TAKING NAMES AND….

At the entrance to old Japanese Budhist temples, there were often two guardian deities.  Here is a pair dating from the Kamakura Period (13th-early 14th century):

I always think of such guardian deities when I see the two angels painted at the entrance to Orthodox Churches in Slavic countries.  These are the “Ангелы Господни, записывающие имена входящих в храм” — the “Angels of the Lord, Recording the Names of Those Entering the Church.”

When both are found (sometimes there is only one), the angel on the left (in Slavic countries) of the entry is the Archangel Michael (Mikhail), as seen here in the Church of Simeon the God-receiver at the Zverin Monastery of Novgorod.:

He threateningly holds a sword in his right hand, and a scroll in his left.

In the Greek Painter’s Manual (Hermineia) of Dionysios of Fourna, we find this:

Inside the door of the temple, on the right, the Archangel Michael; He holds a sword and a scroll with these words:  ‘I am a soldier of God, and armed with a sword. Those who enter here with fear, I defend them, I guard them, I protect them and I observe them; But those who enter with an unclean heart, I strike them mercilessly with this sword.

Sometimes in Slavic Churches, Michael’s scroll reads:

Простираю меч мой на приходящих в чистый дом Божий с нечистыми сердцами.
“I extend my sword to those who enter the pure house of God with impure hearts.”
Again, in Slavic Churches, Gabriel (Gavriil) is commonly on the right side of the entrance, though Dionysios of Fourna writes:
On the left, Gabriel holds a scroll, and writes these words with a reed: ‘I write with this reed the internal disposition of those who enter here; I take good care of the good, but I cause the bad to perish promptly.'”
Here are much more recent versions of the two Archangels, as seen in the Church of St. Kirill in Kiyev, Ukraine.
Michael at left:
And Gabriel at right:
As mentioned earlier, some churches have only a single recording angel, who is sometimes simply known as the Ангел храма — Angel Khrama — “Angel of the Church.”  It is believed that this angel becomes the protector of a church when it is consecrated, and remains on duty there until the Second Coming.  Such an angel may be depicted as standing or sitting, recording on his scroll the names of those entering the church, so that he may give his report on them at the Last Judgment.
Now obviously there is a relationship here to the standard image of the Guardian Angel in icons, who follows each person through life, recording his deeds.

PREPARATION OF THE THRONE

Today we will look at an icon type that, while sometimes found as an element in other icons, is also seen on its own.

Here is an example of its frequent use as part of an icon of the Страшный Суд — Strashnuiy Sud in a Balkan fresco — the “Terrible Judgment,” which in the West is generally called the “Last Judgment” or the “Second Coming.”

Let’s looks more closely at the central portion relevant to today’s discussion.

At left and right are two angels.  That on the left, with the “M” above his head, is Mikhail/Michael.  That on the right with the “Г” is Gavriil/Gabriel.

In the center is a table on which is a cushion and a book, and behind it a cross flanked by the symbols of the Passion of Jesus, the spear at left, and the reed with a sponge at right.  On the little footstool below the table is a footstool on which are the four nails used to crucify Jesus.

Atop the cushion on the larger table is a dove that oddly enough bears the cruciform halo peculiar to Jesus, and confirming that, we see the abbreviation IC XC just above it — signifying Isus Khrista (Iesous Khristos in Greek) — “Jesus Christ.”  The dove’s feet rest on the Book of the Gospels.  Ordinarily in this type, the dove represents the Holy Spirit, but the painter of this icon seems to have not quite grasped that, so gave it the cruciform halo and inscription abbreviation for Jesus.  The dove can be understood as the presence of the Holy Spirit as paraclete with the Church until the return of Jesus — his representative in a sense. There is also a cloth (sometimes obviously a garment) as the mantle of Jesus — frequently in royal purple,

Parts of this composition have a double meaning.  The large table is both a throne and an altar (prestol — the Slavic word for an Orthodox altar — means “throne.”  The book on it is both the Gospel book commonly found on Orthodox altars, but it also represents the book of Revelation 5:1:

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

And it also represents the presence of Jesus.

