Sobor.
So this is the icon of the Sobor of John the Forerunner — the “Assembly of John the Forerunner” — which is the secondary festival following the major festival of the Bogoyavlenie — The Theophany — the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John. Now in some cases Sobor can also mean a main cathedral, as well as a council, as in the Nicene Council.
In the center of the icon, we see John depicted with wings as “Angel of the Wilderness”:
You can probably read his halo inscription, which says “Holy Prophet John the Forerunner.”
He holds a stylized diskos (Eucharistic vessel) in which the child Jesus lies as “Lamb of God” — the signifying the body of Jesus in the Eucharistic bread:
The little curving lines above the diskos represent the liturgical implement called the asteriskos, the “star-cover.” Its purpose is to support the cloth veil that is placed over the diskos during the Eucharistic ritual in Eastern Orthodoxy. If you recall that the Child Christ as “Lamb of God” lies on the diskos, then you will see why this metal “star-cover” represents the Star of Bethlehem.
John carries a scroll with the usual text for this type:
АЗЪ ВИДЕХЪ И СВИДЕТЕЛСТВО ВА ОНЕН СЕ АГНЕТЦЪ БОЖИЙ ВЗЕМ[ЛЯЙ ГРЕХИ МИРА]
AZ VIDEKH I SVIDETELSTVO VA ONEN CE AGNETS BOZHIY VZEM[LYAI GRYEKHI MIRA]
It means: “I saw and witnessed concerning him, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’”
That quote requires a jump to the Gospel of John, 1:29, which gives us this in Church Slavic:
Во ýтрiй [же] видѣ Иоáннъ Иисýса грядýща къ себѣ́ и глагóла: сé, áгнецъ Бóжiй, взéмляй грѣхи́ мíра:
Around John are scenes from his life. They begin with the image at lower left:
The inscription at left identifies it as: Rozhestvo Svyatago Proroka Ioanna Predtechi
“Birth of the Holy Prophet John the Forerunner.
We see John’s mother Svyataya Pravednaya Elizaveta/Holy Righteous Elizabeth at left, the washing of the newborn John at right, and through the doorway we see the child being shown to his father Svyatuiy Prorok Zakhariy/Holy Prophet Zechariah, who holds a scroll reading Ioann da budet — “He shall be [called] John.”
The next scene chronologically is at upper right:
The identifying inscriptions says Angel” Gospoden’ vvede svyatago Ioanna Predtedi v pustuiniu tamo da prebuivaet” do vozrosta svoego — “The Angel of the Lord leads Holy John the Foreunner into the wilderness; there he shall remain until he comes of age.”
Now we move to upper left:
The identifying inscription is Molenie v pustuini Svyatago Proroka Ioanna Predotechi — “The prayer in the wilderness of the Holy Prophet John the Forerunner.”
Next, at left, comes John’s “Assembly” — his baptizing of people in the Jordan River:
The inscription says Sobor” Svyatago Proroka Ioanna Predotechi — “Assembly of the Holy Prophet John the Forerunner.”
Now we move to lower left:
The inscription reads Useknovenie glavui Svyatago Ioanna Predtechi –“The cutting off of the head of Holy John the Forerunner.” We see the execution and the presentation of the head to Salome on a salver.
Now we come to the final scene at middle right:
The inscription says Obretenie glavui Svyatago Ioanna Predtechi — “Finding of the head of Holy John the Forerunner.” Now in the apocryphal tale of John’s life — as separate from the New Testament accounts — there are three findings of the head of John — the thing just kept getting lost — and the one shown here appears to be the second finding. You can read more about these “lost and found” events in this previous posting:
Here is another multiple icon — this time with no quarter devoted only to various saints. Instead, all four main images are Marian icons:
First — at upper left — is the type you should be very familiar with by now — the “Joy to All Who Suffer.” So we need not deal with that one, other than to remind you that any accompanying saints vary from example to example. You will find a description of the type in this previous posting, as well as in others via the archives:
The title inscription above the shoulder identifies it as the ФЕОДОРОВСКЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ/FEODOROVSKAYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI — the “‘FEODOROV’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.”
The Feodorovskaya or “Theodore” icon is another of those mistakenly attributed by tradition to St. Luke. Its tale says it was in Russia as early as the beginning of the 12th century, and was placed in a monastery in Gorodets that was then burned by Batu Khan and his Mongol horde. Yet supposedly the icon survived the flames.
