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Started in 2011; completed in 2020

Nine years ago I started painting this icon of the Greatmartyr and Healer St. Panteleimon. Circumstances were such that Fr. John and I were given hospitality at a women’s monastery for a number of weeks one summer. Although I had been painting icons for years (having initially started with egg tempra) I mostly painted with acrylic. Gerontissa suggested I practice with egg tempra while I was with the nuns who could help instruct me. And so, I chose St. Panteleimon because I thought it was be nice to give my mother, who is a nurse, an icon of an unmercenary saint. However, we had to return home before I finished the icon. As a result, St. Panteleimon spent a number of years unfinished. With the onset of Covid-19 and the interruption in my work, I decided to finally finish what I started.

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In the meantime, as I was painting away, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She has been battling it for the past few months like a champion and we are placing our trust in God that her ongoing treatment will be successful.

I finished the icon and mailed it to her. The Canadian provincial borders had been closed from March until this past Friday, July 3. There was no possibility for me to even visit her during all of this. Thank God my brother, sister and aunt take such good care of her so she has been getting lots of TLC.

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Please spare a prayer for my mum, Chris

I was on the phone with her when the gift arrived. My brother happened to call her on the home phone at the same time so we both got to hear her shouts of joy when she opened the package. I think she was equally as pleased with herself for recognizing the saint through the bubble wrap as she was with the gift itself! She kept saying, “It’s St. PanteleiMON! I knew immediately it was St. PanteleiMON” with her own unique pronunciation of Greek names.

After only nine years his icon is finally complete and he is now the “attending physician” for my recovering mother.

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O Champion and healer saint Panteleimon,

Beseech our merciful God,

That He may grant unto our souls,

The remission of sins.

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I painted this icon in 2015.

From The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victoryby Constantina R. Palmer (SOON TO BE RELEASED AS AN AUDIO BOOK), Ancient Faith Publishing, 2017

OUR FAMILY SAINT: ST. JOHN MAXIMOVITCH (pp. 60-64)

“PRAY TO ST. JOHN of San Francisco for your husband. St. John was a very holy man,” the priestmonk told me as I turned the door handle to leave the room, having finished our private conversation.

“Okay,” I said, shrugging, not fully realizing just how holy St. John was.

I had wanted to become Orthodox for a couple of months at that point but was wary of converting while my husband was a candidate for ordination in the Anglican church. Thankfully, he had agreed to accompany me to a monastery in America for Pascha, but my struggles with remaining Anglican were the source of much tension in our sixth-month-long marriage.

I vividly remember explaining to my husband why I thought it was best for him to wait to be ordained: I felt I was not mature enough to be a priest’s wife. And although I truly didn’t feel mature enough at that stage in my life (I was only twenty-two years old), the real reason I wanted him to wait was that I secretly wanted us to convert to Orthodoxy together. John humbly put aside his four-year-long desire to be ordained and agreed to wait for me to be “ready.” I too waited. I waited for him to become Orthodox. I prayed and kept my mouth closed to the best of my ability.

On our way from the monastery to our home in the Province of New Brunswick, we were asked if we would be willing to take a later flight in exchange for a flight voucher. We had a long layover at our next stop, so we didn’t mind sticking around the airport a bit longer. I thought nothing of the voucher, since we would be moving to South Korea to teach English in a few months, and I didn’t expect to fly anywhere in North America in the meantime.

Once we arrived home, I started reading the biography of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Lying in bed one night, I read a story about a nurse who started to go blind and began faithfully visiting St. John’s tomb and praying to him. One evening, filled with despair, she prayed fervently and opened her Bible at random to the Gospel passage about Christ healing the blind man, instructing him to wash his eyes with water from the pool of Siloam. The nurse felt that if only she could put some water from the pool of Siloam on her eyes, she’d be healed. The next day, while she was visiting St. John’s tomb, an unknown woman approached her and said she had  just returned from Jerusalem and brought with her a small bottle of water from the pool of Siloam. The nurse put the water in her eyes while standing over St. John’s tomb and was healed. The water was brought to her through St. John’s intercession.

Having finished reading the story, I suddenly had this strong feeling that if only I could visit St. John in San Francisco, my John would become Orthodox. Then I remembered the flight voucher we had received a few months before. I was doubtful there would be any available flights to California, since the voucher seemed quite limited despite its claim of available flights “anywhere in America.” I wanted to get out of bed and check online for a ticket right then, but I made myself practice a little self-control and wait until morning.