The identifying inscription of this composition is just below the main crossbar:

OУГОТОВЛЕНИIЕ ПРЕСТОЛА
OUGOTVLENIIE PRESTOLA

Note that in the actual inscription, the “E” in the first word is written with the old Slavic letter pronounced “ye”:

The final IE in the second word is written as the old Slavic compound letter pronounced “IE” (ee-ay):

We will use the more standardized form УГОТОВАНИЕ ПРЕСТОЛА — Ugotovanie Prestola. Ugotovanie means “preparation, making ready”; Prestola is the “of” form of Prestol, meaning “throne.”  So this type is called “The Preparation of the Throne.”

In Psalm 88:15 of the Church Slavic Bible (89:14 KJV), we find:
Прáвда и судьбá уготóванiе престóла тво­егó: ми́лость и и́стина предъи́детѣ предъ лицéмъ тво­и́мъ.
Pravda i sudba ugotovanie prestola tvoego; milost i istina predeidete pred’ litsem’ tvoim’
“Justice and judgment are the preparation of your throne; mercy and truth shall go before your face.”

And in Slavic Psalm 9:8-9 (9:7-8 KJV):
И Госпóдь во вѣ́къ пребывáетъ, уготóва на сýдъ престóлъ свóй: и тóй суди́ти и́мать вселéн­нѣй въ прáвду, суди́ти и́мать лю́демъ въ правотѣ́.
And the Lord forever endures, he has prepared his throne for judgment:  and he will judge the  world in justice, the peoples in uprightness.

Here is a very basic form of the type:

The title inscription above it reads (the two sides join together):

Ἡ ἙΤΥΜΑCΙΑ

That is a rather phonetic variant of the correct spelling:

Ἡ ἙΤΟΙΜΑCΙΑ
He Hetoimasia
“The Preparation.”

In modern Greek the title is pronounced “Ee et-ee-ma-SEE-ah.

Here is a slightly more detailed mosaic version:

note the addition of what appears to be the crown of thorns to the axis of the cross.  In other examples it is a laurel wreath of victory.  The spelling used here is yet another variant:

Ἡ ΕΤΗΜΑCΗΑ
HE ETIMASIA

In this fresco version from the monastery of Dečani, the “Preparation” has become a throne carried by angels:

There is a Gospel book lying on the cloth on the throne, and all together the image forms a kind of Deisis variant, with Mary approaching at left and John the Forerunner (the Baptist) at right.  The two figures below are sometimes found in “Preparation” images.  They are Adam and Eve, and should not be confused with Mary and John the Forerunner.  If you look at the first image in this posting, you will again see Adam (at left) and Eve (at right) below the angels.

If we look more closely at the image, we can read its inscription:

It is:

ВТОРО ПРИШЕСТВИIЕ
VTORO PRISHESTVIIE
or as we more normally find it in Russian literature,

Второ Пришествие
Vtoro Prishestvie
“Second Coming”

It means, of course, the second coming of Jesus, and the angels are bringing out the throne to prepare it for the Last Judgment.  Here the Gospel book on the garment represents the presence of Jesus, and the crown on the cross is a laurel wreath.

In the example found at the Church of Saint Paul “Outside the Walls”  (San Paulo fuori le muri), we see yet more variation:

Looking more closely, we find that the laurel wreath generally found on the cross is here placed on its own stand to the left of the spear, and at right beside the sponge on a reed, we see a Eucharistic symbol — the chalice.  It holds three nails of the crucifixion (instead of four as found in the earlier example).  In some versions this chalice becomes a two-handled vessel placed on the footstool, and it may or may not have the nails within it.  Being a Roman church, in this mosaic the scrolls held by the angels are in Latin.  That at right reads GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO (“Glory to God on High”) and that at left “ET IN TERRA PAX HOMINIBUS (“And on earth peace to men.”)

The use of an unoccupied throne as the symbol of a ruler is very ancient, and long predates Christianity.

ANOTHER SAINT WITH A BIRD

In 2014 the foundations of what is reputed to be a fourth-century basilica were found just offshore in Lake İznik at the site of what was ancient Nicaea, in Turkey.  Archeologists say the church was dedicated to a martyr named Neophytos.

