Icons

Psalm 89/90 v. 17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it

1 Chronicles 16 v.29 :Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

“An icon is an earthly reminder about Christ, the God-Man. Icons depicting saints remind us of all those who followed in the footsteps of Christ, who were faithful and devoted to Him and who burned with love for Him. Veneration of icons is really veneration of the glory of God: whoever rejoices in the glory of God and in all things that remind us of it shall also rejoice in the coming age.Those who during their earthly life yearned for God will joyfully rush towards Him when they hear, at the Last Judgment, the words: “Come to me, you blessed ones.” ” St John Maximovich, the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco

Sinai Pantocrator

NEW ARRIVAL:

The stunningly beautiful icon of St George, featuring one of his relics has now arrived for veneration and is gracing our church wall together with St Vladimir the enlightener of Russia … Glory to God!!!

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The opposite wall is now graced by a specially commissioned icon of St Olcan, contemporary of St Patrick…

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A parishioner’s contribution on icons:

ICONS

It is beyond the scope of a page on our parish website to fully explain the nature and importance of Holy Icons. Therefore, for a more detailed historical and theological, yet concise explanation please consider having a look at OrthoWiki, or Wikipedia and following up the many links listed in these resources.

The first Iconographer was  God Himself, Who created man in His Own Image: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:26-27).

And indeed, Our Lord spoke of Himself as a Living Icon when he said “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Some non-Orthodox people have difficulties with the concept of icons, often pointing to the Old Testament prohibitions of worshiping graven images such as “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6), but very few consider in mitigation the Divine command to Moses to create the Arc of the Covenant, including the Mercy Seat of two Cherubim “And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.” (Ex.25:17-20).

 We also discover in reading the Old Testament, that in building the Temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon placed two statues of Cherubim in the Holy of Holies: “And within the oracle he made two cherubim of olive tree, each ten cubits high” (1 Kings, 6:23) and employed them elsewhere as decorative motifs “For on the plates of the ledges thereof, and on the borders thereof, he graved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, according to the proportion of every one, and additions round about.” (1 Kings 7:36). These Cherubim were not dis-allowed “graven images” simply because they depicted the reality of existing Spiritual beings.

A further noteworthy Old Testament reference mentions a Bronze Serpent made according to Divine instruction given to Moses, so that those bitten in the wilderness  by “fiery snakes” should not perish but be cured: “And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Num. 21: 5-9). This, of course, was an  iconographic prototype which looked forward, prophetically, to the Holy Cross of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ which, in the fulness of time, Christians could look upon when seeking absolution from the spiritual poison of sin. Our Lord himself directly alluded to this at the very start of His Earthly Ministry when he spoke to His Apostles saying:”And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

The history of Icons is closely bound up with the Church’s centuries-long struggle against the malignant Christological heresies of  Adoptionism, Arianism, GnosticismMonophysism and, finally, Iconoclasm. The Second Council of Nicea settled the matter. Because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, we can depict that which was manifest and real! And it is instructive, wholesome and beneficial to our faith. Christ and the Saints were and are real. In Icons we proclaim this reality of the Incarnation.

Because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, we can depict that which was manifest and real! And it is instructive, wholesome and beneficial to our faith. Christ and the Saints were and are real. In Icons we proclaim this reality of the Incarnation.

Christ took on the fullness of our humanity, not merely the appearance of it, so that we might be reconciled to the Father and, by the process of Theosis, come to conform to His Spiritual nature, thereby becoming heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Icons serve as  a spiritual vortex. When we stand before a holy image of the prototype, lighting candles or burning incense, we are drawn into the presence of the prototype, the Holy One. An Icon is venerated, not worshipped. Through prayerful time spent with them we can experience the spiritual reality that  God  IS! Here we touch upon the realm of the mystery and sacramental nature of icons in their proper context and use.