To my surprise, the next morning I found an available flight to San Francisco that the voucher covered. We were about three weeks away from moving to South Korea, so I knew I needed to act fast. I checked the dates for that coming weekend, and found I would arrive on July 2. I was flabbergasted—this was the saint’s own feast day. I felt, without a doubt, that was the work of the saint. I couldn’t believe it: truly I was being shown just what a wonderworker this holy man was!

I arrived in San Francisco and spent as much time as possible—whenever the doors were open—at the new cathedral of Our Lady, Joy of All Who Sorrow, where the saint’s incorrupt relics are housed. I prayed and lit candles, I lovingly kissed the saint’s relics, and I simply stood and looked on him with a great deal of awe and admiration. I felt reassured that through the prayers of this great saint, my husband’s heart would be softened, and his mind would be enlightened to embrace Holy Orthodoxy.

On my last visit to the cathedral, I met a wonderful priestmonk, Fr. James, and even greater blessings unfolded. He was hosting a Greek family from Montreal, and he invited me to accompany them to the

old cathedral (the church St. John served in). In the old cathedral he served a moleben with the Greek family and me in attendance, after which he prayed over us individually with St. John’s hierarchical mantle. Even though my trip thus far had been more than enough to convince me of how holy and great a wonderworker St. John is, yet more blessings were to come.

I was taken to St. Tikhon’s orphanage, where I was able to see St. John’s cell, sit in the chair he slept in each night, and venerate the holy icons in his chapel. I was overwhelmed with all the blessings St. John sent me. How could I doubt for a second that my husband would be completely transformed through this saint’s prayers?

Of course, as it is with those of us of little faith, in the weeks and months that followed I was impatient and discouraged that my husband didn’t seem changed. I didn’t understand that when we have timelines and expectations of others, we become blind to the spiritual transformation of the person taking place right before our eyes.

I prayed frequently to St. John—the paper on which I had printed his akathist hymn quickly became worn around the edges, and I’m sure showed faint traces of despairing teardrops. To this day I have kept that copy of his akathist, and when I look at it I remember all the times I begged St. John to help my husband. Truly he was a holy man, for although it took John longer to come around than I wanted, the day I saw him using a prayer rope as we walked home from work in Seoul was the day I realized St. John’s prayers had fully penetrated his heart. I was ashamed I had ever doubted the saint, that great wonderworker and superb servant of Christ.

I wish I could say my “unbelieving” husband was sanctified by his “believing” wife, but in truth my husband was sanctified by the prayers of one who became sanctified even in our latter times, even while living in contemporary America. And that is how St. John Maximovitch became, or rather offered himself as, our family saint. May we have his blessing!

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The light of oil lamps reflects so beautifully on holy icons.

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When the Lord deemed it fitting He called His saints out of the African lands: holy Perpetua, Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Revocatus and Secundulus, to witness to their faith through suffering death. Thus, we have as an inheritance the flourishing tree of Orthodoxy, for they shed their blood, watering the seedling. Wherefore we cry aloud:

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity, and your companions

As a catechumen, O holy Perpetua, thou wast taken captive and while in prison thy father besought thee to denounce Christ. But boldly thou didst proclaim that thou couldst be called by no other name but Christian. Wherefore we marvel at thy conviction and cry out to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who art a shining example for all catechumens

Rejoice, thou who chose the heavenly over thine earthly father

Rejoice, thou who refused to be called anything other than a Christian

Rejoice, being freed from the bondage of sin through baptism while yet in prison

Rejoice, for being informed by the Spirit thou prayed only for endurance of the flesh

Rejoice, Married Matron mother of a son

Rejoice, thou who wast tempted by womanly anxiety for thy suckling child

Rejoice, thou who wast ministered to by the holy deacons Tertius and Pomponius

Rejoice, thou who didst commend thy son to the care of thy mother

Rejoice, thou who didst comfort thy brother, a catechumen in the faith

Rejoice, thou who didst look upon the dungeon as a palace

Rejoice, Bold One asking the Lord whether thou wouldst die a martyr’s death

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Beholding a heavenly vision, holy Perpetua wast informed of her martyrdom. She was found worthy to see with spiritual eyes the contest of salvation. And looking upon the bronze ladder she didst see holy Saturus going up ahead of her, calling after her to follow. Wherefore we call to her:

Alleluia

Contemplating the narrow ladder holy Perpetua didst understand the struggle to enter Paradise, for as a vile serpent the devil lies waiting to strike. Yet encouraged by her teacher she didst trod on its head and ascended the ladder, her gaze fixed upward. Wherefore we cry to her:

Rejoice, thou who didst declare the serpent powerless in the name of the Lord

Rejoice, thou who didst proclaim the way to Life impossible for the negligent

Rejoice, thou who didst follow holy Saturus’ example in death as in life

Rejoice, thou who didst ascend and enter a vast garden

Rejoice, thou who didst stand in the company of many clothed in white

Rejoice, thou who wast greeted by the venerable Shepherd

Rejoice, thou who wast given to eat food sweeter than honey

Rejoice, thou who didst awake from thy vision at the word ‘amen’

Rejoice, Holy Saturus who wast found worthy to ascend the ladder first

Rejoice, O father who gave thyself up for the sake of the catechumens

Rejoice, Encourager of Perpetua to follow after thee in thine ascent

Rejoice, you who confidently forsook all hope in this world

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

During their meal the martyrs were all called to the tribunal, and once there they all proclaimed themselves Christians. Refusing to offer sacrifice to the idols for the Emperor’s prosperity, they left the procurator Hilarian baffled, who knew not how to chant:

Alleluia

Ever faithful to the Lord the martyrs professed their faith before the procurator, and the crowd which had gathered. The sentence was read out against them, they were to be sent to the beasts. Cheerfully they returned to the dungeon, and thus we cry out:

Rejoice, Holy Contesters in the stadium of Carthage

Rejoice, Firm Pillars of the faith, convicted for the sake of Christ

Rejoice, Blessed Martyrs whose blood watered Orthodoxy

Rejoice, Holy Perpetua whose father once again tempted thee

Rejoice, thou who didst refuse to sacrifice even for the sake of thy child

Rejoice, thou who didst sorrow for thy father in his ignorance of the Faith

Rejoice, thou who didst proclaim nothing happens outside of God’s providence

Rejoice, thou who stood firm though confronted by the familial bonds of nature

Rejoice, thou who didst trust God would provide for thy son

Rejoice, thou whose child wast miraculously weaned though still a small infant

Rejoice, Band of Martyrs bound together by common love for Christ

Rejoice, you who were led to the dungeon as though to a bridal-chamber

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Pertetua, Felicity and your companions

Fervently praying, Perpetua didst hear the name “Dinocrates”, who wast her departed brother in the flesh. As she didst behold in a dream, the little one was in a dark place and thirsty. But he was unable to drink of the fountain for the height was very great. Wherefore, she didst supplicate for him and we cry to her:

Alleluia

Great was her joy when Perpetua saw yet another vision wherein Dinocrates was healed of his infirmities. He drank his fill from the fountain – for he had been benefited by her ardent prayers, wherefore we praise her thus:

Rejoice, thou who didst help thy brother though a gulf was fixed between you

Rejoice, Deliverer from the suffering torments of Hades

Rejoice, thou who didst deem it laudable to pray with tears for thy brother

Rejoice, thou who didst spend thy days and nights supplicating God

Rejoice, Holy Martyr who supplicates for us on earth as thou didst for thy brother

Rejoice, little Dinocrates for thou wast delivered by thy sister’s prayers

Rejoice, thou whose face was healed once diseased by ulcers

Rejoice, thou who is now clothed in fine apparel

Rejoice, all ye in Hades, comforted by the prayers of the righteous

Rejoice, O fountain for thy ledge was lowered

Rejoice, O ever-flowing water who dost satisfy those who drink of thee

Rejoice, Golden Cup who dost provide nourishment for the thirsty

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Having seen the joy of her brother, Perpetua didst rejoice that he no longer was tormented – for where once was an ulcer there remained only a scar. And in drinking the water from the golden cup his thirst was quenched. Whenceforth, he ran off to play as children do, and we cry to her:

Alleluia

Influenced by the grace of the martyrs, Pudens, the prison-guard’s heart was softened and he began to magnify them. Thus being filled with mercy he permitted many to enter the dungeon so that all might be comforted. Wherefore they extolled the martyrs thusly:

Rejoice, Bold Intercessors before the throne of God

Rejoice, Bright Lamps burning in Northern Africa

Rejoice, for you patiently abided in dark dungeons

Rejoice, for you are now delivered into the light of Paradise

Rejoice, Perfect Examples of Christian friendship

Rejoice, Salt of the earth and light of the world

Rejoice, for you were condemned to death by the earthly Emperor

Rejoice, for you are now crowned with life by the Heavenly King

Rejoice, Contesters with unconquerable courage

Rejoice, Brave Warriors setting out to do battle for Christ

Rejoice, Peaceful souls eagerly awaiting His embrace

Rejoice, for from your bloodshed an abundance of life sprung forth

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perptua, Felicity and your companions