In iconography and hagiography, he is referred to as Neophytos of Nicaea.  Though his “acts” — that is, the account of his life and miracles — are unreliable, he may have actually been a martyr of the early 300s c.e, from just before the legalization of Christianity under the Roman Emperor Constantine.  It is said that the basilica was built for his relics (that is, his remains) on the site of his martyrdom.

Neophytos — Неофит (Neophit) in Slavic — is not a common saint in icons, but there is one interesting thing about him.  His iconography depicts him with a dove, so one should not confuse him with St. Triphon (Trifon), who is also shown with a bird.

The Stroganov Podlinnik depicts him, but gives only “Holy Martyr Neofit” as identification, without any painting instructions:

The Bolshakov Podlinnik offers only  a bit more information under his day of commemoration — January 21 — beginning with the last word of the first line here:

I svyatago muchenika neofita, mlad aki dimitriy, rizui prostuiya.
And of Holy Martyr Neofit, youth like Dimitriy [Demetrios of Thessaloniki], robe simple [meaning the ordinary, basic garment] .

I mentioned that his “acts” are unreliable and highly fanciful.  They are interesting to read as an example of the extravagance of such pious tales.

Dmitriy Rostovskiy wrote that Neophytos was born at Nicea of parents name Theodoulos and Florence.  They had him baptized and raised as a Christian.

As a little boy, Neophytos is said to have daily brought his poor school friends home and to have given them his dinner, himself going without.  He had the custom of worshiping at the eastern gate of the city, where he traced a cross on the wall and venerated it.  His little friends, having eaten, found him praying there.  He struck a stone and water poured forth from it, so that his friends could drink and satisfy their thirst.  He made them promise not to tell anyone about it.

Florence, Neophytos’ mother, had a dream in which she saw her son striking a stone and bringing forth water to give his friends, as Moses had similarly struck a stone in the Old Testament.  She woke and prayed to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to her about her son.  A brilliantly shining white dove descended from Heaven, sat on Neophytos’ bed, and spoke these words:  “I am sent from the Savior to keep your bed clean.”

Florence was so terrified by the experience that she fell down dead.  The news quickly got around, and lots of people gathered in the house.  Word was sent to the father Theodoulos, and he rushed home in tears.

Meeting him outside the house, Neophytos said:
Зачем ты скорбишь, отец? Не умерла мать моя, а крепко уснула.
“Why are you mourning, Father?  My mother did not die, but fell asleep.”

He brought him into the house, took his mother’s hand, and said:
Встань, мать моя; ты заснула крепко.
“Wake, my mother — you fell sound asleep.”
And his mother was raised from the dead.

Having been restored to life, Florence told her husband of her visions concerning Neophytos, and word quickly spread around, so that even “pagans” were converted to Christianity.

The dove kept coming to Neophytos’ bed and talking to him.  One day it said:
Выйди, Неофит, из дома отца твоего, и иди вслед за мною.
“Go forth, Neophytos, from your father’s house, and follow after me.”

The dove led him to a cave on Mount Olympos, and in the cave lived a lion.  Neophytos said to the lion, “Get out of here, and go find yourself another cave, because the Lord has commanded me to live here.”  The lion obediently left.

Neophytos lived in the cave, and was fed by an angel.  When his parents were about to die a year later, he went to the city, kissed them goodbye, and then sold the property, giving the money to the poor.  Then he returned to his cave, where he is said to have remained until the age of 15.

At this time Decius came to the city, and announced a day when all the inhabitants of the region were to offer sacrifice to the gods.  When this happened, angels brought Neophytus from his cave, and set him down in the middle of the Nicaeans.  There he began to berate Decius for the worship of the gods.

I won’t go into all the gory details used to ornament his martyrdom, but at one point Neophytos, according to the tale, was thrown into a furnace, where he remained cool and unharmed, like the “Three Hebrew Children” in the Old Testament story from the book of Daniel (Daniel 3).  And when the “pagans” came to open the furnace, the flames shot out of it and burned them, while Neophytus was untouched by the heat.  Seeing this, the others accused Neophytos of sorcery.

