Symbolism in my Icon

Hey, y’all!   Hope everyone is doing well!   This is a continuation of “Iconography Adventures” if you want to know some background.  It’s been hot and rainy here, sort of tropical.  And those noisy cicadas!  So grab a glass of something cool, find a dry and comfy (quiet!) spot to relax, and let’s continue with the Adventure of going back to college in midlife!

My piece was unusual.  Imagine that.  The professor was open to new representations, as long as they were reverent and meaningful.  He kept saying, “Hmmm… I don’t think that’s been done before…”  I picked a statue I’d seen in Zaragoza Spain as a model.  So, I had to draw from scratch, patch in some parts from other drawings, translate the whole thing into an icon ‘cartoon’ or line drawing all via computer.

She named herself:  “Mary, Seat of Wisdom”.  There’s a lengthy backstory from last fall, for another time.

Along with all the spiritual parallels of extensive preparation, color choice and details, themes and symbols began to emerge.  There are some varying interpretations in official Iconography and I am not disputing these in any way.  I have tremendous respect for Orthodoxy and Iconographers.  I do not claim in any way to be an Iconographer; I merely wrote my first icon and am only recording how this icon and its writing process spoke to me personally.

There is a great theme of love in the icon, shown by hearts.  Love from God to us, love of wisdom and truth, love of expressing that truth, the love of our heavenly mother for God and for us.  She’s actually smiling, happy to lead us and guide us into true wisdom.  Yet she is silent, speaking nothing of her own, only of Him who is true wisdom.

Diamonds appeared on the book and her robe clasp.  Diamonds are rare and precious, worth pursuing.  They speak of the value of wisdom and learning in this particular icon, as well as the honor and dignity of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Seat of Wisdom, Mother of Christ.

The number 4 appeared, signifying a fullness, a completion.  The book has four studs in the binding, four sections in the pages.  It is the Word, Wisdom;complete in itself, needing nothing more.  We, too, need nothing more, nothing besides Christ Himself.  This also speaks to simplicity of desires and lifestyle.

Mary holds a flowered cross, the sweetness of being under authority.  The cross is gold, speaking of God’s presence and majesty.  Lilies signify purity, roses love.  Purity of Our Lady, purity of wisdom, purity available to us.  The blue carnation represents a pleasant fragrance drawing us in.   The flowered cross also speaks of using authority in a gentle way; not as a harsh and angry bludgeon.  My earthly mom always had red tulips, so they represent pleasant love.  The color pink represents joy, and also face to face conversation.  Learning can be a pleasant and joyful thing, and we can learn from Jesus ‘face to face’ through the Word.  There is also a cluster of grapes at the bottom, bespeaking the fruitfulness of acquired wisdom.

Let’s go back to the book.  Leather bound, enduring.  The Word represents Christ.  Mary gave birth to the Word, nourished and taught the Word, revered the Word, obeyed the Word.  Mary’s entire ministry is to bring us to Christ so we can become like Him.  It’s her mother’s heart for all Christians.

As Queen of Heaven, her royal cape, golden sash and gold cross scepter are quite fitting; yet she is veiled, again a sign of perfect submission.  The gold speaks of the presence of God, and the Authority of Christ over all.  As a sign of her heavenly position, even the pupils of her eyes are gold – perfectly reflecting the light of the Son.  Her cape and even her skin reflect this golden glow of Heaven and it’s perfection.

The multiple layered frame also has meaning.  The red represents the blood of Christ who saves us.  The blue is for royalty, the gold for God.

Finally, if we as humans take such care with a simple representation of heavenly things, how much more care does God take with our lives?  From conception through every circumstance to natural death, His hand is on us.  Psalm 139:13-15 says it best:

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.    (NRSVCE)


Can you say this about your own life?  Or are you in a hard place, struggling, without hope?  Find a pastor or priest.  Pour out your heart.  Jesus is waiting to have compassion and mercy on you if you will ask with a humble heart.  He loves you!


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