Orthodox art and Architecture (Part III)

Icon of the Mother of God the “Deliveress”

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Lord Almighty, You are great indeed and Your power is Majestic and marvelous, there is no measure or boundary to Your wisdom and omniscience. You are the Creator of the universe, the Savior of mankind, the abundant and Benevolent Provider of all good things. You are the forbearing Provider of mercy who does not remove the opportunity of salvation from Your creatures. For You are by nature good and compassionate toward those who sin and You do call them to repentance. Your admonition and Your call to repentance comes from Your Infinite Love and compassion for mankind. How could we possibly continue to exist, if each time we transgressed, You immediately exacted a just retribution, when even now, when You demonstrate such great forbearance and tolerance, we very slowly and with great difficulty rise up from the illness of our sins?

...You, Lord God, are the Father of Wisdom, the Creator and cause of all creation that has come into existence through Your Son; You are the Provider of good things of Divine Providence; You are the giver of the laws and the Commandments; You fulfill every deficiency and ever need; You are the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; You are the Lord God of the Christians, who revere and worship the Savior Whose promises are never contradicted, Whose judicial judgment is incorruptible, and Whose will is steadfast and immovable. To Him is due unceasing worship in truth and in spirit and unending gratitude. And in His Name, every rational and holy nature is also obliged to offer to You, the God and Father and Creator of all, the appropriate veneration and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.



On October 17th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Hosea the Prophet; Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Cilicia, and their brothers Leontius, Anthimus, and Eftropius; Translation of the Holy relics of St. Lazaros, Bishop of Kition on Cyprus; Saint Alexander of Semipalatinks (+1937); Saint Anthony of Novgorod (+1611); Queen Shushaniki (Susanna) of Georgia; Saint Andrew of Crete; Saint Cosmas of Arabia; Saint Joseph, Catholicos of Georgia (+1770); Saint Ethelred and St. Ethelbert, Princes of Kent; "Deliverer" and "Before Birth and After Birth the Virgin" holy Icons of the Mother of God.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Prophets, Holy Unmercenaries, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Nuns, Holy Queens, Holy Princes, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

HOLY MARTYRS AND UNMERCENARIES COSMAS AND DAMIAN IN CILICIA. There are three sets of physician Saints who healed without asking for payment. The first we celebrate November 1st; they were from Asia Minor, where they died peacefully. The second set of martyrs we celebrate on July 1st. They lived in Rome and were stoned to death by their jealous teacher. The third pair, Cosmas and Damian, were from Arabia. When they became Christians, they traveled through villages reaching and healing solely by prayer. During the persecutions of the two pagan Roman Emperors Dioclesian and Maximian, these two were arrested and brought before the governor in Cilicia. They confessed their belief and refused to sacrifice to idols. They were brutally beaten, bound, and thrown into the sea. Angels untied them and delivered them to safety. The governor asked if he could be instructed in this sorcery. Saints Cosmas and Damian said that they possessed the power of Christ and that others could call on Him as well. They were thrown into fire, but remained unharmed. They were suspended and stoned, but instead the stones struck their tormentors. Arrows were shot at them, but they returned to strike those who shot them. Finally, the two were beheaded. They appeared to many and healed them.

Please note: Recently the world has witnessed the beheading, crucifixion, torture of innocent human beings by people who say they do it in the name of their god and out of revenge. However, when we, as Orthodox Christians, read the lives of the Christian martyrs, confessors and saints we see that this was a common practice by the enemies of Christ and Christianity for centuries.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 9:18-33
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 9:49-56


"Seek the help of our merciful Lord Jesus Christ whose loving wounded heart is open to all. His Pure Blood is always there to wash away our sins. Keep near the great physician. Seek Him, call Him, knock at the door." (Saint Macarius of Optina)


By Professor John Yiannias

Early Byzantine Art

The way in which most themes were depicted soon became standardized, since the purpose of an image was not to display artistic originality but to reveal the subject's deeper, immutable meaning, which could be apprehended by common usage. This adherence to iconographic tradition did not inhibit artists from exercising their talents. It might even be argued that it freed them to do so. Byzantine art became the criterion of technical excellence and formal beauty.

Among the most admired examples of early Byzantine art are the 5th and 6th century mosaics in Ravenna, Italy, and those of the 6th century in the isolated Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai. The deliberate, constructed shapes, bright colors, and shining surfaces of mosaic made it ideal for imparting a vision of timeless, unfading existence, and the medium was raised to its highest expressive level. The Transfiguration mosaic at Sinai, with its simple but powerful evocation of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, demonstrates how effectively the Byzantine could convey a profound message in visual terms.