Then they decided to tie him to a post and set bears upon him.  But the bears would not harm him.  Then they got a very large, recently-captured lion, and released it to attack Neophytos.  But the lion just wept, and licked Neophytos’ feet.  It was the same lion Neophytos had sent out from his cave at Mount Olympos, and it would not harm him.  Neophytos told the lion to return to his cave, and the lion, roaring loudly, broke out the gates, walking among the terrified people of the city, and went back to his former home on the mountain without harming anyone, as Neophytos had commanded him.

Finally, a vicious man with a spear ran at Neophytos, piercing him through the chest, and the saint at last died, so it is said, on January 21 at the age of 15 and four months.

This far-fetched tale gives a very good idea of how various details were assembled to create these fictional “acts” or lives of saints such as Neophytos.  We have the childhood miracles, as in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas — in this case water from a stone, as was said of Moses in Numbers 20; we have the mother raised from the dead after having been said to be asleep, as done by Jesus with a girl in the New Testament (Matthew 9:24); we have the dove, as at Jesus’ baptism; the feeding by an angel, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:5-8; there is a friendly lion, as in the hagiographic tales of Gerasim of the Jordan and of Jerome, as well as survival inside a fiery furnace, as in Daniel 3.  These were the days before novels, and such tales provided entertainment and religious instruction for the pious, who thought all the marvels related in them quite factual.

 

COME YOU PEOPLE

Here is a 17th century icon given the title  “Come You People, Let Us Worship the Three-Hypostatic Godhood.”  But if you have been reading here for some time, you will recognize it as basically just a more elaborate version of the New Testament Trinity “Among the Powers,” that is, among the ranks of angels.

As you saw in an earlier posting (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/cherubim-and-seraphim-and-thrones-o-my-the-new-testament-trinity-icon/), icons of the New Testament Trinity are sometimes given the title “Image of the Three-Hypostatic Godhood” (ОБРАЗ ТРIИПОСТАСНАГО БОЖЕСТВА — Obraz Triipostasnago Bozhestva).

In the center we see Jesus at left, God the Father (Lord Sabaoth) at right, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove in the air between them.

The title of this icon is taken from the Stikhera, tone 8, used at the Great Vespers Pentecost service:

Приидите, людие, триипостасному божеству поклонимся, Сыну во Отце, со
Святым Духом: Отец бо безлетно роди Сына соприсносущна и сопрестольна, и
Дух Святый бе во Отце, с Сыном прославляемь: едина сила, едино существо,
едино божество, емуже покланяющеся вси глаголем: Святый Боже, вся
соделавый Сыном, содейством Святаго Духа: Святый крепкий, имже Отца
познахом и Дух Святый прииде в мир: Святый безсмертный, утешительный
Душе, от Отца исходяй, и в Сыне почиваяй: Троице Святая, слава Тебе.

Come you people, let us worship the Three-hypostatic Godhood; the Son in the Father, with the Holy Spirit; for the Father before time begot the Son ever co-existing and co-enthroned; and the Holy Spirit was in the Father, glorified together with the Son; one power, one substance, one Godhood, in whom worshiping  we all say:
Holy God, who made all by the Son, with the co-operation of the Holy Spirit;
Holy Mighty, through whom we have known the Father, and the Holy Spirit came to the world; Holy Immortal, comforting Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

In the 16th century there was a big controversy over the making and use of such elaborate and symbolic “mystic-didactic” icons as this one and others, among them “In the Grave Fleshly,” “Sophia, Wisdom of God,” “On the Seventh Day God Rested,” “It is Worthy,” the “Symbol of Faith,” the politically propagandistic “Blessed is the Army of the Heavenly Tsar,” and “The Only Begotten Son.”  The complaint was that they could not and did not adequately and correctly express the dogmas of the Church, and that their complexity was simply confusing.  The leader of the opposition to such icons was a prominent government secretary and “Keeper of the Seal” under Tsar Ivan IV (“Ivan the Terrible”) named Ivan Mikhailovich Viskovatuiy (Иван Михайлович Висковатый).  But a Church council in 1554 condemned his views (with some small exceptions), and he consequently repented his “heretical” ideas and fell in line with the decree.