The holy images serve as bridges by which we can meditate on the eternal and spiritual, through temporal matter. The Holy Images are a fundamental definition of Orthodoxy, defining Christ’s true nature, and bearing witness to the fact that He is always with us even to the end of time! History testifies to numerous miracles worked by God through the medium of Icons. Icons have wept, have bled, have relocated or renewed themselves and, even to this day, gush fragrant myrrh as in the case of the Hawaiian Iveron Icon, a printed and mounted copy of the “Montreal Iveron Icon“, itself a painted copy of the original “Panagia Portaitissa” icon, attributed to Saint Luke. Indeed our own Icon of “The Most Holy Theotokos of the Illumined Womb and Fullness of Grace” has manifested Her presence in our church by the scent of Roses directly experienced by members of the congregation.

Every Orthodox Church is adorned with Icons. Indeed one might say Icons both explain and define Orthodoxy. Millions of Christians have been converted to the Church through the beauty and spiritual power of Icons. They preach the fullness of the Truth to the eye, and thus to the soul. Through them we can experience spiritual reality and draw close to the prototype depicted on the image we venerate. Nothing can explain the unfathomable mysteries of God, but the heightened spiritual experience we feel when venerating the Holy Icons absolutely strengthens our relationship with Him.

It would be impossible in such a short essay to explain the intense spiritual presence the true believer experiences in standing before an Icon. Although they are “pictures”, they are foremost spiritual creations. They are normally painted, or “written”, by monks or nuns who undergo rigorous prayer and penance as they prepare the surface to receive the holy image, even before they touch the brush. True Icons are usually painted on wood, which represents the Holy and Life Giving Cross, according to centuries old rules which define the attributes which identify individual Saints, even to the specification of what colours may or may not be used. No Iconographer is free to “invent” his subject. It is a prayerful process guided by the Holy Spirit in what they should paint and how it should be painted. The normal medium is egg tempera (the egg represents the empty Tomb and the resurrection of Christ) and even when an icon is executed in oil paint, the preliminary sketch will usually have been created with egg tempera, or an admixture thereof.

 Many ancient Icons are simultaneously images of a saint and reliquaries. Tiny fragments of holy relics were often crushed and mixed into the paint consecrating it, and confirming the sanctity of the image. Nowadays it is more usual that reliquaries are affixed to the icon rather then mixed with the paint. And this brings us to a description and discussion of two  icons on loan to the parish of Saint John of Shanghai, Belfast, which are venerated by the faithful on our Iconostasis, “Christ Pantokrator, “Why weepest thou Woman” and “The All Holy Theotokos of the Illumined Womb and the Fullness of Grace”.

                                CHRIST PANTOKRATOR,“Why weepest thou woman?”

                                         CHRISTI OMNIPOTENS, “Mulier, quid ploras?”

One of the most spiritually precious icons hanging on our iconostasis is that known by its  custodian, for reasons which will become evident, as “Why weepest thou woman?”. On loan from a family which belongs to our congregation, it is a relatively modern work, executed in the traditional style of “Christ Pantokrator” (Christ, Almighty, Judge of All things). Painted in a mixture of oil and egg tempera on panel, the icon measures 23x18cams, and is almost entirely covered, saving for the face and hands, with a silver and gilt Riza , studded with amethyst, garnets, pearls, rubies, sapphires, and topaz. 

The icon was purchased as a gift for the present guardian in June 1987, at a fund raising sale held  under the patronage of His Beatitude the late Metroplitan Anthony Bloom (1914-2003), Archbishop of Sourozh, in the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Most Holy Dormition (Moscow Patriarchate), 67 Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge, London. Unfortunately, the names of the artists, whom the custodian spoke with at length, are unknown, as, in observance of apostolic tradition, they did not sign their works. The icon was the creation of a very elderly couple, White Russian emigres, who had fled the Revolution, but still lived in their hearts in their beloved “Imperial Holy Orthodox Russia”. To earn a living the lady painted icons, and her husband hand crafted the ornate silver and gilt Riza. They worked together with love and devotion, creating icons which, they fervently hoped, would bring down the blessings of the Lord on all who beheld them, and draw them to Orthodoxy.

In the icon the imposing figure of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ is treated in terms of contrasting light and dark surfaces, with white high-lights on the prominent cheek bones, forehead, and over the eyebrows. The beard and the hair are defined with fine parallel lines. Best viewed sideways on, the iconographer has created, though the use of a limited and subtly controlled pallet of cinnamon, ochre and brown glazes, a feeling of volume which causes the face to stand out as if almost in relief, and conveys a sense of the Lord’s  over whelming compassion “and love for mankind”.

