THREE 4TH-CENTURY FELLOWS

The 4th century (the 300s c.e.) was an important time for the development of Christianity.  That is when it was legalized in the Roman Empire and also when it was given the favor and support of the Emperor Constantine.  It was also significant in the development and standardization of Christian dogma.  And it was the beginning of the time of reversal, when Christians went from being a persecuted minority to being themselves the persecutors of non-Christians and those who did not toe the favored line doctrinally within Christianity.  It was the time of the first great church council — the Council of Nicaea, out of which came a fundamental dogmatic statement of later mainstream Christianity — the Nicene Creed.  It was a time when the notion of “heresy” — of scorning other ways of Christian belief — became firmly established in the Imperially-favored church.  It was the beginning of the solidification of “official” Christian dogma, in contrast to the earlier wide variations in belief and practice.

As I hope you know by now, some icon types are fixed groupings of certain saints.  Today’s image — a Russian icon — is one of them.  It depicts three historically-important figures in the development of Eastern Orthodoxy.  This example is a little unusual in that the three are commonly depicted on the same panel, but here they are shown as a three-panel set.  Nonetheless, the type remains the same.

If you have been reading this site for some time, you should recognize immediately that this is an Old Believer rather than a State Church icon.  The two clues are the stylization of the figures, and of course the position of the fingers of the blessing hand, with the “two-fingered” blessing that is the mark of Old Believers quite clear in the central panel.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The figures shown are, from left:  Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and  John Chrysostom.  Each is dressed in the robes of a bishop, with the standard omophorion (the long stole) about his neck; and each holds the book of the Gospels, and a little cloth beneath it to show veneration.  The arrangement of the three varies from example to example.

The Greeks call them Οἱ Τρεῖς Ἱεράρχαι — Hoi Treis Hierarkhai; in Russia they are generally called either Три святителя — Tri Svyatityelya — “The Three Bishops,” or Три учителя — Tri Uchityelya — “The Three Teachers.”

Basil is called Василий Великий in Slavic — Vasiliy Velikiy — “Vasiliy the Great.”  Gregory is  Григорий Богослов — Grigoriy Bogoslov — “Gregory the Theologian.”  And John is Иоанн Златоуст — Ioann Zlatoust — “John the Golden-mouthed.”  In Greek they are Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας — Vasilios ho Megas, Γρηγόριος ὁ Θεολόγος — Gregorios ho Theologos —  and Ιωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος — Ioannes ho Khrysostomos, all with the same meanings as in Slavic.

Just who were these guys?

Basil the Great lived in the 4th century (300s c.e.).  He began his career in law, then became a monk and the abbot of a monastery, and eventually founded more and wrote an enduring rule of life for the monks.  In 370 he was made a bishop.  He is often given credit for the victory of the “Nicene” view of the Trinity over that of Arius.  His name is given to the form of Eucharistic liturgy called the “Liturgy of St. Basil.”  Basil died in 379.

Gregory the Theologian also lived in the 4th century.  He is sometimes called Gregory Nazianzen, after a Cappadocian city.  He studied in Athens for six years, and was a school friend of Basil the Great.  He later spent several years with Basil in a monastery.  Like Basil, Gregory was active in the struggle against the views of the Arians.  He was for a time Patriarch of Constantinople, but there was controversy over his appointment, and he eventually withdrew.  Gregory died in 390.

John Chrysostom was born in the 4th century, but lived into the early 5th.  He became a hermit in 375 c.e., and a priest in 386.  He became known as an excellent speaker –thus his name — but he was also virulently anti-Semitic.  In 397 he was made archbishop of Constantinople.  An intolerant fellow, John supported the destruction of non-Christian temples and shrines, and his mouth got him into so much trouble that he was banished into exile, and died in 407.  His name is attached to the common liturgy celebrated in Eastern Orthodoxy, the “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.”