Rather confusingly, there is another and unusual icon type also called “Come You People, Let Us Worship the Three-Hypostatic Godhood.”  But this second type also includes images of the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus, the Crucifixion, and the Descent into Hades (Resurrection), so it is easily distinguished from the first type.

At the top we see a “Fatherhood” image in the center, with Mary to the left of it and John the Forerunner to the right.  At far left is the youthful Christ enthroned, and at far right the mature Christ enthroned.  Angels accompany these three top images, and at the base is a gathering of people worshiping the Trinity.

 

TWO EUCHARISTIC ICON TYPES

Today we will take a look at two Eucharistic types  — more of those “mystic-didactic” icons that became prominent in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The first is titled “Let All Human Flesh be Silent.”  The title is taken from this excerpt from the Liturgy of St. Basil, used in the Eucharistic celebration on Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter Sunday) in place of the usual “Cherubic Hymn.”

Да молчит всякая плоть человеча, и да стоит со страхом и трепетом, и ничтоже земное в себе да помышляет; Царь бо царствующих, и Господь господствующих, приходит заклатися и датися в снедь верным. Предходят же Сему лицы ангельстии со всяким Началом и Властию, многоочитии Херувими, и шестокрилатии Серафими, лица закрывающе, и вопиюще песнь: Аллилуйя, Аллилуйя, Аллилуйя.

Let all human flesh be silent, and let it stand with fear and trembling, and let itself consider nothing earthly; for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes forth to be sacrificed and given as food to the believers; and there go before him the choirs of Angels, with every Dominion and Power, many-eyed Cherubim and six-winged Seraphim, covering their faces, and singing out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

What we see in the 16th century example above is the so-called “Great Entrance,” when the clergy bring the bread and wine to be placed upon the altar.  We see the “Three Hierarchs” — Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom and Basil the Great standing by the altar.  The procession coming from the left side is led by a deacon with a candle, followed by another holding a chalice (potir in Slavic) and a censer (kadilo in Slavic).  Behind him comes a bishop holding a diskos above his head.  That is the vessel on which the liturgical bread lies — represented in the icon by the body of Christ Immanuel (Jesus as child or youth).  The asteriskos (the open metal  support for the covering cloth) that represents the Star of Bethlehem is over it.  The last person in the procession holds aloft the aer (vozdukh in Slavic) — the covering cloth that will lie upon the asteriskos (zvezditsa in Slavic) to cover the diskos.  In the air above, we see various ranks of angels — cherubim, seraphim, thrones (the names “Dominion” and Power”  in the liturgical excerpt represent ranks of angels).  We also see other familiar figures, among them apostles and John the Forerunner (with wings), as well as the Repentant Thief Rakh holding his cross.  The crowds of  people without halos in the foreground represent the “All Human Flesh” that is supposed to be silent.  God the Father (Lord Sabaoth) is at upper left, with the Holy Spirit as a dove proceeding from him.  The general idea of the icon is that the ranks of angels are present and participating invisibly in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Here is another “Stroganov School” example from the 17th century:

damolchitstrog17theeuw_1

(Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

Here is a rather more elaborate 17th century version of the same type, showing the ranks of angels separated into different circles, along with many more saints of various kinds:

The other Eucharistic icon type we will look at today is “Who Mystically Represent the Cherubim,” a title which is taken from the so-called “Cherubic Hymn” of the liturgy.  This hymn is the one ordinarily sung during the liturgy, but on Holy Saturday it is replaced, as we have seen, by the “Let All Human Flesh be Silent” version.

Иже херувимы тайно образующе,
и Животворящей Троицѣ трисвятую пѣснь припѣвающе,
Всякое нынѣ житейское отложимъ попеченіе.
Яко да Царя всѣхъ подъимемъ,
ангельскими невидимо дориносима чинми.
Аллилуіа

“[We] who cherubim mystically represent
And to the Life-bearing Trinity the “Thrice Holy” hymn sing,
All cares of life let us now put aside
So we may receive the Tsar of all,
By invisible ranks of angels escorted.
Alleluia.