Also at Sinai are over two thousand holy icons, including several from the 6th century. The fact that these mosaics and icons and most other existing Byzantine Emperors in the 8th century explains why we can still see them: they escaped the hammers and bonfires of the Iconoclasts, or "image breakers."

The Orthodox Church stressed the role played by the icon in our salvation. Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27) but allowed that image, and with it the world, to be corrupted. God assumed a fully human nature without ceasing to be fully God and thereby restored the image-not just ethically, through His teachings, but in His whole person, as is proven by His bodily Resurrection. An icon of Christ affirms the reality of that reconciliation of the human and the divine and enables us to contemplate the person who is the model for our theosis (deification).

The image is equivalent to Holy Scripture as a revelation of the Truth. The image bears witness to the sanctification of the matter by the incarnation. A valid image is one that is faithful to its prototype.

Revival of Iconography

After Iconoclasm that lasted for 120 years and during the Macedonian Dynasty (867-1056 AD) the art of the Church was revitalized. The period was marked in part by the study of antiquity. Just as Church writers were making use of rhetorical devices borrowed from classical literature, artists looked to the art of the classical past for ideas on how to enrich their visual vocabulary. But the adopted motifs were thoroughly "Christianized" and brought into harmony with the purpose of Church art.

Iconographic Themes

Also at this time, the concept of imagery was extended to the church interior as a whole, which was conceived as an image of the cosmos. A theologically and aesthetically coherent scheme was worked out in conjunction with the cross-in-square plan, which provided the ideal "hierarchy" of spaces and surfaces. Portrayed against a field of gold suggestive of heaven and eternity, Christ Pantocrator, the Almighty, looked down upon His world from the central dome. Below Him, extending into the drum of the dome, were Angels and Prophets, His attendants and witnesses. In the quarter-sphere of the main apse, midway between the dome and ground level, was the Theotokos, Birthgiver of God, placed there as the link between Heaven and earth. Below her, on the apsidal wall but visible over the altar, figured the Communion of the Apostles, exemplar of the Eucharist, with Christ as the priest and the Angels as acolytes. Lower than the dome but on the upper level was the Feast cycle, comprising major scenes from the life of Christ (such as the Annunciation, Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, Baptism) and one devoted to the Theotokos, her Dormition (Koimesis). These scenes not only recapitulated the Church year but also formed a collective image of the Holy Land. On the lower wall surfaces were frontal figures of Saints, celestial counterparts of the assembled worshippers. Although the number of subjects increased with time, this arrangement became the norm, with adjustments for variations in the architectural setting, and to this day Orthodox churches use it as a guide.

The Iconostasis

It was apparently in the 14th century that the iconostasis, or templon, assumed an appearance like the one we know. Previously it has been a colonnade with curtains, and the images were confined to the horizontal beam. Now icons were placed between the columns. The structure grew taller, in extreme cases reaching the ceiling. The icons customarily included the Twelve Feasts and a Deisis (Christ flanked by the Theotokos and Saint John the Baptist), in addition to the Theotokos and Christ on either side of the central door and, in the same rank, the "local" Saint or feast. In Russia the iconostasis became very elaborate, eventually constituting a history of salvation, beginning with the Old Testament forefathers and ending with Christ and the Saints in heaven. The icons were arranged in five or more tiers.

An iconostasis has a dual significance. it marks the border between the Heavenly and the terrestrial, represented by the sanctuary and the church proper, respectively. In this sense it is analogous to the "veil" that concealed the Holy of Holies in the Hebrew Temple of Jerusalem. But it also symbolizes, by means of the subject matter of its images, the union of the two realms, accomplished in Incarnation of our Lord.

Revival of Byzantine Art

A return to forms expressive of the ascetical and liturgical experience of the Church began in earnest after World War II. A very important artist in this regard was the outspoken Fotis Kontoglou, also famous in Greece as a writer, who had begun painting in the "old" style in the twenties. Another was the Russian Leonid Ouspensky, resident in Paris, and active after 1942. Both men were convinced that Orthodox art must first "come home," by disregarding the worldly clamor for realism or for whatever style happens to be in fashion; and that, having learned again to "fast with the eyes," it would be able to fulfill its sacred responsibility in a way "always new," like the Orthodox faith itself.

Their impassioned advocacy of the older tradition met with opposition from many, including churchmen. But in the fifties the tide turned, and the effects were soon felt in our county. Orthodox parishes of every ethnic derivation are now commissioning icons and mosaics from artists working in a more authentically Orthodox mode.

(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George