 

 

DOUBLED JESUS: THE “COMMUNION OF THE APOSTLES” TYPE

In an earlier posting, we looked at the Tainaya Vechera type — the “Mystic Supper,” which is the form in which the “Last Supper” is commonly presented in Eastern Orthodox iconography.  I also briefly mentioned a related type:  the “Communion of the Apostles.  In Greek it is generally called  Η ΘΕΙΑ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ (He Theia Koinonia) “Holy Communion,” and in Slavic  Причащения Апостолов — Prichashchenie Apostolov. the “Communion of the Apostles.  It depicts Christ standing at an altar, giving communion to the Apostles, who approach from left and right.  Christ is generally shown twice, at left in the so-called metadosis (imparting) of the bread, and at right in the so-called metalepsis (partaking) of the wine. This represents Christ giving the communion in and to the Church on earth — the Church as one related communion.

Here is a rather basic pattern of the type.  instead of the room of the last supper, it is a church; and instead of the table with the Apostles around it, there is an altar (shown twice in this example), often with a canopy above it.  In the finished icon, Jesus would be holding bread at left, and a chalice (or sometimes a jug) at right:

When inscriptions are present in this type (which may be found in churches above the “Tsar Doors” to the altar or on the wall of the eastern apse) they are generally these texts from Matthew 28 in Church Slavic (in Slavic regions) or Greek (in Greek-speaking areas):

Slavic, at left:
Прiими́те, яди́те: сié éсть тѣ́ло моé
Priimite, yadite: cie est’ tyelo moe

Greek, at left:
Λάβετε φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
Labete phagete, touto estin to soma mou.

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

Slavic, at right:
Пíйте от­ нея́ вси́:  сiя́ бо éсть крóвь моя́, нóваго завѣ́та, я́же за мнóгiя изливáема во оставлéнiе грѣхóвъ.
Piite ot neya vxi: siya bo est’ krov’ moya, novago zavyeta, yazhe za mnogiya izlevaema vo ostavlenie gryekhov.

Greek, at right:
Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν·
Piete ex autou pantes, touto gar estin to haima mou tes diathekes to peri pollon ekkhunnomenon eis aphesin hamartion.

“Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

In some examples, one may find an excerpt from the Liturgy of St. Basil:
(Slavic here)

Нас же всех, от единаго Хлеба и Чаши причащающихся, соедини друг ко другу во единаго Духа Святаго причастие.

“Unite us all, who receive of one bread and chalice, one with another in the communion of one Holy Spirit.”

In the basic pattern shown on this page, the number of apostles included is indistinct.  But commonly there are eleven, six at left and five at right.  You may recall that in the New Testament, there are twelve until the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.  In this icon type, Judas is generally omitted, because this is a liturgical icon showing a scene “in eternity” as the saying goes,  and Judas is not considered part of that eternal celebration.  Nonetheless, some painters included Judas, who may be shown turning away, or even in some examples with a black halo to distinguish him from the “accepted” apostles.

“HOLY WEEK” ICONS

There is a group of related icons that are associated with the liturgical texts of “Holy Week,” the annual celebration of the Passion and death of Jesus.

The first is shows Jesus after his scourging, wearing a scarlet cloak over his shoulders, hands tied at the wrists, the crown of thorns on his head, and a long reed in one hand.  This image has long been known in the West by the Latin name Ecce Homo — “Behold the man,” the words of Pilate when presenting Jesus to the crowd.

Greek examples of the type often bear those same words, only in Greek as  Ίδε ο άνθρωπος — Ide ho Anthropos.  We see that Greek inscription (in upper case) at the left side of this late 19th century print from Mount Athos.  The words are run together as:
ΙΔΕΟΑΗΘΡΩΠΟC.  At right, to cater to another group of customers, is the same inscription in Church Slavic:  СЕ ЧЕЛОВЕКЪ — Se Chelovek — “Behold the Man.”

It is important to know, however, that this type is generally known in Greek Orthodoxy by a different title:  Ο Νυμφίος — Ho Nymphios — meaning “The Bridegroom,” Jesus being considered the bridegroom of the Church.  This “Bridegroom” title comes from a troparion in the Bridegroom Matins service of “Holy Week.”

«Ιδού, ο Νυμφίος έρχεται εν τω μέσω της νυκτός, και μακάριος ο δούλος, ον ευρήσει /γρηγορούντα. Ανάξιος δε πάλιν ον ευρήσει ραθυμούντα. Βλέπε ουν, ψυχή μου, μη τω ύπνω κατενεχθείς, ίνα μη τω θανάτω παραδοθείς και της βασιλείας έξω κλεισθείς. Αλλά ανάνηψον κράζουσα· Άγιος, Άγιος, Άγιος ει ο Θεός ημών, διά της Θεοτόκου ελέησον ημάς».

Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and happy is the servant whom he finds awake.  Unworthy, however, the one whom he finds indolent.  See therefore, my soul, that sleep does not overcome you, so that you be not handed over to death and be shut out of the Kingdom.  But alert, cry:  Holy Holy, Holy are you our God, through the Mother of God have mercy on us.”

That troparion, in turn, is derived from the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25, which begins:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go out to meet him.

Greek examples one commonly sees of the Nymphios/Bridegroom type are generally 19th century or later.

Another Passion-related type is the image found often in older icons, called Η Ακρα Ταπεινωσις — He Akra Tapeinosis — “[the] Extreme Humility.”

This type shows the body of Jesus upright, with the spear and sponge of the Passion.   Russians call it Царь Славы — Tsar Slavui — “[the] King of Glory.”  Here is a Russian proris’ — a painter’s pattern — of that image, which would be reversed on the actual icon:

You may recall that “Tsar Slavui” is also part of the standard inscription found on Russian icons of the Crucifixion.  This title is also often found on Greek icons of the Crucifixion, sometimes on the signboard at the top of the cross as ΟΒΣΛΤΔΞ, abbreviating  Ό Βασιλεύς της Δόξης — Ho Basileus tes Doxes — “The King of Glory,”  and sometimes written in full on or near the main crossbeam.

Russian iconography generally prefers adding Mary to this type; she holds the body of Jesus, upright from the waist in a stylized stone sarcophagus.  With Mary added, the preferred title in Slavic becomes  Neruiday Mene Mati — “Weep Not for Me Mother”:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Russians generally classify it as a Marian image, which accounts for the title inscription on the above icon:  Neruiday Mene Mati Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui — “The ‘Weep Not for Me’ Most Holy Mother of God.”

The “Weep Not” title is taken from the liturgy for Holy Saturday (celebrated as the day after the crucifixion):

«Не рыдай Мене, Мати, зряще во гробе, Его же во чреве без семени зачала еси Сына: возстану бо и прославлюся и вознесу со славою, непрестанно яко Бог, верою и любовию Тя величающия».

Weep not for me, Mother, seeing in the tomb the son, conceived without seed in the womb,  For I shall arise and be glorified, as God I shall exalt with glory unceasing those who with faith and love magnify you.

This “Weep Not for Me” type is essentially a variation on the Greek Η ΑΠΟΚΑΘΗΛΟΣΙΣ — He Apokathelosis —  “The Removal [from the Cross],” in which Mary grasps the body of Jesus as it is taken down.   in fact some Greek examples in this general form — have He Apokathelosis as the title inscription.   The Western European (Roman Catholic) equivalent of the “Weep Not for Me, Mother” is the Pietà — not quite the same, but related.  

There is another “Holy Week” type one should be aware of, because it is found not only in painted icons, but also in needlework on fabric as a liturgical object used in the Good Friday and Holy Saturday services.  Such an elaborately embroidered cloth is called an Epitaphios, or in Russia a Плащаница — Plashchanitsa.

The title of this type is Ο ΕΠΙΤΑΦΙΟΣ ΘΡΗΝΟΣ — Ho Epitaphios Threnos — “The Lament [threnos] Over [epi-] the Tomb [-taphios/taphos].”  In English it is often called simply the “Lamentation.” Here is an example by Theophanes the Cretan, found at the Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos.  The Ο Επιτάφιος Θρήνος title is just above the main crossbeam:

It is interesting to compare it with the earlier Italian fresco (1305) by Giotto, of the same event:

lamentationedigiottodibondone

In spite of its much earlier date, the Giotto image seems more full of genuine emotion than the Stavronikita image, less “hieratic” –and a precursor to the Renaissance.

READING THE SAINTS

If you have been keeping up with my previous postings on reading Church Slavic icon inscriptions, you are likely now the icon expert in your town — perhaps even your county or an even larger region.  So you should have little trouble reading today’s icon, which shows an assembly of various saints.

Such mixtures of saints were generally chosen by the purchaser of the icon, who often included not only family “name saints” but also the chief saints to whom the members of the family prayed for help with this or that problem.

