Icons With A Message

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

This month, artist and iconographer Mary Jane Miller has contributed an article about her work with contemporary icons and contemporary themes. Mary Jane lives and works in Mexico and does lovely Silver oklads for many of her icons as well. Her website is listed below.

From Artist/Iconographer Mary Jane Miller

The impact of humanity on creation has been all inclusive, both for our benefit and regretfully the suffering of the Earth entrusted to us. God’s intention was that we use all the abundance for our welfare. We have done so. However we have failed to nurture, preserve, and love her constant companionship .

On Holy Ground On Holy Ground is a collection of icons to honor the planet in a time of climate change. The collection opens with an image of Mary of Swords. The composition places the planet Earth beside Mary as she bows her head. The prophetic prayer of St. Symeon is echoed here,“ A sword will pierce your own soul too, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed . ” (Luke 2, 34-35) . She stands with her hands clasped in prayer for humanity and our hard headed attitude towards climate change all around the globe.

Mary of Sorrows    

Mary tilts her head lovingly towards our planet Earth while embracing seven swords that pierce her heart. Seven swords pierce her heart; indicating the fullness and boundless sorrow, pain and “sickness of heart” that would have been experienced by Mary, the Mother of Jesus at His crucifixion.The ancient church speaks of seven deadly sins and seven holy attributes, and seven sacraments. 

The number seven is associated with intuition, mysticism, inner wisdom, and a deep inward knowing. The Christian bible used the number 735 times. God created the Earth in seven days and there are seven wonders of the world. The book of Revelation mentions seven churches, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven stars. All music is created based on seven basic notes, and we have seven chakras in the body. The prism effect in a rainbow shows seven distinct colors of light. There are seven bones in our face, neck, ankle and there are seven holes in our head. There is a Divine message in the number Seven. To broaden the metaphor Muslim pilgrams circle the Kaaba in Mecca sevens times, and Egyptians had seven gods.

The significance of the swords and our behavior are clearly emphasized by seven attributes.

Pride is an excessive belief in one’s own abilities, a failure to see others before themselves.  Pride is the sword that comes from beneath, unseen yet at the center of her being. It has been called the sin from which all others arise.

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than what one requires. The behavior manifests when we take more than your share, fail to recognize what is enough or when to stop.

Lust is an inordinate craving for bodily pleasures. The sex trade and our obsession with perverse bodily delight has become a hindrance to many otherwise healthy relationships and social structures. Lust becomes an obsession and taints the whole heart.

Anger is an uncontrolled response or rage towards government, religion,education, family or anyone acting contrary to our blinded desire. They spurn love and opt instead for fury. We cause massive destruction by undisciplined reactions and excessive outbursts of ego. We fail to listen, learn or negotiate.

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. Big industrial companies use greed to mine sand or gold. It drives the mind tol seduce others through undisciplined  cravings through lies. Greed that insists on becoming bigger and better year after year is an avarice.

Sloth is the avoidance of one’s individual physical or spiritual work. It arises from a lack of self, feeling there is no point or purpose in life. On the international landscape it can look like dictators who refuse to act benevolently. Sloth is isolation from the growth in community and a negligence to participate.

Envy is wishing for the other person to not have what they want to possess. We go to extreme measures to prevent others from having what rightfully belongs to them. Personal ambition sets one on a course to do anything necessary to consume more at the expense of others..

These seven behaviors harbor a divine message for where a sword might pierce your own soul. Our planet needs a new awareness for profoundly understanding of our place in the solar system. We can change our mindset to bring about a more balanced existence between humankind and the natural order.

Global Tenderness     

Earth’s climate is warming due to our negligence in having the light of compassion for the rock we live on. We did not create Earth, we do not sustain Earth but it is in our power to care and maintain the Earth. The seven swords piercing Mary’s chest represent the seven sinful human passions that cause spiritual torment for us all. Our human greed, lust, sloth, pride, envy, gluttony, and anger, are largely the components that have led to our planets ill health, imbalance and climate change.

Mary and Christ cling to one another in a loving embrace. Mary of Tenderness is a familiar and common image in classic iconography. Their loving embrace is superimposed on a map of green continents delineated by longitudinal lines. Theirs could be a final embrace or one that reminds us of how fragile our Ecosystem is. Humanity continues to abuse the natural order and balance put in place through the Creator and subsequent evolution over millenniums. Our species cannot continually take what has been freely given and disregard mother earth’s generous capacity to empty herself for our benefit. Like a mother’s love for her child, she surrenders until death without resistance.

Blood Lines

Christ is the principal figure as the Pantocrator, “Ruler of All”. His image is superimposed on a map of the world of white colorless land masses. I wanted the transparent continents to be ghost like or a faded memory from another time. The blood lines extend out in the two principle directions from the continent of North America. These deep red lines are the air traffic routes, and shipping lanes over used for our human indulgences. Our human waste and consumption, from every imaginable kind of electronic apparatus to the innocent sand from the seafloor are in peril. The cost to our planet is enormous as we deplete its resources and damage its waterways with transport and shipping.

Mary Jane Miller 
delights in Large collections, The life of Christ 2005, the Mary Collection 2008, The Dialogue Art for Peace Project 2010 in response to war and violence; the US invasion of Iraq. Now she is dedicating her next collection to climate change and prayer for our future. Climate change is a real issue in many of our hearts and minds. She urges everyone to yield, step back from our past behaviors, reflect and move towards a new, more conscious and responsible lifestyle while together on this planet Earth. https://sanmiguelicons.com/
Miller’s Contemporary Icons 


On another note, iconographer Betsy Porter is hosting virtual discussions on icons broadcast from St. Gregory’s Church, San Fransisco, CA. on Sunday afternoons. Here is her contact information- ask to be put on her mailing list for the Zoom link: betsyhartporter@yahoo.com

Christ Centric Art Biennale : I received this link from Philip Davydov, an iconographer based in St. Petersburg, Russia about participating in this exhibition. and thought some of you may be interested. https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10219140641209343&set=pcb.10219140629849059

Also, my online icon painting classes continue. It takes weeks to prepare each class, but each one includes step by step video demonstrations as well as introducing a new technique with each class. It’s truly a joy to be able to share the gift of icon writing even during this pandemic. All are welcome, each class is taught using egg tempera and gold leaf gilding. Online Zoom Icon Classes

May God continue to bless your icon writing, stay well and safe,

Christine Simoneau Hales


Published by

Michael Hales

Michael- Mick-Hales is a chaplain in South West Florida as well as a world class photographer. His photography website is: mickhales.com where you will see many of his beautiful photos of gardens and architecture.