The tale continues with Prince Vasiliy of Kostroma (younger brother of Alexander Nevskiy), who got lost in the forest while hunting near Kostroma on August 16, 1239. He noticed an icon in a pine tree (there’s that common “icon in a tree” motif again). When he attempted to take the icon down, it suddenly rose up into the air. Vasiliy then went into Kostroma and told the people and clergy there about the icon, and when they went to look for it, they found it was there in the forest again. So after praying before the icon, they took it into Kostroma and placed it in the cathedral, where it attracted crowds. Supposedly, while Vasiliy was out hunting, a richly-dressed warrior was seen walking through Kostroma’s streets, carrying an icon in his hands. This was understood to be a visitation by the warrior saint Feodor/Theodore, and so the icon was called the “Feodor/Theodore” icon — the Feodorovskaya.
The tale relates that when the Kostroma Cathedral then burnt, the Feodorovskaya icon was again found unharmed in the ashes.
The Tatars again came to pillage the city in 1260, but the Prince took the Feodorovskaya icon into battle, and the legend says that such a brilliant and dazzling light shone from it that it blinded and burned the Tatars, who fled in disarray.
Later the Kostroma Cathedral again caught fire, and when the people went to rescue the icon, they found it hovering above the flames. The people prayed to have it not abandon them because of their sins, and it descended and was retrieved, and later placed in a stone church.
The Fedorovskaya icon was carried by a group of Kostroma clergy in their meeting with a delegation of clergy and boyars and others from Moscow, who had come bearing the Vladimir icon to ask the young Mikhail Feodorovich to become Tsar. Eventually he was persuaded, and became the first Tsar of the House of Romanov — the ruling Dynasty that ended with the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917. So the Feodorovskaya icon was considered an important image for the Romanovs.
Here is the icon type at lower left:
The title above her shoulder reads:
ОТ БЕД СТРAЖДУЩИХЪ OT BED STRAZHDUSHCHIKH”
Ot Bed Strazhdushchikh means “Of the Suffering from Distress,” but this type is sometimes given the fuller title Избавление От Бед Страждущих — Izbavlenie Ot Bed Strazhdushchikh — “Deliverance of the Suffering From Distress” — which makes a bit more sense. In the Canon to the Mother of God are the words Богородица Владычица, поспеши и от бед избавь нас/Bogoroditsa Vladuichitsa, pospeshi i ot bed izabav’ nas — “Mother of God, Mistress, hasten and from distress deliver us.” Little is known of its origin, but it was a popular image among the Old Believers.
Here is the icon type at lower right:
Now as you can tell, it is a version of the Млекопитательница/Mlekopitatelnitsa/”Milk-Nourishing” icon type, but this example is given the title inscription
БЛАЖЕННОЕ ЧРЕВО ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ BLAZHENNOE CHREVO PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“‘BLESSED WOMB’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
The “Blessed Womb” type is essentially the same in appearance as the Barlovskaya icon, which supposedly appeard in 1392. But be careful — there is also a locally-venerated icon called “Blessed Womb” that looks nothing like this type. Here is an example:
It is not hard to tell that the “Blessed Womb” title derives from Luke 11:27: “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts that you have sucked.”
To complete the discussion of this multiple icon, we need only look at the image in the central circle:
The name inscription identifies him as СВЯТЫЙ РАФАИЛЪ АРХАНГЕЛ/SVYATUIY RAFAIL ARKHANGEL/”HOLY ARCHANGE RAPHAEL.
Raphael was considered an angel of healing, and also a patron of travelers.
In the previous posting I discussed a multiple icon — one of those with four separate icon images on a single panel. And on such icons we often — but not always — find a central image as well.
As you see, that is the case with today’s icon. You will recall (hey, it was only yesterday!) that on the previous icon, the central image was the Crucifixion. Well, on today’s image it is a circle containing the so-called “Image Not Made by Hands” — also known as the Mandylion.
If you have been a diligent student of my past postings, you will be able to easily read every inscription in the circle.
But just in case, I will translate the top and bottom inscriptions:
To that we need only add the name inscriptions of the two angels. That at left is
СВЯТЫЙ МИХАИЛЪ АРХАНГЕЛ/Svyatuiy Mikhail Arkhangel/”Holy Michael, Archangel — and that at right is СВЯТЫЙ ГАВРИИЛЪ АРХАНГЕЛ/Svyatuiy Gavriil Arkhangel/”Holy Gabriel, Archangel.”
