Tuesday 3 September 2013

Icons and liturgy: windows of transfiguration

Figure 1: The liturgical calendar in icon depicting all 12 feasts 
of the early church.

(Photo: Author on 3rd September 2013)

Following on from my previous blog post which touched upon the subject of the nature of mankind and how he or she derives meaning in the world; Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia offers some quiet words of wisdom to the reader:
Remember God more often than you breathe says St Gregory of Nazanzus (d. 389). Prayer is more essential to us, more an integral part of ourselves, than the rhythm of our breathing or the beating of our heart. Without prayer there is no life. Prayer is our nature. As human persons we are created for prayer just as we are created to speak and to think. The human animal is best defined, not as a logical or tool-making animal or an animal that laughs, but rather as an animal that prays, a eucharistic animal, capable of offering the world back to God in thanksgiving and intercession [1].
Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia
The raw simplicity of liturgical prayer in the early church offers a direct and unobstructed route into  "transfigured time", that is, time that has been "assumed into God, renewed, (and) sanctified". Based on Barberini Codex 336 [1] dating from the late eighth century, this delightful work offers an authentic "window" into the eight daily prayer services typical of the Byzantine commonwealth devotions; the Kursk Root Icon  being the best known example in the Eastern Church [2]. It is a variation of Our Lady with the Child Jesus icon found in the sanctuary.

These prayers (Figure 2) point to the central liturgical events in "transfigured time, from the divine liturgy of ordinary time to the holy supper that transcends Golgotha. [3], [4]

[1] The Barberi Codex 336 consisted of six-daily services. A further two were added later.
[2] Obolensky, Dimitri, The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500-1453. (1971)
Byzantine commonwealth is a term coined by 20th-century historians to refer to the area where Byzantine liturgical and Byzantine cultural tradition general influence was spread during the Middle Ages by Byzantine missionaries.
This area covers approximately the present day countries of Bulgaria, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, southwestern Russia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus. Like the Byzantines of the 8th Century, the commonwealth spread through devotion to the Mother of God. The Kursk Root Icon is probably the best known example of devotion in the present day commonwealth. Her feast is celebrated with particular vigour on September 8th and 27th November. In Malta the feast day of "Our Lady of Victories" is held on September 8th, as is the feast of the Kursk Root Icon.
[3] Praying with the Orthodox Tradition pp. vii - viii
[4] Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand. Liturgical Renewal. Accessed on 3rd September 2013


  1. Thank you for the wonderful quote from Met. Kallistos - I've put that into my collection.