Our Lady of Guadalupe

One of the most important icons of the western world is Our Lady of Guadalupe, sometimes called the Virgin of Guadalupe.

While the history of the apparition and subsequent miracles are fodder for speculation, there are certain facts that all agree on.

A series of five apparitions occurred in December of 1531 within the Basiclic of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  This basilica is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world, and the world’s third most visited sacred site.

According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared four times to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant, and once to his uncle, Juan Bernardino.  The first apparition occurred on the morning of Saturday, December 19, 1531.  Juan Diego experienced a vision of a young woman at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac.  The woman spoke to Juan in his native language, Nahuatl, and identified herself as the “Virgin Mary, mother of the very true deity”.  She asked for a church to be erected at that site in her honor.  Juan Diego then told the  Archbishop of Mexico City what had happened.  Unsurprisingly, Juan wasn’t believed.  Later that same day, Juan Diego saw the second apparition. The young woman asked him to continuing pressing the Archbishop for a church to be built.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon written by Christine Hales

The next day, a Sunday, when Juan Diego spoke to the Archbishop a second time, the Archbishop asked for a truly miraculous sign to prove her identity.  Later that day, the third apparition appeared when Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill. He again encountered the same young woman and told her of the request for a miraculous sign. She agreed to provide this the next day.

By Monday, Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, became ill and Juan Diego had to care for him.    Unfortunately, the uncle’s condition worsened and In the very early hours of Tuesday, Juan travelled to find a Catholic priest to hear his uncle’s confession and minister to him on his deathbed.  On this journey, Juan Diego traveled around the place of is previous encounters with the young woman because he was ashamed by not meeting her as promised the previous day.  But still, the young woman found him and asked where he was going.  This was the fourth apparition.  When Juan Diego explained what had happened, she gently reminded him that he should have sought her assistance.  She asked “ No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?”  (AM I not here, I who am your mother?  She assured him that his uncle was now recovering and told him to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill.  This hill was normally barren in December.  Juan obeyed her instructions and found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there. The Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan’s tilma (cloak), and when he opened his cloak later that day for the Archbishop, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The next day, Juan Diego found his uncle completely healthy, just as the Virgin had told Juan.  Juan Bernardino said that he had also seen her praying at her bedside and that she had instructed him to tell the Archbishop about his miraculous cure and that she had told him she wanted to be known as the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The Archbishop kept the mantle in the church where it attracted many visitors.  On December 26, 1531, a procession formed to transfer the miraculous image back to Tepeyac Hill where it was installed in a small chapel.  During this procession, the first miracle occurred when a young native who was accidently mortally wounded was completely healed when brought before the Virgin’s image with many prayers and supplications.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is known as the Queen of Mexico, the Paton saint of both North and South America, and titles given by Pope John Paul II, “Empress of Latin America and Protectress Of Unborn Children”.

It’s so interesting to hear the stories behind icons. Please contact me if you have other examples to share. (chales@halesart.com).

INTERESTING LINKS FOR ICONOGRAPHERS

Greek Iconographer, George Kordis, gave this talk on “Tradition as Creativity” at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in April 2022: . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg6ts-8Kiaw

This link is to a video by iconographer Antonis demonstrating two methods of blending while painting in egg tempera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnaImXOEvuI

This is a link to an EWTN tv show called Living Divine Mercy, it features an interview and video about my icons.

That’s all for this month. If you would like to take my online Icon writing class January 17-20, 2023, please click here for more information.

Blessings, Prayers, and Best Wishes for a God Filled New Year!

Christine Simoneau Hales

christinehales.com

The Light of the Icon

In teaching icon writing, there are many subtle yet important concepts that are necessary to help students to fully understand what an Icon is and how to paint them.  I suspect that the revelation of iconic light is one that grows with experience both in painting icons and in our deepening spiritual development. But even for beginning iconographers, it is vital to understand that the light we portray in icons is not the light of common day, but rather the more subtle light of Christ’s resurrection.

Icon with the Forty Martyrs of Sebastia Late 13th Century

As we know, the light in which we read determines what we can see.  The meaning and understanding changes according to the light we shine upon it.  Like the existence of God, the meanings and symbolism of the icon are not immediately available, obvious, or revealed to the casual observer.  To really see icons, we require a shift in perspective to appreciate them fully. The light in the icon is an important function to aid this process of shifting our perspective from how we see in the natural world to how we see in the world of God’s Kingdom of grace.  In the words of Saint Paul: 

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”  2 Corinthians 1:12

Icon with the Virgin Pelagonitissa Byzantine Early 15th Century

So, the light we depict in our icons needs to bring the viewer into this paradigm shift from the secular, natural world we live in, to the grace filled world of God’s reality. In the words of Saint John of Damascus:

 “Just as words speak to the ear, so the image speaks to the sight: it brings us understanding.”…”Since the creation of the world the invisible things of God are clearly seen by means of images. We see images in the creation which, although they are only dim lights, still remind us of God.”

