Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

“Someone who is considered among men to be zealous for truth has not yet learnt what truth is really like: once he has truly learnt it, he will cease from zealousness on its behalf.”
–St. Isaac of Syria (7th century)

“No matter how ‘right’ you may be on various points, you must be diplomatic also. The first and important thing is not ‘rightness’ at all, but Christian love and harmony. Most ‘crazy converts’ have been ‘right’ in the criticisms that led to their downfall; but they were lacking in Christian love and charity and so went off the deep end, needlessly alienating people around them and finally finding themselves all alone in their rightness and self-righteousness. Don’t you follow them!…”
–Father Seraphim (Rose) (20th century California)

“Never say that God is just. If he were just, you would be in hell. Rely only on his injustice which is mercy, love and forgiveness.”
–St. Isaac the Syrian

“Have the heart of a son toward God, the mind of a judge toward yourself, and toward your neighbor, the heart of a mother.”
–Blessed Elder Cleopa (Ilie) (20th century Romania – met by English journalist Victoria Clark, as recounted by her in a passage of Why Angels Fall: A Journey through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovoshortly before his repose in 1998 )

“The man who follows Christ in solitary mourning is greater than he who praises Christ amid the congregation of men.”
–St. Isaac of Syria

is the name of this entirely Orthodox icon.

If she kind of looks to you like Jesus’ twin sister if he would’ve had one, you’re not far off! The “IC” and “XC” at the top are abbreviations for Iesous Christos, Jesus Christ in Greek, meant to leave no doubt as to the iconographer’s intentions. But why feminine, why the wings, and what does any of this have to do with “Stillness”?

There’s alot of theology packed into this particular icon. Some like it because it strikes them as feminist (even though it predates modern feminism by centuries!), especially when they learn about the tie-in with Sophia, Greek for Wisdom, ie, the Wisdom of God, which as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:24, is none other than Christ. The word Sophia is feminine in Greek, a tradition entirely supported by Proverbs 9:1-3, where Wisdom is said to have prepared her feast for people. For that matter, “He Hagia Hesychia,” the inscription in the bottom of the frame of this version of the icon, is also feminine; it means “Holy Stillness” (sometimes “Silence”).

This Christ-figure is also an Angel, hence the wings. Several times in the Old Testament, an Angel appears to a Prophet or Patriarch. Except that sometimes the Angel says “I AM the Lord/YHWH” (Christ is YHWH), or is identified as the Lord (Genesis 18), rather than “the Lord says.” Now, since nothing created directly reveals the Uncreated, ie God, that means at those times it wasn’t really a created angel, but GOD Godself! When the Word of God is heard, that’s the Pre-Incarnate Logos, the personal “Word of God”…one of whose Messianic titles in the Septuagint* Greek version of Isaiah 9:6 is “Angel of Great Counsel [sic].” Hence the figure in this icon is also sometimes referred to in theology as the Logos Angel. (This is also a good time to bring in the fact that the Hebrew word for the glorious appearance of God in His Uncreated Energies, Shekina, is also feminine.)

(*-The Septuagint Greek Old Testament is about a thousand years older than the Masoretic Text Hebrew on which most Christian Old Testaments used in the West today are based.)

“Stillness” comes in, in this way. The form of spiritual practice incorporating the Jesus Prayer I’ve mentioned before is called Hesychasm, from the Greek Hesychia. Whether one uses the Jesus Prayer or some other short prayer, and whether one is in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or later on in Orthodoxy, its goal is purification/self-discipline, Stillness of soul, to experience the appearance of God in Glory, W/wisdom, the revelation of God, etc….all embodied, as discussed above, by this feminine, winged Christ-figure.

God doesn’t necessarily appear in this way ever, but the icon is evocative (as well as provocative!). And since it’s based on the Incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s not at all blasphemous.