We stand before the Christ, who judges us with infinite love and boundless mercy, not according to the awful burden of our sins, but as our Redeemer who destroyed death by death, broke down the gates of Hell, and sat down, as our Eternal High Priest, at the right hand of  the Father. He blesses us with His right hand to signify the absolution of our sins, and our entry into that state of  Theosis, which He desired for us from before the foundation of the world. In His left hand He holds an open Gospel, which proclaims the Good News that: He came to save the world and not to judge it (John 12:47).

 We look at the face of the God of Love among whose last words were “Father forgive  them for they know not what they do!”(Luke 23:34). As Chistians we will of course be judged for our sins, but we must never despair of being forgiven them, because of Christ’s aweful sacrifice (Heb. 9:28). Thus it is the constant refrain of Orthodox Christians during the Divine Liturgy, that the Father will grant us: “A Christian ending to our life: painless, blameless, and peaceful; and a good defence before the dread judgement seat of Christ.”

The gems that adorn this icon are worthless in comparison  not only with the message of profound hope which it conveys, but to the relics it houses. On the left of the painting, balancing the Gospel book, a red enamel cross, suspended from a Patriarchal crown, contains a crystal covering a tiny piece of rock from the Holy Sepulchre. This is sealed with the lead bulla of the Late Patriarch  Maximus V Hakhim (1908-2001), formerly Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem. It is the reverse of  the insignia of a knight of the Patriarchal Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, which the present custodian received from His Beatitude in recognition of his considerable fund-raising activities in support of Christian institutions in the Lebanon during its Civil War.  This fragment of rock continues to bear witness to the Lord’s empty tomb, and the fact that by His Holy Resurrection He confirmed His Divinity!

 Directly below the icon, in a rectangular jewelled reliquary, there is a fragment of a bone of St Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles. This was previously in the collection of  His Grace Bishop Franz Xaver Eberle (1871-1951), auxiliary Archbishop of Augsburg and Bishop of Zaliche, IN PARTIBUS INFIDELIUM, and was purchased from his estate, and set in the icon by the present guardian.

One can hardly imagine St Mary Magdalene’s grief at finding the empty tomb and, thinking that the Most Precious Body of the Lord her God had been stolen, her frantic grief until, encountering the Risen Lord, He gently rebuked her, saying: “Why weepest thou woman?” (John 20.15).

She, who had followed Him throughout His Ministry, who stood weeping with the All Holy Theotokos at the foot of the Cross, was the first to meet the Living Lord, and finally understand what He had prophesied: “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16.20).  With what unspeakable joy must she have proclaimed the message of the Angel to the Apostles “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him. Behold I have told you”.

We may gaze upon the Pantocrator with faith, knowing in our hearts that whilst we will indeed be judged  for our sins, it will  be by the “good God who loves mankind”, who came into the world not only that we should have life but that we should have it “more abundantly” (John 10:10). We need only believe that “If  you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved!” (Rom. 10.9). And so “why weepest thou?” Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is (our) reward in Heaven” (Matt. 5:12)..

Our church is also blessed by the presence of an icon of the Theotokos of great beauty and immense spiritual presence. The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of the Illumined womb and the Fullness of Grace is hung on our iconostasis.

SOME NOTES AND REFLECTIONS ON

THE ICON OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS

OF THE ILLUMINED WOMB AND THE FULLNESS OF GRACE

(Sancta Dei Genetrix ex Utero Luminis et Gratiae Plenitudinem )

One of the great spiritual treasures which the parish of Saint John of Shanghai, Belfast, has access to, is the Icon of The Most Holy Theotokos of the Illumined Womb and the Fullness of Grace. The history of the Icon is unknown, but certain deductions can be made from the medium of execution, iconographic style and physical appearance.