Color in the classical world of the Greeks and Romans that pre-date icons, fulfilled societal or symbolic roles.  Earth palettes extended by bright colors made by grinding gemstones and distilled plant dyes were the norm for icons.  These stable colors of the ancient earth palette provided richness and beauty in their simplicity.  They also enabled a very subtle, inner light to be portrayed in icons.

Saint Anastasia the Healer Icon Byzantine Late 14th Century

In addition to the use of colors in creating an icon, a sense of interior lightness that conveys unity and harmony is achieved by limiting the amount of chiaroscuro modeling and where the composition is subordinated to the flat surface of the panel.  All this aids in conveying spiritual principles by emphasizing the abstraction of represented events and objects. In the simplicity and luminosity of the compositions of Gospel scenes and figures of saints there is nothing superfluous .

Icon of Saint George with Scenes of His Passion and Miracles Early 13th Century

Thus, the transcendent world of the icon appears to us through color and light.

“Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your son, Christ, our Lord; Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.”

May God continue to bless your icon writing and give you joyous expectation this Advent of an even deeper awareness of His Presence.

Christine Hales

Christinehales.com My Icon Classes Online

All Saints Day

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, the Feast of All Saints, the Feast of All Hallows, the Solemnity of All Saints, and Hallowmas, is a Christian solemnity celebrated in honor of all the saints of the church, whether they are known or unknown, and is celebrated in the Western Church on November 1.

The Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), the living (the “Church militant”, and the “Church penitent” which includes the faithful departed. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around “giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints”, including those who are “famous or obscure”. As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honoured, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one’s grandmother or friend.

The Saints Inspire Us

“Paying homage to religious heroes and heroines is nothing new.  The veneration of and supplication to sacred ancestors exist in almost every culture, in every hemisphere.” Richard Vosko; Faith & Forum

According to the catechism of the Catholic Church “What is the Church if not the Communion of the Saints.”

Early Church Fathers

The Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), the living (the “Church militant”, and the “Church penitent” which includes the faithful departed. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around “giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints”, including those who are “famous or obscure”. As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honoured, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one’s grandmother or friend.

An early Serbian Christian saint, Saint Sava, is a good example of a humble yet powerful saint during his own lifetime as well as centuries after his death, who inspired and led many people to faith in God.

Saint Sava (1173-1236)

Well loved Serbian saint, dedicated his life to his people and his church, His life was shaped by prayer and concern for others, he modeled the characteristics of being meek yet strong, a man of great compassion and great leadership skills.  His importance extends far beyond his own lifetime, and  Christians and Muslims alike venerated him and attributed miraculous power to him. Through his efforts, they emerged as a spiritually unified entity.

Even though he lived in violent times, he refused to endorse the persecution of heretics and unbelievers. He powerfully influenced his church to use peaceful means against its opponents.

St Sava is known for deep meditation as well as action. His tomb in Milesevo became the source of grace, health, and consolation for all Serbian generations to come.

At the end of St. Sava’s life, disappointed with the struggle within the ruling body of the young Serbian Kingdom, Sava withdrew to his House of Silence in Studenica and offered a prayer to God, “ to let him die in a foreign country.” This was in protest against political disorder at home, his appeal to the conscience of his people, and his conviction that he would work for their salvation from outside.” 

“St Sava heard mysterious voices  commanding him to build something for his people that can serve as a harbor of salvation. And thus he started the renovation of Hilandar Monastery at Mt. Athos in Greece. A biography, “The Life of Saint Sava”, by Nicholai Velimirovich, is an excellent source of more history and stories of the miracles he performed and experienced.

Here is a quote from that book that aptly applies to our study of saints:

“Innumerable saints remain unknown to men and are known to God alone. Christ’s heavenly Kingdom would be pitifully small if it consisted only of those saints whose names are recorded in our calendar. God does not reveal to the world all the saints, and only a very few according to the religious need of a time or a nation. Through the miracles of those few revealed saints, God seeks to revive, strengthen or justify the faith of men of different countries or places.”

So let us, as we write the icons of Holy saints, remember to choose well the models and patterns that will help to heal and inspire the people of our time.

May God bless and inspire you as you paint His holy Icons.

Until next month,

Christine Simoneau Hales, Christinehales.com

Founder, American Association of Iconographers

Gold Leaf Gilding

Icon in progress with Kolner Method

Greetings Friends and Fellow Iconographers:

I’ve been studying and painting Icons for almost thirty years! Since I first began, the field of iconography has changed so much! There are so many more books on the subject, both “how to”, books about the history of icons, and how to pray with them. This is great news for all of us, I’m sure.

New Gilding Materials

At the same time, many, many, new products used for icon writing have come on the market. I invite any of my readers who has experience with these new products to please write about it so it can be shared and published here. Only in this way of sharing our experience can we hope to add the best quality to our icons and I know that we all want to bless the Lord with our most excellent work.