Now on to the second icon type. Here it is with its title inscription:
НЕЧАЕННЫЯ РАДОСТИ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ NECHAENNUIYA RADOSTI PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“UNEXPECTED JOY MOST-HOLY GOD-BIRTHGIVER
In normal English, the “‘Unexpected Joy’ Most Holy Mother of God.”
The title is often found as Нечаянная Радость/Nechayannaya Radost’/”Unexpected Joy.”
I discussed the “Unexpected Joy type previously in some detail here:
To that explanation, I should add here a mention of the words extending from Mary to the kneeling man, and from him to Mary — their conversation:
As you can see, the line bearing Mary’s words is upside-down, to distinguish it from the man’s initial question, which is right-side-up.
He says to Mary,
О Госпоже, кто сие сотвори/O Gospozhe, kto sie [siya] sotvori/ “O Lady, who did this?”
ты и протчия [прочии] грешники грехами сына / Tui i protchiya [prochii] greshniki grekhami suina / “You and other sinners with sins my son …”
Mary’s response is cut short in this example. What she replies in full is generally, “You and other sinners with [your] sins have crucified my son, like the Jews.” It is only the first part of a longer conversation. So in this tale we find again the anti-Semitic motif that the “Jews” crucified Jesus — the notion that caused so much suffering and persecution of Jewish people over the centuries.
The tale of the “Unexpected Joy” icon is found in the literary work Руно орошенное/Runo oroshennoe/”Dew-wet Fleece, written by the hagiographer and saint Dimitriy Rostovskiy (1651-1709). Customarily, icons of the “Unexpected Joy contain the text box seen in this example:
“A CERTAIN LAWLESS MAN HAD A DAILY RULE TO PRAY TO THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD WITH THE WORDS OF THE ARCHANGEL’S GREETING.”
The “words of the Archangel’s greeting” are the words of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation: Радуйся, Благодатная! Господь с Тобою … / Raduysya, Blagodatnaya! Gospod’ s Toboiu … / Rejoice, Blessed One! The Lord is With You …” Or as it is commonly rendered in English, “Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you …” etc.
Expect some variation in spelling and length of text from example to example.
The fourth icon image is at lower left:
As the small title inscription above Mary’s shoulder says, it is the
Today we will look at another four-part icon. Such multiple icons enabled the purchaser to have four or five different icon images on a single panel — the equivalent of that many separate icons. You will also find them referred to as “four-field” icons and “quadripartite” icons. I like the term “multiple” icon, which covers anything from two to three to four to five or more individual icon images painted on a single panel.
This is a Vetka / Ветка icon, as are certain others in the Maryhill Museum collection. By that I mean it is in the manner typical of the Old Believer settlements in the region of the towns of Vetka (now in Belarus) and Starodub (now in nearby Briansk Oblast, Russia). This area has changed hands often over the centuries, but it is where today the borders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine come together.
We will begin with the first image at upper left:
I hope you all easily recognize it as an example of the “Joy to All Who Suffer” type, which I discussed in previous postings. You have probably noticed that there are always variations as to which saints are included, as well as whether the “suffering” are picture too, or — as here — omitted.
Righteous Aleksiy/Alexei, Man of God
Holy Prophet Iov/Job
The second image is at upper right, with its title inscription:
СТРАДАНИЯ СВЯТЫХЪ МУЧЕНИКОВ КИРИКА И ОУЛИТЫ STRADANIYA SVYATUIX” MUCHENIKOV KIRIKA I OULITUI
“THE PASSION OF HOLY MARTYRS KIRIK/CYRICUS AND OULITA/JULITTA” Stradaniya — meaning “suffering” or “passion” is a term often used in icons for the suffering during martyrdom of various saints.
Here is the icon:
Kirik and Oulita were supposedly a mother-son pair of martyrs under Emperor Diocletian. Their hagiography says they were arrested at Tarsus in Cilicia. The ruler there attempted to ingratiate himself with the boy, but three-year-old Kirik was having none of it, and the tale says that he called on the name of Christ, and kicked the ruler in the stomach. At this offense, the ruler threw Kirik down the steps with such force that his head was crushed. His mother Oulita was tortured, then beheaded in the year 296 c.e.
The sequence of scenes in the icon begins at lower left with the “Birth of Holy Martyr Kirik”:
It continues at lower right, with Kirik and Oulita brought before the ruler:
Then the scene moves to upper left:
The inscription tells us that the hegemon/ruler had Oulita beaten, and Kirk cried out “I am a Christian,” and pulled the beard of the ruler, who then killed him.
