Pastor’s Corner – April 19, 2015

with Fr. James
The Mandylion

Last week’s Bulletin contained a short notice about the striking icon of Veronica’s Veil that is centered on the back wall of the sanctuary. We revealed that the artist is our parishioner, Pam Hoffmeister. This image is traditionally known as the Mandylion, from the Greek word Μανδυλιον, meaning ‘veil’ or ‘scarf.’

Lettering. You will find that in our Mandylion the face of Christ itself has the standard iconic “look” of Jesus: no matter what angle you view it from, Jesus is gazing at you. You can see some lettering at the top, as well as inside the nimbus or halo of Christ. The letter at the top are: IC and XC. These are abbreviations in Greek (the same in Old Church Slavonic) for Jesus: Ιησους (Jesus) and Χριστος (Christ). The letters in the halo are a phrase in Greek, ο ων, meaning “The one who is” from one of the descriptions of God in the book of Revelation “who is, who was, and who is to come” (for example, Rev. 1:8). This indicates Jesus’ divinity and the universal scope of his saving power. If you look closely the letter looks more like a capital H than the Greek letter N, but that’s because this icon is based on a Russian Orthodox model, and that is what the letter looks like in the Old Church Slavonic alphabet.

The Base? People have asked me about the base of the picture. Sometimes I think I see Veronica’s shoulders, and that she is otherwise unseen because she holds the veil with Christ’s face in front of her face. At any rate, there are two angels flanking where she would be holding up the image-impressed veil. The name, Veronica, is related to the Greek name Berenice, meaning “bearer of victory.” The Latin spelling of the name was influenced by the phrase vera icon meaning “true image” in Latin.

Number Symbolism. The four lines in the halo define the three areas where the letters ο ων, are found, signifying the Trinity. But these same lines imply a cross within the circle, if we could see the whole circle. Furthermore, this cross would also contain four cruciform intersections. In scriptural number symbolism, four is the number of the natural world. Jesus the God-Made-Man, here has a halo whose shape is the circle, the perfect one-sided figure indicating eternal divinity. But within that circle are threes and fours. These same four lines also would divide the entire circle into 9 sections, a trinity of trinities.

From the Shroud? Some argue that the Mandylion image in iconography comes from an early exposition of the Shroud of Turin in Edessa in A.D. 525. You can read a short article defending that argument at:

In Orthodox theology, icons are windows into heaven. As we mediate on this beautiful icon, may it serve that purpose for us, leading us to see Jesus.

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