With this in mind, I’m currently preparing to teach an online icon writing class that, in addition to teaching how to paint an icon using egg tempera, will focus on how to gild using the Kolner Instacoll Gilding System. Many iconographers love this method because of its relative ease in application but particularly for its very shiny surface when it’s finished. I have experimented extensively with it and am happy to share some of the technical information I have observed.

Different Methods of Application

Shellac

First, applying one or two coats of shellac to the area to be gilded is most beneficial. The natural gesso is a porous surface, and even for other gilding methods, it is suggested to coat the surface with shellac thinned with denatured alcohol. I used a mixture that is 1 part blonde shellac flakes to 4 parts denatured alcohol. (This mixture can be stored in a cool dry place for several weeks only, so only mix the amount you think you will need.) You will find technical articles about this on the web- here is one.

Kölner Instacoll System

Next, I applied the Kolner Instacoll System BASE in two thinned layers. I thinned it a little with a drop or two of distilled water. This needs to dry completely- 1-3 hours between coats. It’s really important to avoid making brushstrokes if you want a very smooth gold surface. (You can clean your brushes with soap and water). The first coat must be completely dry before applying the second coat.

Next, I applied the Kolner Instacoll System ACTIVATOR. You can use a brush or a soft cloth to apply this to the base when it’s dry. You want a thin, even film over the base and it needs to dry before applying the gold leaf.

You can use either patent gold or loose gold with this system. I used patent gold leaf and a cotton ball to firmly push the gold leaf onto the surface. This takes some practice. Overlapping the gold leaf when applying it helps to give a smooth seamless look to the finished gold. After the whole surface to be gilded is covered, press down firmly again all the gold, using cotton balls- never touching the surface with your fingers.

Icon in Progress with Burnished Kolner Gold Application

Now for some gratification! When it’s all applied and pushed firmly into the surface, take a cotton ball or soft cloth and burnish gently to remove all the loose gold bits. As you do so, the most beautiful gold leaf shine appears !

As a note, I also experimented with the Kolner KGGG System FOND and Colnasize, but I prefer the above method as it is slightly easier and doesn’t require sanding.

Of course there are many other methods of gilding for icons- the oil method with different application and drying times, the water gilding method and The Dux water based size method. With experience, each of us arrives at our preferred method of gold leaf application. I hope this article has been helpful. Feel free to register for my online class in October to see this demonstrated!

INTERESTING LINKS:

This is a very good and short (7 1/2 minutes) talk on “Why Icons Look The Way They Do” by Archimandrite Maximos Constas, interviewed by Fr. Josiah Trenham.

THAT’S ALL FOR THIS MONTH. Be blessed and bless others,

Christine

ChristineHales.com Christine’s Icon Prints New Christian Icons

Virtual Icon Gallery Exhibition

Greetings Friends and Iconographers:

This month I am presenting some writings and images from a beautiful exhibition of Eastern European icons dating from the nineteenth to sixteenth centuries that is hosted by a non-profit gallery of icons located in Žilina (Slovakia). The Gallery of Icons (OZ IKONY) in Žilina is found at: https://ikony.hour.sk/en/

Christ Pantocrator, Albania, seventeenth century, Courtesy, OZ IKONY

Gallery of Icons – OZ IKONY

The gallery was established in 2015 as the result of a private collection of East Christian icons. During the last 7 years of existence, the gallery has collected about 300 icons from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia or Albania. The icons are dated from the 14th until the beginning of the 20th century. Among the main activities of the gallery, I can name the presentation of the icons from various regions of Eastern Christian cultures, the conduct of research on icons and providing space for and organizing of conferences, lectures and concerts. The aim of the exhibition is to present the spiritual and artistic beauty of Eastern Christian icons and to create a living bridge between the East and the West. 

In March 2021 the gallery celebrated its 5th anniversary. The current exhibition called The Mysterious Face of Jesus Christ is the fifth in a row after the exhibitions dedicated to the themes of The Old Testament ProphetsThe Church FeastsThe Icons of the Mother of God, and Wisdom Hidden in Icons.

The 5th exhibition is opened from the 15th of September 2020 until June 2023. There are 25 artistically and historically valuable icons on display. Most of them are exhibited in Slovakia for the first time. There are Russian and Greek icons, one Romanian, Macedonian, and Albanian icon, and one icon from Mount Athos among the exhibits.

The Only Begotten Son and the Word of God, Russia, nineteenth century, Courtesy, OZ IKONY

American Association of Iconographers’ Goals 

Even as this is a newsletter to foster the development of American iconographers, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters who, through the centuries have produced so many beautiful and deeply spiritual icons worth imitating and learning from. The aim of this exhibition is to create a living bridge between the East and the West, which is closely aligned with the goals of the American Association of Iconographers.

