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Posts by S. Angelica
LITURGY CORNER 23
with Fr. James
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: www.shroud2000.com/ArticlesPapers/Article-Mandylion.html.
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.
LITURGY CORNER 22
with Fr. James
The Number 8 as Easter Symbol
The Church speaks the language of religious symbolism in her liturgies, Scriptures, arts and architecture. In a way, symbols are like jokes: if you have to explain them, then they didn’t work. But even jokes need to explained to children or non-native speakers so that they can learn to appreciate them. Nowadays many of us are not schooled in the language of Christian symbol.
An effective religious symbol does not have a single, discreet meaning where symbol X always carries exactly meaning Y. Rather, real symbols are multivalent — intended to have multiple meanings, values, and resonances.
To take one example, consider the number 8. This Sunday is the end of “the octave of Easter”. So Easter Sunday is celebrated for 8 days, the octave, so that, liturgically speaking, each day is the equivalent of Sunday Mass. Why eight?
Jesus rose from the dead on “the first day of the week” (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). In that first generation, Christians began observing the first day of the week (Sunday) to celebrate Eucharist, which in time became their Sabbath day, as opposed to the 7th day. (Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2).
The first documentation we have of Sunday viewed as the 8th day of the new creation is in the so-called Epistle of Barnabas from the second generation of Christianity. In the context of explaining how the Law of Moses does not apply to the Christian dispensation, we read:
Wherefore we also celebrate with gladness the eighth day in which Jesus rose from the dead, and was made manifest, and ascended into Heaven.
In traditional church architecture, baptismal fonts are often octagonal in shape. After all, the waters of baptism are the portal for entry into the new creation in Christ. Even entire churches have been built on an eight-sided plan. Stars with 8 points are common in Christian art. Obviously, the number also resonates with the 8 Beatitudes. Other scriptural echoes include the number of people saved in Noah’s ark; the day of circumcision in the Law of Moses; and the number of the sons of Jesse.
As you contemplate the Mandylion icon in the sanctuary on this Eighth Day of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), consider all the symbols of the new creation embedded in our chapel and in the Sunday liturgy itself.