As it now exists, the image measures 17 by 12 centimetres, and is executed in tempera on a thin panel, possibly oak, of irregular outline, perhaps due to the subsequent removal of a marginal border, which may have depicted images of the Saints invoked at a particular baptism, or of the principal ancestors of Our Lord.  This form of Marian Icon is ultimately derived from the famous image of the “Virgin of Vladimir”, the greatest and most sublime artistic achievement of the Palaeologian Byzantine Renaissance, and one of the most venerated sacred palladia of Holy Orthodox Russia. The “Vladimirskya” has had a profound historical and theological influence over many centuries. Pagan, Islamic and Latin invaders were destroyed in its presence, besieged cities relieved, and countless heterodox Christians converted to Orthodoxy upon contemplating this most intimate and sweetest of all Marian icons

A close examination of the panel of the icon of “The Most Holy Theotokos of the Illumined Womb and the Fullness of Grace” reveals five contemporary rusted panel pins. These have been deliberately left in place as they call to mind the Five Wounds of Christ, the Holy Nails driven through His hands and feet, and the Holy Lance which pierced his side. Originally, the pins would have fixed an ornate silver Riza (a silver repousee protective mount which covered most of the panel, leaving only the face and limbs of the painting visible). Such a Riza helps to date the Icon, for they were at their most popular during the nineteenth century. They are always indicative of the owner’s social rank, and their very personal devotion to the image. Often set with precious stones, gilded and finally enamelled, they would have been treasured God-blessed family heirlooms passing from generation to generation; closely guarded, both protected by and protecting the family.

From an aesthetic point of view, this Icon shows little or none of that unfortunate Latin influence, which profoundly corrupted iconography from the reign of Peter the Great until the Russian Revolution of 1917-1918. It was during this period, that Western  religious Art with its garish colourful palette and obsession with anatomical realism and perspective – the very embodiment of Western scholasticism – began its insidious assault on the Orthodox Church, leading to a growth in Uniatism, and an indifference to the Apostolic tradition of iconography. In reaction to this unwelcome cultural intrusion, the so called “Old believer”, or Slavonic school, enjoyed a revival directly confronting Western forms of painting and Latin theology, gathering renewed strength in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. Given all these facts it is probable, that the Icon of “The Most Holy Theotokos of the Illumined Womb and the Fullness of Grace” was painted in the nineteenth century, probably after 1820, for the Icon wall of a noble or gentry family.

And then came the Revolution, the Terror, and the unremitting persecution of the Holy Orthodox Church and her members! It was probably during this period that the valuable Riza was forcefully ripped from the Icon (had it been done respectfully the panel pins would not be extant!) and the Holy Theotokos, like her Son at Calvary, was stripped of her glorious raiment. Evidently the house, or church, which had housed the icon was not put to the torch, as the panel shows no signs of scorching. It must have been quickly retrieved by an Orthodox believer, and hidden, carefully and reverently in a box, or wrapped in cloth, as the surviving panel shows no indication of having been exposed to the extremes of the Russian climate, which – other than through miraculous intervention – would have destroyed it within months! And so, we may assume, that the Icon survived due to the protection of the catacomb Church and those believers which rejected Communism and its heretical and schismatic offspring – the Sergianist Patriarchate of Moscow.

Having survived the First and Second World Wars, the Russian Revolution, and the endless, brutal militant persecution of the Faith and the faithful by the anti-Christs, Lenin and Stalin “Endarkeners of All Russia and Equals of the Apostates”, the Icon finally came – literally for the price of a coffee and a sandwich (!) – into the possession of an Irish Orthodox believer, a member of the ROCOR, and an antiquarian.

Although the collector has a large and important collection of ancient Icons, and is both an artist and conservator, he was so moved by the Holy image that, after much prayer and reflection, he decided not to restore it in any way, but rather to leave it to bear witness to the dreadful, bloody and satanically driven persecution of the Holy Church in Russia during the past century! Having on several occasions dreamt of the icon, and believing it to be the will of, and under the guidance of the All Holy Theotokos, he began to craft a jewelled frame, rather than a Riza, and to convert the icon into a magnificent reliquary to the glory of the Most Pure God Bearer, and to the memory of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Russian Church.

The remarkable frame which now holds the Icon is set with literally hundreds of precious and semi-precious stones, and yet it is the Icon itself which shines forth with the inner light of sanctification!