Today’s icon is a good example for reading practice, not only because it shows different kinds of saints, but also because some of the inscriptions are a little worn or damaged here and there, so the reader has to fill in the missing parts:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Notice the variation in how the saints are labeled on this icon.  Some have their titles in the icon border, while others have it in or above the halo:

Let’s begin with the angel at the upper left side.  His inscription (partly worn) reads:

Ст Аггель Хранитель
St  Angel’  Khranitel’
In full,
Svyatuiy Angel’ Khranitel’
“Holy Angel Guardian”
Or as we say in English,
“The Holy Guardian Angel.”

Did you remember that the letter combination гг (gg) in Church Slavic is pronounced like “ng”?

You will recall that the Guardian Angel in icons is a generic figure representing the Angel believed to watch over each person.

The saint at left in the nun’s habit is:
Ст Прпдб мчнца Евдокиа
In full:
Святая Преподобная Евдокия
Svyataya Prepodobnaya Evdokiya
“Holy Venerable Evdokia”

I hope you recall that Prepodobnaya does not literally mean “Venerable”; that is just the English term commonly used, because literally Prepodobnaya means “Most-like,” that is, most like Christ, or some say most like humans before the “Fall.”
When you see the combination “ev” in a saint’s name, it often represents the Greek form “eu,” and “k” often becomes “c” in the English form of the name.  So if we were to put Evkokiya’s name into English form, it would be “Eudocia.”

Beside Evdokiya is:

Ст М Иоустиния
Святая Мученица Иоустиния
Svyataya Muchenits Ioustiniya
Holy Martyr Iustinia/Justinia

Iustinia is in the standard garb for a female.

To her right is:

Cт Сщнмчн Киприанъ
Святый Священомученикъ Киприан
Svyatuiy Svyashchenomuchenik Kiprian
Holy Priest-martyr Kiprian/Cyprian

Cyprian’s specialty is protection from demons, sorcery, and witchcraft.

 

Ст Мчнкъ Трифонъ
Святый Мученикъ Трифонъ
Svyatuiy Muchenik Trifon
Holy Martyr Trifon/Triphon

Note the cross in Triphon’s hand.  A white cross is generally held by martyr saints in icons.  You may recall that Triphon is the saint associated with a falcon and with geese, and is prayed to for problems with geese and rodents, etc.

Ст В М Артемий
Святый Великомученикъ Артемий
Svyatuiy Velikomuchenik Artemiy
Holy Great-martyr Artemiy/Artemios

Artemiy is dressed in Roman armor and holds a martyr’s cross and a lance.  His specialty is intestinal problems.

Ст Василий Велики
Святый Василий Великий
Svyatuiy Vasiliy Velikiy
Holy Basil [the] Great

Basil is dressed in bishop’s robes, with an omophorion around his neck, and the Gospels held in is left hand.  Basil’s specialty is aid with studies.

In the photo below, we see Jesus at the top in the clouds, with his usual abbreviation IC XC, Iesous Khristos in Greek — “Jesus Christ”:

Now the saints on the right side of the icon:

The female at top:

Ст Мчнца Агафия
Святая Мученица Агафия
Svyataya Muchenitsa Agafiya
Holy Martyr Agafiya/Agaphia

Agafiya is dressed in the standard garments for a female.

Ст Сщнмчн Зиновий
Святый Священомученикъ Зиновий
Svyatuiy Svyashchenomuchenik Zinoviy
Holy Priest-martyr Zinoviy/Zenobios

Ст В М Варвара
Святауа Великомученица Варвара
Svyataya Velikomuchnitsa Varvara
Holy Great-martyr Barbara

Barbara is dressed as royalty, wearing a crown, and holding a martyr’s cross.  Her speciality is aid in avoiding sudden death.

Прпдбна Мария Егип
Преподобная Мария Египетская
Prepodobnana Mariya Egipetskaya
Venerable Mary of Egypt

You will recall that Mary was a desert-dwelling ascetic, usually shown near-naked.  Her specialty is chastity and help in finding lost things.