Just before the games, holy Perpetua beheld a vision of the upcoming day’s spiritual contest: hearing a loud knock she opened to the deacon Pomponios, clad all in white. He besought her to follow him and with much effort they arrived at the arena, wherefore we cry:

Alleluia

Knowing she was to contend with beasts, Perpetua marveled that none were sent out against her, but soon saw an Egyptian of ill-repute approach as her opponent. Thus she was striped and clothed with oil, while the Egyptian wallowed in dust. Wherefore encouraged by her vision we cry out:

Rejoice, thou who didst not shrink back in fear of the Egyptian

Rejoice, Brave Contender against the forces of evil

Rejoice, thou who wast found worthy to have angels as thine helpers

Rejoice, thou who wast offered a branch of golden fruit if victorious

Rejoice, Solider of Christ combating in the front lines

Rejoice, Fierce Fighter who didst smote thine enemy while trotting on air

Rejoice, Champion who didst dash thine enemy to the ground

Rejoice, thou who didst step on his head as though on a serpent

Rejoice, Victor over the enemy who hinders our ascent to heaven

Rejoice, thou who didst receive thy prize from the master of the gladiators

Rejoice, Conqueror of him who leads us to the gate of death

Rejoice, thou who didst understand that thine was the victory

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Lifted into the air by angels, O holy Saturus, in thy vision thou and holy Perpetua wert carried into the heavens. For contending well you were granted the promise the Lord had given you. Wherefore with the angels we cry out to you:

Alleluia

Marvelous trees with flowers of all kinds didst you pass by while being upborne by angels to venerate the Heavenly King. Trembling, they laid you down and you entered clothed in white raiment, and thus we cry out:

Rejoice, you who were carried by angels toward the East

Rejoice, you who didst pass over the Earth’s edge

Rejoice, Blessed Ones who didst overlook wondrous gardens

Rejoice, Marveled at by angels more glorious than the rest

Rejoice, Witnesses to the beauty of the heavenly kingdom

Rejoice, you who looked upon trees unknown to this earth

Rejoice, Spectators of leaves that sang without ceasing

Rejoice, you who met thy fellow-martyred companions

Rejoice, called upon by angels to go in and salute the Lord

Rejoice, Worthy Ones clothed in white raiment

Rejoice, Observers of a palace with walls made of light

Rejoice, Hearers of the thrice holy hymn chanted unto the Trinity

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Noticing in that place a man sitting, having hair like white as snow – yet youthful of countenance – you were borne up by angels to reverently kiss him. Whereupon he passed his hand over your faces and you offered the kiss of peace to the surrounding elders. And thus, together with them we cry to you:

Alleluia

Optatus the bishop, and Aspasius the priest and teacher stood on either side of the door from which you exited. Falling at your feet they supplicated the two of you to make peace between them. Wherefore you rose them up and embraced them with love. Marveling at your humility we cry to you:

Rejoice, Holy Ones worthy to see divine visions

Rejoice, Encounterers of spiritual parents in the heavenly garden

Rejoice, you who didst keep company in heaven with those on earth

Rejoice, you who didst receive humble bows done in your honour

Rejoice, you who didst humbly reciprocate the simple gesture

Rejoice, Peacemakers among thy fellow Christians

Rejoice, Poor in Spirit who didst win the kingdom of heaven

Rejoice, Mourners who art comforted eternally

Rejoice, Thirsters for Righteousness who have been satiated

Rejoice, Meek Ones who shall inherit the earth

Rejoice, Merciful Ones who have obtained much mercy

Rejoice, Pure of heart for you see God perpetually

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Putting aside the dissensions between them, Optatus and Aspasius followed the instructions of the angels and took heed of the advice given them. Thus did the angels warn Optatus to correct his people so that they might not continue in their crooked ways; wherefore we cry:

Alleluia

Quivering at the thought that thou might be prohibited to contend – for thou wast with child – O holy Felicity, thou and those with thee didst pour out your supplication to the Lord, that He might grant thee His favour. Immediately He didst hearken unto thy prayer and thou didst bring forth a daughter, wherefore we cry to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst join in prayer with thy fellow martyrs

Rejoice, Slave in this life but servant of God eternally

Rejoice, Contester for the grace of martyrdom

Rejoice, Fervent Supplicator to God for His favour

Rejoice, Worthy One granted the grace of a safe and early labour

Rejoice, thou who wast not hindered by the ties of thine kindred

Rejoice, thou who didst entrust thy babe to a fellow Christian

Rejoice, thou who didst answer wisely in the face of insult

Rejoice, Wise Councilor proclaiming the strength of Christ in weakness

Rejoice, Sanctified One through the act of childbearing

Rejoice, Brave Martyr who dost remember those in want of children

Rejoice, thou who tasted of the felicity of dying for our Lord

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Readily prepared to die a martyr’s death, holy Secundulus wast called from this life while still in prison. For though his body knew not the sword his soul had suffered a martyrdom. Wherefore, in His ineffable mercy God preserved him from the beasts, and thus we cry to Him:

Alleluia

Spectators having gathered to gawk at the martyrs, the holy Saturus didst prophetically rebuke them: “Remember our faces for us you will see on the fearful Day of Judgement”. Wherefore, many departed astonished and of those that heard many were converted, and thus we proclaim:

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs whose martyrdom was recorded by the faithful

Rejoice, you who were treated harshly by the fearful tribune

Rejoice, Persecuted Ones out of fear of your escape

Rejoice, Bold Perpetua who didst scold the cruel adjutant

Rejoice, Faithful Ones who didst convert many while in prison

Rejoice, Workers of the vineyard who converted more by your common passion

Rejoice, Partakers of an Agape meal instead of common food

Rejoice, Communioners of the feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord

Rejoice, you who longed to be nourished by Christ instead of meat

Rejoice, you who forewarned the spectators of the coming Judgment

Rejoice, Brave Contesters prepared to fight on the birthday of Caesar

Rejoice, Saints of the Lord eagerly awaiting your death in His name

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

The day of the games having dawned, the holy martyrs prepared for battle. Bravely entering the stadium, they were filled with joy as though in heaven. At the sight of Perpetua many cast down their eyes. Felicity came to her second baptism – from blood to blood, from midwife to gladiator. Wherefore we cry out:

Alleluia

Unable to convince the martyrs to put on the robes of idolaters, the tribune suffered that they should be brought forth as they were. Perpetua began to chant psalms, Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus mocked the senseless Hilarian, saying, “Thou judgest us and God thee,” and in this way displayed their bravery. Wherefore we cry to them:

Rejoice, Holy men refusing to wear the robe of the priests of Saturn

Rejoice, Holy women refusing to wear the dress of the priestesses of Ceres

Rejoice, you who refused to have anything to do with lifeless idols

Rejoice, for by your boldness injustice didst yield to justice

Rejoice, for you were scourged before the line of the gladiators

Rejoice, Rejoicers in your sufferings for the sake of Christ

Rejoice, Brave Soldiers fighting in the trenches of a spiritual battle

Rejoice, Holy Perpetua, singing as though trampling on the head of the Egyptian

Rejoice, Holy Felicity, rejoicing that thou wast not left behind in prison

Rejoice, Holy Revocatus, who didst boldly glare at the gawking crowd

Rejoice, Holy Saturninus, who didst taunt the darkened Hilarian

Rejoice, Holy Saturus, who didst yearn only for the heavenly kingdom

Rejoice, Holy martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Virtue being her first concern the holy Perpetua bound up her disheveled hair, lest any should think she mourned her glory. Being brought out against the mad cow – placed there to mock their sex – the crowd shuddered at the sight of milk running from the breasts of holy Felicity. Wherefore, we cry to them:

Alleluia

Wishing to wear the more glorious crown, holy Saturninus asked to go against all the beasts, while Revocatus faced the leopard and the bear. In one bite by the leopard holy Saturus was bathed in much blood, wherefore the crowd mockingly called out, “saved and washed,” but we cry out thus:

Rejoice, Holy Revocatus who wast torn by a bear on a raised bridge

Rejoice, Holy Saturninus who wast granted thy desire to fight all beasts

Rejoice, Holy Saturus who would die first as thou didst prophesy

Rejoice, for the wild boar didst instead turn on its huntsman

Rejoice, for the bear knew better than to attack a martyr

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs for you were covered in the blood of a second baptism

Rejoice, Holy Perpetua, being caught up in theoria while in the arena

Rejoice, for thou wast more concerned for modesty than thy pain

Rejoice, Counselor of catechumens to keep the faith and love among them

Rejoice, Holy Felicity who wast smote for Christ’s sake by the fierce cow

Rejoice, for thy fellow martyr, Perpetua, didst raise thee up

Rejoice, Fair Maidens who didst forsake the beauty of your youth for eternal life

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Xenial friendship did the holy Saturus extend to Pudens when he did leave him a token of his love – a ring soaked in the blood of his wound. Joining the rest, assembled to be slain by the sword, each did die a martyr’s death. Perpetua directed the hand of the gladiator to her throat, by this showing that the evil spirits feared her most of all. Wherefore, moved by their sacrifice, we cry:

Alleluia

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

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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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