The viewer’s attention is immediately and directly drawn to the image in which the Theotokos is depicted holding a large lapis lazuli, the Royal stone, set with a cabochon citrine, symbolising the Incarnate Light. And from this fact she has gained a new title from those who venerate Her, “The All Holy Theotokos of the Illumined Womb and the Fullness of Grace”!

She weeps for Russia and the whole world. An aquamarine tear falls on her face, whilst her Divine Son’s hands and feet are “pierced” with blood red garnets. Here, in this Icon, we begin to approach the wonderful, awe inspiring, incomprehensible mystery by which the Logos, “Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made, who for us men and our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, [and] was made man”! This most exquisite of Icons is the Gospel made manifest! We see the God-Child, pierced by the nails of His crucifixion, “who shall come again in Glory to judge the living and the dead whose Kingdom shall have no end”, who freely offered up His earthly life so that we may witness and partake in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We remember that He was Incarnate not only that we might have life, “but that we may have it more abundantly”!

The frame of the Icon is set with innumerable precious and semi-precious stones, with Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies (Proverbs 31:10 alluding to the All Holy and Most Pure Theotokos), Pearls (Matt13, 45-46, alluding to the kingdom of Heaven), Amethysts, Garnets, Adventurine, Turquoise, Topazes, Citrines, Lapis Lazuli, Moonstones, Tiger’s Eyes and Chalcedony (chosen to reference the council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, which upheld that Our Lord was both Divine and human in one hypostasis, thereby confirming the teaching of the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, that the virgin Mary was truly entitled to the Glorious title of Theotokos).

The stones have been also been carefully chosen with reference to the Old and New Testaments, and many directly reference the jewelled breast plate of the obsolete Jewish High Priesthood (Ex 28, 17-20, alluding to the twelve tribes of Israel and, by extension, to the Apostles and their successors, the Orthodox Episcopate, who are the breastplate and defence of the True Church), which gave place to the eternal High Priest, Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

A  majority of the stones are also mentioned  in the book of the Apocalypse (chapters 4, 20, 21),  in describing the foundations, walls and dwelling places of the New Jerusalem, where the faithful shall dwell for all eternity in God. Others allude to the Book of Psalms, or to the Divine Liturgy. For example the Tigers eyes directly reference the Hymn of the Theotokos and the Seraphim, “six winged many eyed”, thereby reminding us that She “is more glorious beyond compare” than even the highest of the angelic powers in Heaven! There, She makes eternal and efficacious intercession on our behalf before Her Divine Son.

The very frame, which references the thirteenth century wooden doors of the sacristy of the Olympiotiisa Monastery in Elassona, Greece, is a reliquary which contains two of the most precious of all Christian relics. At the top, a fragment of the True and Life Giving Cross is set behind a Cabochon Rock Crystal, adorned by Garnets, on a 350 karat Emerald,  whilst, at the bottom, a single hair of the All Holy Theotokos rests surrounded by Citrines on a 500 karat Sapphire. These relics came into the guardianship of the present owner from a private collection of the estate of Bishop Franz Xaver Eberle (born 4/7/1874, died 19/11/1951), auxiliary bishop of Augsburg, Germany, and titular bishop of Zaliche in the Helopontus, present-day Turkey. (In 787, Bishop John of Zaliche attended the 2nd Council of Nicea.) They were translated to this Icon with the original authenticating Episcopal Seal.

The Icon is in a private collection, to which the parish of St John of Shanghai, Belfast, has exclusive access.  May She whom neither Revolutions, two World Wars nor the “lying Church schismatics” could destroy, and who has risen again more gloriously than before, continue to intercede for us and all sinners, and take into Her  loving arms the souls of all those millions of Holy Innocents murdered each year by abortions.

The feast day of the holy icon is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God. i.e. 25th March/ 7th April.

PRECIOUS STONES AND THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS

Chapter 21 “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

He that over cometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.

16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

17 And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.

19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”

The All Holy and Most Pure Theotokos was the earthly New Jerusalem and the Temple in whom Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ was Incarnate and dwelt.

Feast of Saint Xenia of Rome, February 6th, 2021