The last two saints on this icon are:

Ст В М Димитрий Солу
Святый Димитрий Солунский
Svyatuiy Dimitriy Solunskiy
Holy Dimitriy/Demitrios of Salonika

Dimitriy/Dmitriy is one of the most prominent warrior saints.  His specialty is chastity, and he is a popular protector of the young.

Прпд Ануфрий Великий
Преподобный Ануфрий Великий
Prepodobnuiy Anufriy Velikiy
Venerable Anofriy/Onufriy/Onuphrios

As is obvious, Onufriy was another of the desert-dwelling ascetics.  He wears “leaf shorts,” a covering made of leaves.  His name is usually written with an “O,” but here the writer has used an “A” because it has the same pronunciation as an unstressed “O” in Russia.  One often finds this o/a confusion in Russian icon inscriptions.

This is not a very interesting page for the more advanced in reading icons, but for those still learning to read the letters of Church Slavic and basic inscriptions, it should be helpful.  And it should remind you how very repetitive these inscriptions are, so as I always say, a little learning goes a long way, enabling you to read many more icons than one would expect from the small amount of effort necessary to learn such basics.

For those who want to see closer views of the saints full-figure, here is the icon in three segments:

Left:

Center:

Right:

ICONS OF JOHN THE WARRIOR

Here is a well-painted Russian icon with four figures:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

They are:

Left top:
Преподобны Даниилъ Столпникъ
Prepodbnui[y] Daniil Stolpnik
Venerable Daniel Stylite
Daniel the Stylite was a 5th century ascetic who spent 33 years atop a pillar after seeing a vision of Simeon the Stylite (Simeon Stolpnik).  He died in 493.

Свяаты Пророкъ Софония
Svyatui[y] Prorok Sofoniya
Holy Prophet Zephaniah
Zephaniah was a 7th century b.c. Hebrew prophet whose teachings are said to be represented by the Old Testament book of Zephaniah.

Преподобны Савва Звенигородский
Prepodobnui[y] Savva Zvenigrodoskiy
Venerable Savva of Zvenigorod
Savva of Zvenigorod was a disciple of St. Sergiy of Radonezh.  In 1399 he established a monastery near Zvenigorod (-gorod means “town/city”) on Storozhevsk Hill, thus his other title, Storozhensky (“of Storozhensk”).  He died in 1406.

Святы Мученик Иоаннъ Воин
Svyatui[y] Muchenik Ioann Voin
Holy Martyr John the Warrior

Today we will focus on the last.

John the Warrior (Ioann Voin or Воинственник — Voinstvennik) is said to have been a soldier in the Roman army  when Julian (the so-called “Apostate”) was Emperor (361-363).

You will recall from the previous discussion of St. Merkurios that Julian had been raised as a Christian, but as he grew older he left Christianity and, as Emperor, attempted to remove Christianity’s privileged status in the Empire, while maintaining freedom of religion.  Because of that, Christians hated him, and in iconography he is seen as a persecutor of Christians.

John’s story is that he was both a soldier in the army and secretly a Christian.   When he was sent out to deal with recalcitrant Christians under Julian’s new laws, instead of enforcing the laws, he helped the Christians.

The Emperor is said to have found out about John’s activities, and ordered that he be brought before him in Constantinople.  On the way, the guards abused and beat John.

When he arrived in Constantinople, the Emperor was away in the war with the Persians.  Meanwhile, John was imprisoned and placed in chains.

The Emperor Julian was killed in the war, and his successor, the Christian Emperor Jovian (363-364), restored the privileged position of Christianity in the Empire, and released John from prison.

John is said to have lived into old age, spending his time helping the sick and the poor and doing many pious deeds.  When he died he asked to be buried among wanderers and beggars, and the site of his grave was said to be lost.

Some time later, John was said to have appeared to a pious woman in a dream, revealing the site of his burial.  The site was found, and the remains were dug up and taken to be placed in the Church of John the Theologian in Constantinople.

Russian Orthodox traditionally prayed to him for aid in times of sorrow and difficulty, for finding lost or stolen objects, and as a patron of soldiers.

Here is a rather typical image of John the Warrior:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The title inscription reads:

Обаз Святаго Мученика Иоанна Воина
Obraz Svyatago Muchenika Ioanna Voina
“Image of the Holy Martyr John [the] Warrior”

As is common with warrior saints in iconography, he is dressed in a version of Roman armor.  He holds a lance bearing a banner in his left hand, and in his right a cross.  On his back are a helmet and shield.