At upper left, the inscription tells us, we see Oulita praying at the time of her martyrdom, then after her prayer she was beheaded:
The third icon type of the four-part icon is at lower left. It is identified by its title inscription:
ВЗЫСКАНИЕ ПОГИБШИХЪ ДУШАХЪ
VSUISKANIE POGIBSHIKH” DUSHAKH”
“RECOVERY OF LOST SOULS.”
This icon type — which was quite popular in the 19th century — is more commonly known in English by the more loosely translated title “Seeker of the Lost.”
Here is the image:
The fourth icon is at lower right. It is a gathering of saints, and the saints included would usually depend on the choice of the purchaser of the icon.
Well, given that it is a four-part icon, we should be done with it, right? Wrong. Four-part icons often have a central image, which — as here — is frequently the Crucifixion:
It has some of the usual inscriptions, which I have discussed in previous postings. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is abbreviated on the top crosspiece. On the larger crossbeam is “King of Glory” and “Son of God.” There is an additional four-letter abbreviation that appears to be a miswriting of НИКА –NIKA — the standard Greek inscription meaning “He Conquers.” We see also the abbreviations for “spear” and “sponge” above the implements of the passion.
On the lower slanting crosspiece we see “The Place of Judgment Has Become Paradise,” and the two-letter abbreviation for “Hill of Golgotha.” And we see the blood of Jesus dripping down onto the “Skull/Head of Adam.”
Now there are all kinds of variations as to which icon types are included in four-part icons. That again depended on the choice of the person ordering the icon.
Oh yes — and before we finish with this icon, we must also note the presence of “Lord Sabaoth” — God the Father — in the clouds at top center of the four-part icon. And in the circle just below him is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
Today’s example is very useful in learning to read inscriptions, so I will dwell on those in some detail, in order to help those of you who are just beginning to learn to translate Church Slavic inscriptions.
First we should look at the title inscription at the top: It begins at left, and continues at right:
ѠБРАЗ ВСЕМ СКОРБЯЩИМЪ OBRAZ VSEM SKORBYASHCHIM”
IMAGE [of] TO-ALL SUFFERING
РАДОСТЬ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ RADOST’ PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
JOY MOST-HOLY GOD-BIRTHGIVER
If we put it all together we get:
ѠБРАЗ ВСЕМ СКОРБЯЩИМЪ РАДОСТЬ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ OBRAZ VSEM SKORBYASHCHIM” RADOST’ PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“IMAGE OF THE JOY TO ALL WHO SUFFER MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”
Now as you can see, the final translation has been put into normal English. This type is also often called in English the “Joy of All Who Suffer” Mother of God.
Here is the icon:
At top center we see ГОСПОДЬ САВАѠФЪ/GOSPOD’ SAVAOF” — “LORD SABAOTH” — God the Father. He blesses with his right hand and holds a cross-topped orb — the symbol of universal rule and authority — in has left:
Now the position of the fingers in his blessing hand tells us that this is an Old Believer icon, which is not surprising, given its stylized form.
Below and to the left of Lord Sabaoth, we see this:
It is of course the sun, and we see the Church Slavic word СОЛНЦЕ/SOLNTSE — “SUN” just above it.
On the right of the icon is the moon — ЛУНА/LUNA — among the stars.
It is common in Russian iconography for the sun and moon to be given faces — anthropomorphized. You may recall that the other icon type in which the sun and moon are commonly found is the Crucifixion, but in that type the sun is darkened and the moon is blood red, in contrast to this type, in which the sun and moon are represented normally.
If you are a long-time reader here, you will recognize the central image of Mary and the child Jesus as a version of what is called in German the Strahlende Madonna — the “Radiant Madonna.” And you may recall that in some versions of this icon type, Mary is shown without the child Jesus on her arm: Here both are crowned, and Mary has a string of painted jewels in her halo:
The abbreviation above her is the standard Greek ΜΡ ΘΥ, identifying her as Μήτηρ Θεού / Meter Theou — “Mother of God.” While all other inscriptions on Russian icons are generally in Church Slavic, Russian iconography nonetheless kept this abbreviation as the identifying mark of Mary. And as you can see, it also kept the standard Greek abbreviation used to identify Jesus in Russian icons: IC XC for Ιησούς Χριστός / Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ.” Each abbreviation has the curved horizontal line indicating abbreviation above it.
If we look at Jesus in the arms of Mary, we can see that his halo contains the usual inscription used for him in the cross outline visible behind his head.