Membership to the American Association of Iconographers is without financial obligation to its members and is open to all friends and lovers of icons around the world.  It is an ecumenical, primarily Christian group of icon collectors, scholars, icon writers and those whose mandate is education in the liturgical arts.

We invite members to contribute educational articles that might benefit all who love icons.  Email: christinehales@me.com for submission details.

The Saviour Depicted up to His Shoulders, Russian, sixteenth century, Courtesy OZ IKONY

Quotes from Milan Lach SJ, Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio

“St John of Damascus (+749) once said: “When someone asks you about your faith, take him to church and show him the icons.”  … Icons are liturgical objects. They speak- communicate.  Persons depicted on icons are already in the Heavenly Kingdom.  They are transformed by uncreated light and participate in the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

Icons are not merely art, as Western culture would perceive it.  They are more than art.  Through an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Theotokos, and the saints depicted on the icon, we can have a personal experience with the living God.

The icon is a tool of evangelization, through which the Church proclaims the living Jesus Christ.  To His person is dedicated this exhibition of twenty five beautiful  icons, here at the Gallery of Icons in Zilina.”

You can visit the 5th exposition in the virtual gallery: https://ikony.hour.sk/en/virtual-gallery/

I hope this virtual exhibition enriches your understanding and scope of possible models for future icons. Sending prayers for God to bless the work of your hands and minds, to the service of His Holy Church.

Kind regards,

Christine Simoneau Hales, Artist, Iconographer

www.newchristianicons.com

The Crucifixion, Russia, 1800, Courtesy, OZ IKONY

Novgorod Icons

Novgorod Icons

What is so special about Novgorod Icons?  In addition to being known for their beautiful colors and lively compositions, Novgorod Icons offer a rich history and background to the study of icon writing.

Novgorod is one of the oldest cities in Russia, dating from about  859 AD.  The period from the 12th to the 17th centuries was especially bountiful in producing many beautiful icons. This period of time is sometimes referred to as “the Proto- Renaissance” because it still embraced the union of religious and aesthetic ideas.

Saints John Climacus, George, and Blaise, 13th Century

The Effects of the Western Renaissance on Icon Writing

The Proto- Renaissance that was operational in Russia was able to encompass all the cultural phenomena of its time within the context of religion and produce icons of spiritual depth without being overly influenced by Humanism.

In the West from the 14th to 16th centuries, the Renaissance moved art, even religious art, more toward man’s interests and became more human, less religious.  Even Christianity in the West at this time became more rational and scholastic and emphasized the emotional experiences of the subject.

In the practice of writing icons, we tend to strongly favor copying icons from before the Renaissance for this very reason.   Iconographers agree that imagery from before the Renaissance is preferred because we want our icons to reflect a culture that placed God as the center of the universe, not human reason.

Nativity of the Virgin, 14th Century

Fourteenth Century Russian Culture

Russian culture of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries developed strong ties with Byzantium, particularly in Novgorod and Pskov.  The great iconographer, Andrei Rublev was part of this cultural and spiritual movement. The famous Byzantine master Theophanes the Greek worked in Novgorod in 1378.  His magnificent frescoes in the Church of Our Savior in Ilyina Street formed a bridge between the art of Novgorod and Byzantium.

The Transfiguration by Theophanes

The Artistic Language of the Novgorodian icon is simple, laconic and precise; the composition is based on large contrasting shapes.  The rhythm and coloring are tense and mobile, the drawing energetic.  Colors are especially important and tend to be simple and bright.  Faces, while classical. Tend to have large, expressive eyes.  They are painted in a gentle manner with subtle gradations of value.  The linear design of the hair, lips, nose and eyes is in contrast to the subtle tonal gradations.  In the earlier icons, the minimal color scheme of olive and yellow prevails. 

Saint Nicholas Icon

In the thirteenth century icon of Saint Nicholas from the Novgorodian monastery of the Holy Spirit, we see clearly the simplicity of composition, the harsh linear forms, and sparse contrasting colors that complement the restraint of the image. This icon, as well as the  is very characteristic of Novgorodian twelfth and thirteenth century painting.

Saint Nicholas

Presentation of the Virgin Icon and Boris and Gleb Icon

In these icons of the late thirteenth, early fourteenth centuries we see the qualities of simplicity of composition combined with monumental, flat graphic qualities balanced by relative depth of form.  The colors show an abundance of cinnabar, white, ochre, brown and green.

Presentation of the Virgin

At this time, Novgorodian painting came closer to Byzantine icons of the Palaeologus period.   Icons became monumental and soon were given to freer and more complex compositions.  Here we find images with inner tension, power and a classical simplicity.  We also see the beginnings of interest in man and his feelings and this affects both color and composition.

