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Archive for the ‘Art and Iconography’ Category

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m a horrible photographer so forgive me for the quality of photos but I wanted to share with you my icon of St. Perpetua.

St. Perpetua is, hands-down, the female saint I feel the closest to, for many reasons. I have written an akathist to her and her companions as well as a historical novella based on the story she herself recorded, what has come to be known as The Passion of Perpetua and Felictias.

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Vibia Perpetua was a wealthy, educated Roman living in the ancient city of Carthage in northern Africa. She was 22 years old at the time of her death, which means she was born around the year 181 A.D. She is one of the earliest writers in history whose autobiographical work has been preserved. In fact, her work is one of the oldest Christian texts. It describes the days of her and her companions’ imprisonment, the spiritual visions she received, and contained in the same text is an eyewitness account (believed to be Tertullian) of their martyrdom. They died in 203 A.D. in the arena of Carthage on the birthday of Geta, the son of the Roman Emperor (who was also from North Africa) Septimus Severus.

As far as I know only a handful of images of St. Perpetua exist, apart from a few very modern iconographic depictions. There are a couple mosaics of her (as shown above). I based my icon on the above three mosaics. One is located in Ravenna, Italy, another in Croatia.

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First, I drew a few versions of her. When I finalized the prototype I applied the image to the canvas and began to paint. I started her in the spring, took the summer off, and returned to painting her in the fall. I finished her just before our trip to Arizona in November.

Perpteua gold part

I painted the gold piece she is wearing around her shoulders many, many times (above you can see one of many versions). When I was finally satisfied with the garments I began her face and hands. I only applied what’s called the ”proto fos” (the first light) – usually the first of three-five layers of paint. But I did not feel her expression fit; she looked too melancholic. So, as always, I emailed my brother, Fr. Matthew, and he advised me: her eyes and her chin especially needed correction (he’s not a painter but he’s a great instructor).

With some more work she came to look like this:

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Then all that was left to do was touch-up the gold, paint the halo, write the name, and add a border.

During the whole process I frequently listened to a dramatic narration of the passion of Perpetua. While they use words like “overseer” instead of “bishop” and “teacher” instead of “priest” I really loved hearing her story again and again. (Although the narrators are a bit on the over-dramatic side it is still a great narration).

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Setting out I knew it would be difficult to paint an icon of her because I had to create the prototype based on mosaics, but it was important for me, very important, to have an icon of her for myself. I have painted a good deal of icons, but never one just for me personally. I knew immediately where I would put her: in my office at work. Although I have plenty of icons in my office I placed her in a discrete spot where she is mostly blocked by the computer just so as not to draw unnecessary attention to her since she’s quite a bit larger than the other icons I have.

20191227_102112I love my work and my colleagues but it is important for me to feel connected to my roots as an Orthodox Christian. To be reminded of a brave individual, a fearless woman who had boldness before God, a person who had spiritual “tunnel vision”. She entrusted herself fully to the care of God.

Questioning her choice to be imprisoned as a Christian rather than free as a Pagan, her father begged her to renounce her faith. She pointed to a pitcher in her prison cell and asked him, “Can this pitcher be called by any other name?” He said, “No.” And she responded, “Neither can I be called by any other name than Christian.”

I painted her holding a scroll with this very quotation not simply because I love the saying but because only certain saints hold scrolls, usually hymnographers or writers, of which she is one. It also serves as a reminder for me, in a secular work environment, that I am, first and foremost, a Christian.

Work icon edited

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Troparion — Tone 1

Your proclamation has gone out into all the earth / Which was divinely taught by hearing your voice / Expounding the nature of creatures, / Ennobling the manners of men. / O holy father of a royal priesthood, / Entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion — Tone 4

You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church, / granting all mankind a lordship which cannot be taken away, / sealing it with your precepts, / venerable Basil, revealer of heaven.

Kontakion — Tone 4

You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church, / Granting all men a lordship which cannot be taken away, / Sealing it with your precepts, / O Venerable and Heavenly Father Basil.