The Greek form of the halo inscription is Ὁ ѠN — HO ON — meaning “The One Who Is” — a title of God found in Exodus 3:14. The letters are read top-left-right, as they usually also are in Bulgarian icons. In Russian icons, however, the left letter is commonly changed from Ѡ to Slavic Ѿ — pronounced “ot” — which enables them to read the inscription left-top-right while giving it various fanciful interpretations. That is what we see here. Some like the letters to represent the members of the Trinity, interpreting them as abbreviations for the Three-Hypostatic Godhood, represented in the letters as Ѿ (ot) for Ѿтеческий/Otecheskiy — “Of the Father’s”; О for Оум/Oum — “Mind”; and Н for Непостижимъ Сыин/Nepostizhim Suin — “Unfathomable Son.”
Still others read it as abbreviating От небес приидох — Они же Мя не познаша — На кресте распяша Ot nebes priidokh — Oni zhe mya ne poznasha — Na kreste raspyasha
“From heaven I came — They knew me not — On the cross I was crucified.”
Now for some practice in reading saints’ names. Let’s begin with those just to left of Mary, beginning at the top:
At the very top, we see this saint wearing a monk’s garments:
ПРД ЗОСИМЪ СОЛ PRD ZOZIM” SOL
The first and last words are abbreviated. In full the title is:
ПРЕПОДОБНЫЙ ЗОСИМЪ СОЛОВЕТСКИЙ PREPODOBNUIY ZOSIM” SOLOVETSKIY
“VENERABLE ZOSIM/ZOSIMA OF SOLOVETSK”
You may recall that he is one of a pair of saints often found in icons: Zosim and Savvatiy Solovetskiy — the founding fathers of the Solovetskiy/Solovkiy Monastery and the patron saints of beekeeping. Remember that Prepodobnuiy (literally “most-like” — meaning most like Christ, or most like Adam before the Fall) is commonly translated into English as Venerable — and that this is the masculine form, the common title for a monk.
Now as you can see, the PRD here abbreviates PREPODOBNAYA — the female form of Prepodobnuiy, and it is the common title for a nun. And as we see, Feodosiya is wearing a nun’s garments. Presumably she is Theodosia of Constantinople.
Now oddly enough, the writer has given the saint at right the PRD abbreviation too — which he usually does not have, because he was not a monk. So we will omit it here. He is:
ВАСИЛИЙ БЛАЖЕННЫЙ VASILIY BLAZHENNUIY
“VASILIY THE BLESSED.”
BLAZHENNUIY is a title commonly used for “Holy Fools,” those called “Fools for Christ’s Sake.” And this Vasiliy/Basil is the same fellow for whom the St. Vasiliy/Basil Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow is named. Vasiliy was prayed to for safety from fire, for the cure of eye problems, and for help when beginning a new task in a workshop.
Next come two very familiar saints:
At left is:
СВЯТЫЙ ПАВЕЛЪ АПОСТОЛ SVYATUIY PAVEL” APOSTOL
“HOLY PAVEL/PAUL APOSTLE”
So he is the Apostle Paul, from the New Testament. He is often prayed to for protection of children from death. And beside him is
And that is St. Peter from the New Testament. Notice that he holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in one hand, and also a scroll reading:
ТЫ ЕСИ ПЕТР НА СЕМ КАМЕНИ TUI ESI PETR NA SEM KAMENI
“YOU ARE PETER: ON THIS ROCK”
The words are taken from Matthew 16:18: ты еси Петр, и на сем камени созижду Церковь Мою, и врата адова не одолеют ей: Tui esi Petr, i na sem kameni sozizhdu tserkov’ moiu, i vrata adova ne odoleleiut ey
“You are Peter; on this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not Prevail against it.”
Peter was prayed to for relief from fevers, and Paul — like the Holy Fool Vasiliy — for help when beginning a new work in a workshop.
Then we have two saints robed as bishops, with the bishop’s stole (Slavic omofor/Greek omophorion around their necks and the Gospel book in their hands:
“Nikita” is the more common spelling, but in icons it is not unusual to find spelling variations — usually phonetic. We find here the relatively common substitution of “o” for “a.” It is a spelling change frequent in Russian icons because the unstressed “o” in Russian sounds rather like “a.”
At left below him, dressed in warrior’s garments and holding the cross of martyrdom, is:
СВЯТЫЙ ГЕОРГИЙ ВЕЛИКОМУЧЕНИК SVYATUIY GEORGIY VELIKOMUCHENIK
“HOLY GEORGE GREAT-MARTYR
He is the famous saint of “St. George and the Dragon” icons. He was often prayed to for the protection of flocks.