Boris and Gleb Icon

I need to end this here, but will pick it up again in a subsequent blog in order to continue the historical development of icons in this most important period of icon history.  For further reading I suggest the book:  Novgorod Icons, 12-17th Century by Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad.

Some of the best characteristics of Novgorodian icons are their rational yet popular imagery, economy of means, and a brilliant use of color.  Definitely a period of icon writing worth exploring for every aspiring iconographer!

To see more of my icons visit: New Christian Icons

To see my available online icon writing classes visit: online.iconwritingclasses.com

May God bless you and your icon writing, until next month,

Christine Simoneau Hales

Preparing For Easter

Pascha!!

“Come then, let us run with him as he presses on to his passion. Let us imitate those who have gone out to meet him, not scattering olive branches or palms in his path, but spreading ourselves before him as best we can, with humility of soul and upright purpose. So may we welcome the Word as he comes, so may God who cannot be contained within any bounds, be contained within us...

Today let us too give voice with the children to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel. “ Saint Andrew of Crete

This month, as we all observe Lent in our prayer lives and churches, I have gathered a collection of Icons related to this season that encompasses the mystery and Passion of our Lord. If any of you readers have written icons on this theme, please send them in and I will post them on the FB page for the American Association of Iconographers.

Entry Into Jerusalem

Entry Into Jerusalem Icon by Christine Hales

“Seated in heaven upon Thy throne and on earth upon a foal, O Christ our God, Thou hast accepted the praise of the angels and the songs of the children who cried out to Thee: Blessed art thou that comest to call back Adam”. From the Kontakion for the Feast

The Holy Washing of the Feet, Icon

Romanian Icon 19th Century

Peter, the Apostle is seated on a bench, on the floor is a basin with water, Jesus has his mantle pulled up to keep it dry, Jesus is wiping the with a towel Peter’s right foot.

The other disciples are grouped on the right and left sides, some are loosening their sandals, Christ is the only figure shown with a halo.  Only two are shown without a beard, because of their youth.

This was a lesson in humility.  Christ says that he gave them an example to be imitated by them.

The Mystical Supper

“As a mystical event, the “Supper takes place at every Divine Liturgy or Eucharistic Feast.  “ Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son Of God, receive me today as a communicant, for I will not speak of the mystery to thine enemies.”

A long table inside a house, usually Christ is seen in the center, his head inclines slightly to the right and with his right hand he blesses.  Peter is seated on the right side and John on His left side- Jesus rests his hand on John’s shoulder.  This is depicted in John’s Gospel, 13:23-24. Judas is stretching out his hand in order to dip his bread in  the dish.  Matthew 26:23

All the disciples are shown without halos.  Halos are not proper before Pentecost.  The disciples should not have their backs to the viewer.

The D shaped table  was first seen in the 6th century Ravenna mosaics.  Psychological perspective calls for Christ to be at the center of the table. ” ( Guide to Byzantine Iconography, Constantine Cavarnos)

The Crucifixion Icon

Crucifixion Icon by Christine Hales

The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also Thy Gkorious Resurrection.

“The traditional Crucifixion icon is a hand-painted icon with the scene of Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion in the center of the composition. Christ is usually surrounded by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, St. John the Apostle, Longinus the Centurion, and several other onlookers. All the figures depicted in the Crucifixion icon show emotions associated with grief, but nothing suggests sound. Their mouths are not open, and the icon holds silence. Christ Himself is depicted with His eyes closed and His head bowed as if showing His last minutes of life on earth.

The composition of the Crucifixion icon also often includes an open cave with the skull and bones of Adam right at the bottom of the Cross. According to the legend, Adam’s bones, which had been buried under Golgotha by the descendants of Noah, appeared on the surface at the moment of Christ’s death due to a great earthquake that split apart the rocks. Christ’s blood flowed down from the Cross and on to Adam’s bones, bringing the redemption to the First Man and the whole human race.” to read more follow this link for The Russian Icon Blog.

Descent From the Cross Icon

Descent From the Cross Icon c. 1350

The Descent from the Cross Icon, sometimes called “The Deposition”, shows Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus taking Christ down from the cross after his crucifixion. The Gospel mentions women attending, probably Mary Magdalene, Mary, the Mother of Christ and Mary Salome alongside St.John.

The Lamentation

Lamentation Icon by Christine Hales

The aim of this icon is to impart the mystical, spiritual truth of the lamentation. The colors, the composition, and even the lines of the figures all lead the viewer upward, they raise our thoughts beyond the crucifixion to the upward movement of Christ himself and the Ascension. It’s a sacred and divinely inspired icon, full of truth and transcendence of emotions to the spiritual realm of faith and hope.

The Resurrection Icon

Resurrection Icon

The Icon of the Resurrection evokes the fragrance of immortality and the fulfillment of the reclamation of Adam and all who have come after. The simple truths are depicted without theatricality.