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The icon of St. Basil in this post is one of four icons I finished painting last year of the four Hierarchs (St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory and St. John Chrysostom) for the back wall of our chapel. I took the photo that appears first in this post before I painted the saint’s name and apparently never remembered to take another photo with good lighting. I’m really a very poor photographer but I included the only other up-close photo I have of St. Basil’s finished icon (ie. depicting his name). Here are a few of all four icons together:

Happy 2020!

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An incredible documentary by director Dinu Cristian: utterly inspiring and spiritually encouraging! You can watch the whole thing below.

Hat tip to the article that brought it – and the Orthodox Christian Film Festival, Byzanfest – to my attention!

You can read the whole article here: Byzanfest: The World’s First Online Orthodox Christian Short Film Festival on pravmir.com

 

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Photo taken today. A few things left to do: Hair, beards, names, fix halos, and add borders.

On this the 14th day of the present moth we commemorate the holy and blessed Fathers who came together for the second time in Nicaea, during the reign of the pious and Christ-loving Sovereigns Constantine and Irene, against those who impiously, ignorantly and foolishly asserted that the Church of God worshippeth idols, and rejected the august and holy icons. 

As I read the above during Matins this morning I thought, “I should post something about this”. And since I’m almost finished my icons of the four holy Hierarchs (Sts. Athanasius, Gregory, Basil and John Chrysostom) I thought I would add some photos of them along the way. I started them in August, 2017 but took about a six month hiatus. Once finished they will be hung above the altar on the back wall of the domestic chapel of St. Nektarios once they’re finished.

Oikos for the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council:

The All-compassionate God, ever wishing to arouse us to perfect recollection of His becoming man, hath delivered this precept unto men, namely, that His venerable form should be depicted through the painting of icons; so that beholding it with our eyes, we might believe what we have heard by word, and might clearly know the accomplishments and names, the appearances and the contests of the saints, and might also know Christ, the Crown-bestower, who granteth crowns unto the holy athletes and martyrs, through whom now the Church yet more manifesly holdeth fast the true Faith and doth venerate the icon of Christ’s incarnation.

20180709_161350May God make us worthy to also “hold fast the faith” and continue to follow the Holy Fathers whose memories we revere in both holy writings and paintings!

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Yesterday: Just getting started on St. Basil’s face.

 

 

 

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The miracle depicted and described in this video is so awe-inspiring. The hymn, sung first in Greek and then in English, is so beautiful. It is the same hymn chanted at the end of the Akathist services held on Friday nights during Great Lent.

May we have her blessing!

Awed by the beauty of thy virginity, and the exceeding radiance of thy purity;

Gabriel called out unto thee, O Theotokos,

What worthy hymn of praise can I offer unto thee?

And what shall I name thee?

I am in doubt and stand in awe! Wherefore as commanded, I cry to thee:

Rejoice, O full of grace.

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St. Maximos the Greek Russian Orthodox Chapel, Seoul, South Korea

I was recently contacted by an American reader of my books who wrote to tell me of a lovely coincidence. While reading my second book she was surprised to read the story of the epitaphios icon found the rubble of the destroyed Orthodox church in South Korea as she is personally acquainted with the persons who were responsible for returning it to its rightful owners. I talk about this event in The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory as we use to attend services in the Russian Orthodox chapel of St. Maximos the Greek in Seoul where the icon currently resides. (We lived there from July 2006 to August 2007).

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The Seattle Times wrote an article about this significant event which took place during Holy Week in April, 1997:

Saturday, April 26, 1997

Missing Icon Home At Last — Seattle Man Helps Church Find Relic

By Sally Macdonald

Seattle Times Religion Reporter

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Kudla knew exactly what to look for as he patrolled the ruins of a Russian Orthodox church in Seoul: a sacred, embroidered icon showing a crucified Christ.

It was during the Korean War and he was sure if the tapestry wasn’t already

destroyed, it eventually would be. Kudla found his way to a spot behind the altar and there, in a wooden cabinet, was the church’s plashtschanitsa [epitaphios], a precious representation of Christ used only on Good Friday.

Kudla, a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church, rescued the icon and now, four decades later, thanks to help from a Seattle man, it has been returned to its grateful owners.

Clifford Argue, a vice president of Alaska Airlines in Seattle, helped the church find the missing relic recently and escorted it back to Seoul in time for Good Friday services yesterday. Orthodox Christians calculate the date of Easter differently from other denominations, and tomorrow they will celebrate Easter.