It is common for traditional Russian icon painters to give standing male saints (including angels) a very “hippy” appearance, that is, the hips are often made to look wide in proportion to the chest.  He wears a cloak, leggings, and boots.

In images showing scenes from the “life” of St. John the Warrior, those scenes vary from image to image.  Often among them are some or all of these:

  1.  His birth;
  2. His baptism;
  3. The sending out of John by Emperor Julian;
  4. John “on campaign”;
  5. John warns Christians of persecution;
  6. John frees a pious husband from prison;
  7. John arrested under Constantine’s rule;
  8. John in prison;
  9. The dormition (death) of John;
  10. The burial of John;
  11. A pious woman has a dream vision of John, who reveals his burial site;
  12. Finding of the incorrupt remains of John;
  13. The translation (moving) of John’s relics.

You should now be able to read the title inscription on this icon of John:

ioanvoin2jackson

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The central figure of John in this example holds his right hand out, with the fingers in the blessing position characteristic of the Old Believers.

In Greek iconography, John is Ιωάννης ὁ Στρατιώτης — Ioannes ho Stratiotes — “John the Soldier.”

Here is a rather more “folkish” example:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

 

 

THE CASE OF THE MISSING ASS

Did you ever notice the many discrepancies in the Gospels?  Most people do not.  But an easy way to pick them out is to compare the four — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — line by line, in a good, rather literal translation.  Using the Greek text is even better, for those who can manage Greek.

I mention the matter of discrepancies, because that is something a perceptive person familiar with the Gospels will notice in the icon type discussed today.

It is the icon for the church festival generally called Palm Sunday in the West.  The Greeks call the icon type for that day Ἡ Βαϊοφόρος — He Baiophoros — meaning “The Palm-bearing.”  Βαϊον (Baion) in Greek means “a palm branch or leaf,” and the -φόρος (-phoros) part comes from the Greek word meaning “to bear, to carry.”   You already know that ending from the name of the legendary saint Khristophoros — the “Christ-bearer,” St. Christopher.

baiophoros

If we look more closely, we can see the Ἡ Βαϊοφόρος title at the top of the icon, with the C used for the last letter “s” (sigma) instead of the modern Greek Σ form:

baiophoros_1

The Russians called this icon type the “Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem,” —  ВХОДЪ ГОСПОДЕН ВО ИЕРУСАЛИМЪ — Vkhod Gospoden vo Ierusalim, or a similar variation on those words:

(Ostankino Museum)

(Ostankino Museum)

 

Here is the title inscription, with the colors altered to make it more easily readable.  It is worn and damaged; someone seems to have done a paint removal test strip at right to see what was beneath:

It reads:

ВХОДЪ ВО ИЕРУСАЛИМЪ Г[ОСПО]ДА НАШ[Е]ГО ИИ[СУ]СА [ХРИС]ТА
Vkhod vo Ierusalim Gospoda Nashego Iisusa Khrista
“The Entry into Jerusalem of Our Lord Jesus

There is little difference in content between Greek and Russian versions of the type.  Many painters liked to place people in the background trees, which often look nothing like palms.  Both Greek and Russian examples show Jesus riding on an ass.  Behind him are his apostles, with a mountain in the background, and before him the people of Jerusalem, with the city gate.  Various people strew their garments beneath the hooves of the ass.

Now the problem with this icon, for those familiar with biblical discrepancies, is that there is only one ass.  So how is that a problem?

The problem arises in the gospel called “of Matthew” (no one really knows who, or how many people, were involved in the writing of the Gospels; the oldest existing Greek manuscripts are anonymous). Matthew says that Jesus rode into Jerusalem “sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.”  Riding on two asses?  It’s a good trick if you can do it.

None of the other gospel writers have this issue.  Mark, Luke, and John all say that Jesus only rode one ass.

Interestingly, however, both John and Matthew use a supposed prophecy of the messiah, found in Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes to you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

John gives a very loose quote of it, saying.
Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, your King comes, sitting on an ass’s colt.”

So John has simply combined the ass and the foal into one animal.