“Though Thou didst descend into the grave, O Immortal One, yet didst Thou destroy the power of hades, and didst arise as victor, O Christ God, calling to the Myrrh bearing women, Rejoice, and giving peace unto Thine apostles, O Thou who does grant resurrection to the fallen. ” Kontakion for Easter

The Resurrection brings light and joy to all creation. May Pascha, Easter, and Lent be Holy and blessed times for you all and bring joy to your hearts.

Until next month,

Christine Simoneau Hales

New Christian Icons Icon Prints Online Icon Writing Classes

Link to Register for Dr. George Kordis Lecture on Creativity in Iconography. You must register first, and the Lecture is scheduled for April 7, 2022, 7:30-8:30PM.

Icons For Our Time


The Secret Supper (or The Last Supper) Todor Mitrovic (b. 1972)
Serbia, 2006
Egg tempera on wood panel

As I view FB posts and blogs about contemporary Icons there is a lot of talk about what is a “real” icon. There are as many different viewpoints as there are people! I think we all agree that icons cannot be relevant to only one denomination of Christianity . Nor can they stay stagnant in the past if icons are to be authentic to our time.

A current exhibition at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts, is a wonderful collection of contemporary Orthodox iconographers from around the world that addresses some of these issues. Within this collection there is wonderful diversity and creativity. It shows that even within the Orthodox community of iconographers, some icons are more painterly and less formalistic than others.

For those who are not able to go in person to the exhibition, I include here some images and text from the exhibition materials. This is an important exhibition that can also be viewed online virtually on the website: Museumofrussianicons.org


Flight into Egypt
Stéphane René (b. 1954) Egypt, 2021
Egg tempera on wood

Icons For Our Time

 Icons for Our Time: Orthodox Art from Around the World, is an exhibition of 15 icons by some of the most important contemporary icon painters today.  New works by artists from Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, the UK and the US have been specially commissioned for this anniversary exhibition. 

“There will be pieces by artists from all over the world – some are from Orthodox countries like Greece and Bulgaria, but there will also be works from Britain and Japan. Some of the artists identify as religious believers (Eastern Orthodox or other), some do not. Few of the icons strictly follow the traditional canon. As a curator, working with some of the big names in contemporary icon painting, I wanted to leave as much freedom as possible to each artist – so long as their work could be described, experienced, and felt as an icon.” Dr. Clemena Antonova, curator.


Cosmic Christ/Suffering Logos (Second Version)
Ouresis Todorovich (b. 1977) Greece, 2021
Mixed media on wood

Icons of Our Times will examine the spread of Orthodox Christian art through the medium of icons and explore three paradoxes: the icon as a living tradition, the icon as a signature feature of Orthodox Christianity, and the concept and relevance of the contemporary icon in modern culture.   

“These three paradoxes pose some immediate questions and problems for contemporary icon-painters, viewers of religious images, as well as to museums that exhibit religious art. Is the icon mainly a medieval art form, which we view inspired by our interest in history, in the same way that we experience an ancient Greek temple? Or is it a living, constantly evolving artistic tradition, which has the capacity to respond to the concerns and needs of our times? Is the icon inextricably tied to Eastern Orthodox Christianity? Can one create or experience an icon without any knowledge of Orthodox culture and theology? Does the icon make sense in a context stripped of religious meaning?”  


Holy Sophia
Vladislav Andrejev (b. 1938) United States, 2021
Egg tempera on wood

“These are not easy questions and very likely neither a conference nor the present exhibition will offer straight-forward answers,” continues Antonova. “What we aim to do with this exhibition is to create a space which provokes us to reflect on the meaning and function of icons for our times.”

On the Museum’s website are links to talks given by Dr. Antonova and also the link to the virtual exhibition. I’m so grateful for the Museum’s dedication to providing a forum for the appreciation of ancient icons as well as for the development of contemporary ones.


St. Tekle Haymanot
Christopher Gosey (b. 1962) United States, 2021
Acrylic and natural clay pigments on wood

As we enter this New Year, let us pray for each other, for God’s grace and Holy Spirit to enable us to do His work with great love, humility and brotherly love.

Christine Simoneau Hales

newchristianicons.com online.iconwritingclasses.com

  

Miracle Working Icons

Saint Sebastian Icon, believed to be effective in prayers for protection from the plague.

During these uncertain times, I’m drawn to thinking of how to address current issues like the covid epidemic, disunity, lack of brotherly love within the context of icon writing. How can icons be miracle working? The grace of God determines what can bestow His miracles, but are there ways we can support miracle working icons as a means of increasing the faith of viewers? Perhaps by bringing to mind those icons that we know of that are considered miracle working is a beginning.

Since Icons are windows to heaven, they actually remind us of the power of God at work, either through the written images of Christ Himself or of those gone before us who have followed Him completely and became saints. It is a miracle that something so simple as a prayerfully-written icon can do so much to help us on our journey toward Him.