The “Thrice Holy” hymn is of course the “Holy, Holy, Holy” of Isaiah 6:1-3:

And it came to pass in the year in which king Ozias died, that I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and the house was full of his glory.  And seraphim stood round about him: each one had six wings: and with two they covered their face, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one cried to the other, and they said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

We see the Cherubic Hymn written in Slavic across the top of this example, a 16th century icon from the Annunciation Cathedral in the city of Solvuichegodsk (Сольвычегодск):

(Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

In the top circle — surrounded by angels — is the Otechestvo — the “Fatherhood” — showing God the Father (Lord Sabaoth) with Jesus as Immanuel on his lap.  Below him is Jesus robed as the Great High Priest, celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy, surrounded by angels and saints.  At his far left and far right, angels perform the Proskomedia — the preparation of the bread and wine for the Eucharist.  At lower left we see angels forming the procession of the Great Entry, and Jesus again at the lower center.  The figures without halos at lower right are said to represent the wealthy Stroganov family, patrons of the Solvuichegodsk Cathedral.

 

THE PSALM 44 ICON

Today’s icon, from the 16th century, is related both to the Deisis sub-type commonly called “The Queen Stands at Your Right,” and to “Sophia, Wisdom of God.”  We shall see the relationships on closer examination.

(Andrei Rublyov Museum, Moscow)

This icon takes its title from the words of Psalm 44 (45 in King James Version numbering), rendered in the KJV as “My heart is inditing a good matter.”  When did you ever hear anyone use the word “indite”?  In English it means “to compose”  But in the Slavic Version it is:

Отрыгну Сердце Мое Слово Благо
Otruigny Serdtse Moe Slovo Blago

We can translate it rather literally as:
Gives-forth    Heart   of-me a Word Good
In normal English,
My Heart is Uttering a Good Word.

Oddly enough, the word I translate here as “gives forth” and “utters” commonly means “to belch” or “to vomit” in modern Russian.

The key to the icon lies in the “good Word” mentioned, and if we look at the Greek Septuagint version, it helps us to better see why:

Εξηρευξατο ἡ καρδία μου λόγον ἀγαθόν
Exereuxato he kardia mou logon agathon…

Logon is the accusative form of logos, meaning “word.”  You will recall that the first words of the Gospel of John are:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.”  And you will recall that the “Word” —  the Logos — of God in icons is Jesus.

So the Word — the Slovo or Logos in Psalm 44 — is understood in Eastern Orthodoxy to be Jesus — the pre-existent son of God, and the Psalm is therefore considered to signify the “begetting” of the Word — of God the Son — by God the Father.

Let’s examine its various elements, taken from the lines of Psalm 44:

At the top we see Gospod’ Savaof —  “Lord Sabaoth,” who is God the Father; and below him is the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove.

At upper left, we see King David — called a prophet in Eastern Orthodoxy — writing his Psalm:
…глагóлю áзъ дѣлá моя́ Царéви: язы́къ мóй трóсть кни́жника скоропи́сца.
I declare my works to the king: my tongue is the pen of a quick writer.

Seated on the throne in the center of the image is a crowned figure — this is Jesus as the Word uttered by the Father.  He holds a scepter in his hand:

That is taken from verse 7:
Престóлъ твóй, Бóже, въ вѣ́къ вѣ́ка: жéзлъ прáвости жéзлъ цáр­ст­вiя тво­егó.
Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of righteousness.

The scroll he holds bears a part of verse 3 of the Psalm:
…сегó рáди благослови́ тя Бóгъ во вѣ́къ.
“...therefore God has blessed you forever.

At his knees is a quiver of arrows at left, and a bow at right, taken from verse 6:
“Стрѣ́лы твоя́ изощрéны, си́льне…”
Your arrows are sharpened, Mighty One… ”

At his feet are fallen his conquered enemies, as in the second part of verse 6:
…лю́дiе подъ тобóю падýтъ въ сéрдцы врáгъ Царéвыхъ.
the nations shall fall under you; they are in the heart of the king’s enemies.

The angel at right pours out the oil of anointing upon the head of the Word, as in verse 8:
Возлюби́лъ еси́ прáвду и воз­ненави́дѣлъ еси́ беззакóнiе: сегó рáди помáза тя́, Бóже, Бóгъ твóй елéемъ рáдости пáче при­­чáст­никъ тво­и́хъ.
You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your fellows.