Matthew, however, is much more literal.  He gives the quote as:
Tell the daughter of Sion, Behold, your King comes to you, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.”

The root of the problem lies in the fact that Zechariah wrote using a literary technique of old Hebrew poetry called parallelism.  A writer would say the same thing twice, but in two different ways:

…riding upon an ass,
and upon the foal of an ass.

Only one ass was meant.

Matthew, however, either did not know about parallelism in Hebrew literature, or else he held the view that God did not waste words, so if two animals were mentioned, then Jesus must have ridden into Jerusalem on two animals.

That is not the end of difficulties with the “case of the missing ass,” but it is enough for you to know that Eastern Orthodox iconography decided not to follow Matthew in this.  So the standard icon type of the “Entry Into Jerusalem” depicts only one ass.  Western European art is a bit more varied.  We often find two asses, an older and a younger, with the younger either beneath the older or very close by.

Here is how the painter of Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (“The Very Rich Hours of the Duke du Berry”) did it in the early 1400s:

(Musée Condé, Chantilly, France )

(Musée Condé, Chantilly, France )

 

 

THE RUDENSKAYA IMAGE AND MORE CHURCH SLAVIC

Today we will take a look at the Rudenskaya icon of Mary, another of the less common types:

rudenskyajacks

It is not difficult to see that this Hodigitria (“Way-shower”) type is very much like the famous Polish Częstochowa image of Mary, which type is known in Russia as the Ченстоховская  — Chenstokhovskaya icon.

Częstochowa

The title Rudenskaya (also spelled Rudnenskaya) comes from the town of Rudnya in Mogilev eparchy, today in Smolensk Oblast, Russia.  Ruda means “ore,” and Rudnya was an iron mining area.

According to its origin story, the Rudenskaya icon appeared at Rudnya in the year 1687.   Two years later, in 1689, the local priest, named Vasiliy, took it to the Kievo-Pecherskiy convent.  That later merged with the Kievo-Florovskiy monastery in Podol (Podil), where the icon was kept from 1712 until it mysteriously disappeared in the 1920s.  Whether that sudden disappearance had anything to do with its diamond-studded riza (icon cover) is not known.

This example of the Rudenskaya type has a Сhurch Slavic inscription below.  The first few words of it should be learned by serious students of icons, because one frequently finds them on other Marian icons.  They are:

Истинное подобие чудотворнаго образа пресвятыя богородицы
Istinnoe  podobie chudotvornago obraza presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui

“True likeness [of the] wonderworking image [of the] most-holy Birth-giver-of-God”

Or in more fluid English,

“The True likeness of the wonderworking image of the most holy Mother of God”

One often sees the word мера — myera — added to such inscriptions.  It means “measure,” as in “size.”  It means the icon copy is made the same size as the original.  And instead of, or with the word подобие — podobie — “likeness,” we may find the word изображение —izobrazhenie — “representation.”

Knowing that, you should be able to read many inscriptions that begin like this:

istinnoeizobrazh

In modern Russian Cyrillic font it is:
Iстинное изображение подобие и мера — Istinnoe izobrazhenie podobie i myera — “[The] true representation, likeness, and measure…”

Add to that the word самого — samogo — which in such inscriptions means loosely “of the same,” we can read inscriptions such as:

Истинное изображение, подобие и мера с самого чудотворнаго образа Знамения  пресвятыя богородицы

Istinnoe izobrazhenie, podobie i mera s samоgo chudotvornago obraza Znameniya Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui

“The true representation, likeness, and measure of the same wonderworking image of the Sign Most Holy Mother of God.”

The full lower inscription on this example of the Rudenskaya icon is:

Истинное подобие чудотворнаго образа пресвятыя богородице въ рудне идеже творящиися железо от блата, Тамо Дева вселися, дражайшая злата, Да людем жестокие нравы умягчает И железные к Богу сердца обращает

“The true likeness of the wonderworking image of the most holy Mother of God at Rudna; where iron is made from muck, there the Virgin dwelt, the most precious gold, who softens the brutal ways of people and turns the iron heart to God.”

The portion in italics comes from the writings of Dmitriy Rostovskiy.

To avoid confusion, it should be said that there is another and quite different icon type called Rudnenskaya-Ratkovskaya:

There is no origin story for this latter type.