Mother of God icons are well known for their miracle working through the ages. Throughout history, many Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God have had miracles attributed to them. Here’s a link to some of them: Russian Icons.

miracle working icons

Tikhvin Mother of God Icon

There are many kinds of miracles associated with icons. Some are healing miracles, where the prayers of the viewers have been answered with healings of many kinds, spiritual and physical. There are also the “weeping” icons – ones that exude an oily substance over a long period of time.

Healing Icons

I am most interested in the healing icons. In reality, most miracle-working Russian icons are actually copies (which is what in the Orthodox tradition they call copies of the original miracle-working icons) of a venerated original. The copies are believed to inherit the original’s miraculous powers. Hundreds of the faithful have experienced miracles from even these copies and this is testified through the gifts of jewelry and flowers that abundantly decorate the icons.

The Tikhvin Icon is one of the most revered icons in Russia, and the original is reputed to have been painted by Luke the Evangelist himself. It is called the Protectress of Russia and has a long history of both saving Russia from political enemies as well as being taken to other locations for safety. Here’s a link to a more complete article on its history: Orthodox Christianity. One of the copies of the Tikhvin icon became well known for many miraculous healings of children. This icon is commemorated June26/July 9.

Here is the Troparion associated with this icon:

“Today, like the eternal sun, your icon appears in the sky, O Theotokos. With rays of mercy it enlightens the world. This land accepts the heavenly gift from above, honoring you as the Mother of God. We praise Christ our Lord, who was born of you. Pray to him, O queen and sovereign virgin, that all Christian cities and lands be guarded in safety, and that He saves those who kneel to His Divine and Your Holy Image, O unwedded bride.”

Please consider contributing articles about miracle working icons throughout the next year so that we can become more familiar and understand them through God’s grace.

ECVA CONVERSATIONS

Sacred Art & Iconography

This is a series of conversations hosted by ECVA and moderated by Mary Jane Miller, Iconographer, open to everyone.

Please join us!

WHEN:      6 Thursdays in December 2021 and January 2022
                  5:00pm EST, 4:00pm CST, 2:00pm PST

WHERE:    Online Zoom Conference

All artists and contemporary iconographers are invited to participate in a series of 6 online conversations on Sacred Art and Iconography. We are planning six themes to discuss, with the hope of sharing our thoughts, our work, and what happens in our spiritual life. This program series is open to all and is free of charge. The series moderator is Mary Jane Miller, whose collection of contemporary sacred art are visual meditations whose root is in traditional Icon Painting.  

If you are interested please sign up today by sending an email to

conversations@ecva.org. Send any suggestions or requests to Mary Jane millericons@gmail.com.

If you’d like to contribute an article on this or other topics of interest to iconographers, please contact me below.

Blessings,

Christine Simoneau Hales

Iconwriting classes New Christian Icons

Please contact me here with your ideas for future articles!

Saint John

Saint John the Evangelist Drawing by Christine Hales

“O dear Disciple, you reclined on the breast of Christ at the supper of the Lord and drew ineffable mysteries from it which you were allowed to reveal. Your heavenly voice thundered out to all, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He is Christ our God, the Saviour of our souls and the true Light who enlightens everyone who comes into the world.”

Last month I was blessed to teach an online Icon writing class painting Saint John the Theologian. We had some wonderful prayer time as we painted and learned more about this saintly man who was so beloved of Jesus. In this blog I want to share with you some of what we learned and prayed about. The following is excepted from an article on “Orthodox Christianity Then and Now”.

The Life of Saint John the Evangelist

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, the daughter of Joseph. He was called away from his fisherman’s nets to preach the gospel when our Lord Jesus Christ, walking along the sea of Galilee, chose his apostles from amongst the fisherman. Jesus had already summoned two brothers, Peter and Andrew, when he caught sight of two other brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee. They were mending their nets in a boat with their father when he called them. Immediately abandoning their boat and their father, they followed after Jesus Christ.

Saint John the Evangelist Icon in progress by Christine Hales

At the time of his calling, John was called son of Thunder by the Lord, for his theology would be heard like Thunder throughout the world. John followed Jesus, learning the wisdom that preceded from his lips. John was well loved by his Lord Jesus. The Lord honored him as the fairest of the 12 apostles, and he was one of three of Christ’s closest closest disciples. When Jesus went to raise up the daughter of Jairus, only John, Peter and James were allowed to accompany him. Also when Jesus prayed in the garden, he took Peter, James and John to pray with him. Also on Mt. Tabor, the scene of the Transfiguration it was James, John and Peter who accompanied Jesus. We also know from the Icons of the Crucifixion and the Lamentation, that John never left Jesus’ side. From the Cross, Jesus instructed John to take his mother, Mary into his home and care for her and regard her as his own mother.