To the right of George is:
СВЯТАЯ АННА ПРАВЕДНАЯ SVYATAYA ANNA PRAVEDNAYA
“HOLY ANNA RIGHTEOUS”
This is the Anna who in apocryphal sources such as the Protoevangelion of James was the mother of Mary, mother of Jesus. Her title Pravednaya/Righteous (male form Pravednuiy) is often used for saints considered to be in some way “Old Testament” — and Anna and her husband Joachim were predecessors of the Gospel. Notice that Svyataya is the female form of male Svyatuiy (“Holy”). Anna was often prayed to for conceiving children.
Next comes a pair of brothers often found together in icons:
The title Bezsrebrenik means literally “without (bez-) silver (-srebre/серебро) guy (-nik). It is generally used for physicans who treated patients without asking payment. Note that as we saw in the name “Nikito,” in Russian icons the letters o and a are often interchanged in the spelling of Domean/Damian. The two were prayed to for educational matters and of course for healing.
The last two saints on the main part of the icon are both dressed as bishops, with omophorion and Gospel book:
At left is one of the most frequently found saints in Russian iconography, after Mary and Jesus. he is:
Nicholas the Wonderworker is Nicholas of Myra, who later morphed into the American Santa Claus. His name is generally found as Nikola or Nikolai — and in regions such as Belarus as Mikola. He was often prayed to for safety on the water and protection from drowning.
Last, to his right, is:
СВЯТЫЙ ИОАННЪ ЗЛАТОУСТ SVYATUIY IOANN” ZLATOUST
“HOLY JOHN CHRYSOSTOM”
His name in Slavic means literally “Golden (zlat-) Mouth (-oust).” He is one of the “Three Hierarchs” often found together in Russian icons. He was an archbishop of Constantinople and a noted orator, but also, unfortunately, a virulent anti-Semite. It was thought helpful to pray to John Zlatoust/Chrysostom when in despair.
You perhaps noticed that the titles on this icon are arranged in the halos like this:
SVYATAYA ANNA PRAVEDNAYA
“HOLY ANNA RIGHTEOUS”
Ordinarily, however, they are like this:
SVYATAYA PRAVEDNAYA ANNA
“HOLY RIGHTEOUS ANNA”
Of course the outcome is the same, but the second form is that generally found in icons.
Though we will not look at them individually, in the outer left and right borders of the icon — commonly the location of saints for whom the members of the family were named, we find these:
Left, from top:
Holy Great Martyr Dimitriy/Demetrios
At right, from top:
Holy Great Martyr Artemiy/Artemios
Holy Martyr Anastasia
Venerable Maria/Mary of Egypt
Now the inscription in the rectangle at the base:
On Marian icons, we often find an inscription with lines from a Marian hymn or a prayer to Mary. In this case it is the former.
At the beginning, we see these words in red:
ТРОПАРЬ ГЛАСЪ Д TROPAR’ GLAS” D
TROPARION VOICE 4
Note that the letter Д (D) here is used as a number.
A troparion is a brief hymn found in liturgical texts. By “voice” is meant “tone” — and by that is meant a musical mode. There are traditionally eight modes — categories of melodies — in Eastern Orthodox hymns.
So we know this text is a hymn, and by its context, most likely a Marian hymn. But which one is it?
Well, here is the text in a modern Russian font (note that the letter ъ is often omitted at the end of some words in modern form):
Тропарь, глас 4.
К Богородице прилежно ныне притецем грешнии, со смирением припадающе и покаянием, вопиюще из глубины душевныя, Владычице помози милосердовавши на ны, и потщися яко изгибаем от множества грехов. Не отврати раб Своих тощ, Тебе бо Едину Помощницу имамы.
“To the Mother of God let us sinners now earnestly run, with humility falling down in repentance, crying from the depths of the soul: O Lady, mercifully help us, and make haste, for we perish from the multitude of sins. Turn not your servant away empty, for you are our only hope.”
It is from the “Canon to the Most Holy Mother of God.”
Do not expect to always find the same text on icons of the “Joy to All Who Suffer.” The text used varies from example to example. And keep in mind that the wording on Old Believer icons often differs somewhat from that used in the “revised” State Orthodox Church liturgical books.
Perhaps you might like to hear a “State Church” setting by A. Arkhangelskiy of this Troparion:
Well, that’s it for today. Now go for a walk to work off all those cookies you have eaten while reading this.