Icons like the one found in the ruins of Seoul’s St. Nicholas Cathedral have been used for 1,500 years to drape the shoulders of Russian Orthodox priests during Good Friday services.

By 1951, when Kudla found the relic, Seoul had changed hands four times in less than two years, falling to the North Korean and Chinese Communist armies and being recaptured each time by United Nations forces. The city was subjected to heavy shelling and bombing in each invasion.

Kudla feared for the safety of the icon because the interior of the church already had been vandalized and burned during the war, likely by North Korean soldiers. Red paint was splashed around the building, and the pews were broken apart. He was sure that the Communists would destroy the icon if they found it.

Kudla mailed the purple and gold tapestry to his suburban Pittsburgh church for safekeeping. There it was used for several years and then stored away.

The cathedral was rebuilt after the war, but the tapestry was never completely forgotten.

Argue, who was stationed near Seoul in 1968 as an Air Force civil engineer and attended the cathedral, helped relocate the relic after seeing a posting on the Internet by an Orthodox discussion group that said the congregation was looking for its missing icon.

Word gets out

Argue, a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Orthodox Christian Mission and active member of Seattle’s St. Demetrios Church, spread the word to other church groups and related organizations by computer.

The posting was seen by the Rev. Stephen Kachur. Now retired and living in Arizona, Kachur had been a pastor at Kudla’s church in Rankin, Pa., and remembered the relic well.

Kudla, now a 69-year-old retired foreman at a tool factory, recently traveled from his home in Detroit to Rankin, to watch members of his old church pack up the relic to return it.

He told church members it had bothered him for 46 years that he had taken something from a church and that the icon might be missed by its owners.

The relic is about 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and weighs about 15 pounds. Such artifacts are used only during Good Friday services, after which they are placed in flower-covered boxes representing Christ’s tomb. Then they are placed on the altar for 42 days, when the Ascension, the day Christians believe Jesus rose into heaven, is celebrated.

The St. Nicholas tapestry was woven in 1874 at a monastery in St. Petersburg,

Russia, then taken to Seoul at the turn of the century by missionaries there to try to convert their Korean neighbors.

Argue went to Pennsylvania to pick up the relic and then on to Korea to take it home. There he joined members of the cathedral, who celebrated its return with a prayer service led by Greek Orthodox Bishop Sotirios Trambas.

“It’s like we read about so many times,” Argue said after returning to Seattle earlier this week. “Artworks that get misplaced in wartime are slowly being returned to their rightful owners. They’re not just art, but precious pieces for the church. It reminded the people of that time when the church was almost destroyed and they were scattered.

“I wanted to return it personally because they were good to me during the war and this was a way to give some of their history back.”

*Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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While the quality of photos in this post are great, at least they give you the idea of what the icon and chapel look like.

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While working on these icons of St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil and St. Gregory I’ve been listening to these and similar podcasts/ homilies. I thought you might enjoy a listen as well.

Part One: Join Illumined Heart co-host Kevin Allen on his pilgrimage to Saint Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, California to talk with its Abbot Fr. Gerasim and Fr. Seraphim Rose legacy-keeper and biographer Monk Damascene. September 2nd [2007] marks the 25th anniversary of the repose of Fr. Seraphim Rose. In part 1 of this 3 part series, Kevin is in the cell constructed by Fr. Seraphim and now occupied by Monk Damascene where he talks with the monk about his spiritual father. For more information about the books published and distributed by the monastery, visit their website.

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Part Two: Enter once again into the rustic cell of Fr. Seraphim Rose with Kevin Allen as he talks with Fr. Damascene, the biographer and spiritual child of Fr. Seraphim. This is part 2 of a 3 part series and provides a unique glimpse into the life of a man who many say will someday be venerated as a Saint.

Part Three: In the conclusion of our 3 part series commemorating the 25th anniversary of the repose of Fr Seraphim (Rose), Kevin Allen is seated on a wooden bench overlooking a panoranmic view of Mt. Yolla Bolly with the Abbot of St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Fr. Gerasim. Listen for valuable lessons (as well as birds chirping!) on the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting from a spiritual child of this venerated American monk and writer.

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