Patmos Today

Saint John on Patmos

Saint John and his scribe, Saint Prochorus, were ready to leave the isle of Patmos when there were almost none on the island of Patmos that he had not converted to Christ. The Christians learning of his intention, asked him not to leave them forever. However, the apostle did not wish to remain with them but desired to return to Ephesus. Seeing the Saint was intent on leaving, they asked him to leave behind a memorial with them – the Gospel which he had written there. For one, day having commanded all to fast, he had taken his disciple Prochorus outside the city and together the ascended a high mountain. Here they spent three days in prayer. After the third day a great clap of Thunder sounded, lightning flashed, and the mountain shook. Prochorus fell to the ground with fear. Turning to him, John raised him up and said to him , “Write what you hear from my lips”.

John Writes the Gospel

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, John began to pray again. When he had finished, he began to speak; “In the beginning was the Word…” and the Gospel of Saint John was committed to paper. Saint John agreed to leave a copy in Patmos for the Christians in accordance with their request, but the original copy he kept with himself.

On the same island, Saint John wrote also the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation. Tradition relates that one day John and his disciple Prochorus departed from the city to a cave in the wilderness where he spent 10 days with Prochorus and another 10 days alone. These latter 10 days he ate nothing but only prayed to God, entreating him to reveal what he should do. A voice came to John from on high saying John, John! John answered “What doest Thou command, Lord? The Voice from on high said “Wait 10 days and thou shall receive a revelation of much that is great.” John remained there 10 more days without food, then something marvelous occurred. The angels of God came down to him and proclaimed much that was ineffable. When Prochorus returned, John sent him back for ink and paper, and for two days thereafter John spoke to Prechorus of the revelations he had received. John’s disciple wrote them down.

John’s Death

At the end of John’s life, when he was becoming very weak, he reduced his teaching to the unceasing repetition of “Little children love one another”. One day when his disciples asked him why he repeated this to them incessantly, John replied with the following words; “This is the Lord’s commandment and if you keep it, it is enough.”

When the Apostle was more than 100 years old, he left the house of Dominus with his family of disciples and after reaching a certain place, John commanded them to sit down. It was then morning and he went a stone’s throw away from them and began to pray. Afterwards his disciples dug him a cross shaped grave in accordance with his will. He ordered Prochorus to go to Jerusalem and remain there until the end of his life. John preached yet one more time to his disciples, and kissing them farewell, the apostle said; “Take the earth, my mother, and covered me with it.” He kissed his disciples and they covered him to the knees. When he had kissed them again, they covered him to his neck leaving his face uncovered. Once again they kissed him, and with great weeping, covered him entirely. Hearing of this, the bretheren came from the city and dug up the grave. But they found nothing there! They all wept greatly, then praying they returned to the city. Each year on the 8th of May a fragrant myrrh comes from the grave, and at the prayers of the holy Apostle the sick are healed thereby, to the honor of God, who is glorified in the Trinity unto the ages of ages Amen.

Patmos

The small island of Patmos, part of the Dodecanese complex in the central Aegean, is known, above all, as the location where John the Apostle received his visions and recorded them in the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament. An impressive monastic complex, dedicated to him, was founded there in the early 11th century.

Interior of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian (by Thanasis Christodoulou via Wikimedia Commons)

The monastery stands on the site where Saint John is believed to have written his Gospel, including the Book of Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse); it is also located near the grotto where the apostle is said to have received his Revelation, hence called the Cave of the Apocalypse. Both the Monastery and the Cave, along with the rest of the historic centre of the island’s Chora (main town) have been declared a joint World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 as an “exceptional example of a traditional Greek Orthodox pilgrimage centre of outstanding architectural interest”.

The site of the revelatory visions, known as the Cave of the Apocalypse, is situated halfway along the road linking the port with the Chora (main town), which sits on top of the island’s mountain. The Holy Cave of the Apocalypse has been transformed into a place of worship, where visitors can see the dent on the wall of the cave, where the Evangelist was said to lay his head; according to tradition, the Voice of God could be heard coming from a cleft of the rock, which is also still visible today. The southern part of the cave has been turned into a church dedicated to Saint John the Theologian, while later a Chapel of Saint Anne (mother of Mary) was added, incorporating the cave, which is now entered through the chapel.

In 1091, Christodoulos began the construction of the monastery of Saint John the Theologian, over the ruins of a fourth-century basilica also dedicated to Saint John.

APOLYPTIKA

“O beloved apostle of Christ our God, come quickly to rescue your helpless people. The one on whose breast you leant will accept you as intercessor. O Theologian, implore Him to disperse the clouds of darkness and grant us peace and great mercy.”

May God continue to bless you with His peace and love,

Christine Simoneau Hales

New Christian Icons

Exhibition Open Calls For Religious Art

ECVA has an open call for art relating to the Epiphany. Here is a link to more information.

CIVA also has an open call for religious art. Deadline is November 7, 2021 Here is a link to more information

Link to Online Classes with Christine Hales