At left is a Queen (Mary) as in verse 9:
…предстá цари́ца одеснýю тебé, въ ри́захъ позлащéн­ныхъ одѣ́яна преиспещрéна.
“…the queen stood on your right hand, clothed in robes worked with gold, and arrayed in various colors.”

At right is a church, with people in the doorway, taken from verse 16:
…при­­ведýт­ся въ весéлiи и рáдованiи, введýт­ся въ хрáмъ Царéвъ.
They shall be brought with gladness and exultation: they shall be led into the king’s temple.

In front of the church are two crowned figures.  That at left is John the Forerunner, whose scroll bears the beginning of verse 18 of the Psalm:
сегó рáди лю́дiе исповѣ́дят­ся тебѣ́ въ вѣ́къ и во вѣ́къ вѣ́ка.
“…therefore shall the nations give thanks to you forever, and forever and ever.”

And at right King Solomon, whose scroll bears part of verse 8 of the Psalm:
сегó рáди помáза тя́, Бóже, Бóгъ твóй елéемъ рáдости пáче при­­чáст­никъ тво­и́хъ.
“...therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your fellows.”  You will recall that Solomon is the traditional author of the Book of Proverbs, which speaks of Wisdom (Sophia), understood in icons to be Jesus, as in Proverbs 9:1: “ Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars.

The fellow with the red cap at far left is the Prophet Daniel, holding a scroll bearing part of verse 5 of the Psalm:
…и́стины рáди и крóтости и прáвды: и настáвитъ тя́ ди́вно десни́ца твоя́.
“…because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and your right hand shall guide you wonderfully.” Daniel is considered to have foretold the coming kingdom of Jesus, as in Daniel 2:44:
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Just for reference, here is all of Psalm 44 (45 in the KJV) in Church Slavic:

  • 1.  Въ конéцъ, о измѣня́емыхъ сынóмъ Корéовымъ въ рáзумъ, пѣ́снь о воз­лю́блен­нѣмъ.
  • 2.  Отры́гну сéрдце моé слóво блáго, глагóлю áзъ дѣлá моя́ Царéви: язы́къ мóй трóсть кни́жника скоропи́сца.
  • 3.  Красéнъ добрóтою пáче сынóвъ человѣ́ческихъ, излiя́ся благодáть во устнáхъ тво­и́хъ: сегó рáди благослови́ тя Бóгъ во вѣ́къ.
  • 4.  Препоя́ши мéчь твóй по бедрѣ́ тво­éй, си́льне,
  • 5.   красотóю тво­éю и добрóтою тво­éю: и наляцы́, и успѣвáй, и цáр­ст­вуй и́стины рáди и крóтости и прáвды: и настáвитъ тя́ ди́вно десни́ца твоя́.
  • 6.  Стрѣ́лы твоя́ изощрéны, си́льне: лю́дiе подъ тобóю падýтъ въ сéрдцы врáгъ Царéвыхъ.
  • 7.  Престóлъ твóй, Бóже, въ вѣ́къ вѣ́ка: жéзлъ прáвости жéзлъ цáр­ст­вiя тво­егó.
  • 8.  Возлюби́лъ еси́ прáвду и воз­ненави́дѣлъ еси́ беззакóнiе: сегó рáди помáза тя́, Бóже, Бóгъ твóй елéемъ рáдости пáче при­­чáст­никъ тво­и́хъ.
  • 9.  Сми́рна и стáкти и касíа от­ ри́зъ тво­и́хъ, от­ тя́жестей слонóвыхъ {от­ хрáмовъ слонóвыхъ}, изъ ни́хже воз­весели́ша тя́.
  • 10.  Дщéри царéй въ чéсти тво­éй: предстá цари́ца одеснýю тебé, въ ри́захъ позлащéн­ныхъ одѣ́яна преиспещрéна.
  • 11. Слы́ши, дщи́, и ви́ждь, и при­­клони́ ýхо твоé, и забýди лю́ди твоя́ и дóмъ отцá тво­егó:
  • 12.  и воз­желáетъ Цáрь добрóты тво­ея́, занé тóй éсть Госпóдь твóй, и поклони́шися емý,
  • 13.  и дщи́ ти́рова съ дáры: лицý тво­емý помóлят­ся богáтiи лю́дстiи.
  • 14.  Вся́ слáва дщéре Царéвы внýтрь: ря́сны златы́ми одѣ́яна и преиспещрéна.
  • 15.  Приведýт­ся Царю́ дѣ́вы вслѣ́дъ ея́, и́скрен­нiя ея́ при­­ведýт­ся тебѣ́:
  • 16. при­­ведýт­ся въ весéлiи и рáдованiи, введýт­ся въ хрáмъ Царéвъ.
  • 17.  Вмѣ́сто отéцъ тво­и́хъ бы́ша сы́нове тво­и́: постáвиши я́ кня́зи по всéй земли́.
  • 18.  Помянý и́мя твоé во вся́комъ рóдѣ и рóдѣ: сегó рáди лю́дiе исповѣ́дят­ся тебѣ́ въ вѣ́къ и во вѣ́къ вѣ́ка.

THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL INSCRIPTIONS

Today, thanks to a reader question, we will take a look at a 14th century icon in the Byzantine Museum, Athens.  It represents the Archangel Michael, leader of the heavenly armies.

{Byzantine Museum, Athens – St. Michael: 14th century – Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto, Nov 12 2009)

The question asked was, what do the letters in the round mirror (depicted as a transparent sphere here) held by St. Michael mean?

Let’s look at them:

First, we need to know that the letters are Greek, which makes sense, given that it is a Byzantine icon.

The first letter — at the top — is Χ.  It stands for Χριστος — Khristos — “Christ.”
It would be easy to mistake the second letter, at left, for an Α.  But actually it is the letter Δ, which is often found written in this manner in old icons.  It stands for Δικαιος — Dikaios — meaning “Righteous.”
The third letter, at right, is Κ, for Κριτης — Krites — “Judge.”  It is related to our English words “critic” and criticism.”

All together, the letters abbreviate Χ(ριστός) Δ(ίκαιος) Κ(ριτής). — “Christ [the] Righteous Judge.”  It is an expression that recalls the words of John 7:24:

μὴ κρίνετε κατ’ ὄψιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν κρίνετε
Me krinete kat’ opsin, alla ten dikiaian krisin krinete
Not judge according-to appearance, but the rightous judgment judge
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

You may recall that  a variant of this phrase is often found as a Gospel text in Russian icons of Jesus as “Lord Almighty.”

Не на лица судите сынове человечестии, но праведен суд судите: им же бо судом судите, судят вам и в нюже меру мерите, возмерится вам.

“Judge not according to the appearance, sons of men, but judge righteous judgment.  For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged, and with what measure you measure, you shall be measured.”

There is also a title inscription on the Michael icon that we should examine.  It is divided into left and right parts:

At left:

Ὁ ΑΡΧ[ΩΝ]….
HO ARKHON
Ὁ ΜΕΓΑC
HO MEGAS

Notice how the the A and the P (R) are joined, and how the X (KH) in Arkhon is placed above, below a curved line indicating abbreviation.

At right:

…ΜΙΧΑ[Η]Λ
MIKHAEL
…ΤΑΞΙΑΡΧΗC
TAXIARKHIS

Notice that the Λ (L) in MIKHAEL is placed above the last two letters.

This title inscription is read with the first line jumping from the left to right side, as does the second, like this:

Ὁ ΑΡΧ(ΩΝ) ΜΙΧΑΗΛ Ὁ ΜΕΓΑC ΤΑΞΙΑΡΧΗC
HO ARKHON MIKHAEL HO MEGAS TAXIARKHES

“THE PRINCE MICHAEL THE GREAT COMMANDER”

That title recalls the Old Testament book of Daniel, 12:1, in the Septuagint Greek version:

Και ἐν τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ ἀναστήσεται Μιχαὴλ ὁ ἄρχων ὁ μέγας, ὁ ἑστηκὼς ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ λαοῦ σου·
“And in that time shall stand up Michael the great prince, that stands over the sons of your people.”

Thanks to the reader who asked this question, because it helps everyone to advance a bit in the study of icons.