15 October 2013

Christ Pantocrator

This icon is called Christ Pantocrator. This one is from Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai, more commonly known as Saint Catherine's Monastery, and is the oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator.

Παντοκράτωρ (Pantocrator) is an Ancient Greek word used in the Septuagint to translate “YHWH Sabaoth” and “El Shaddai.” It is used in the New Testament only once in 2 Corinthians 6:18 and nine times in the Book of Revelation. Since these references appear to be referring to only God the Father, this icon seems, at least to me, to emphasize the consubstantiality of the Word (λόγος (logos)) with the Father, from whom proceeds the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word (ῥῆμα (rhema)).

A little over a month ago, a new friend gave me a copy of this icon from Saint Catherine's Monastery (she obtained it in Bethlehem). The same day she gave it to me, I was able to have it blessed by Moran Mor Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, Patriarch of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, together with Bishop David Motiuk, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton. It now watches over me as I write.

I do appreciate having this icon of Christ, with his right hand raised in the conventional rhetorical gesture to show that he is teaching, watch over me as I work. The book with the Cross represents the Gospels, and a variation of the Pantocrator has this book open and is called Christ the Teacher. This very much invokes in me Article 4 of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order:
The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: To observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the centre of his life with God and people.
Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the Truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.

The way this icon came to me, as well as who blessed it, is even more significant to me when I consider where the original is from:

Saint Catherine's Monastery is one of the oldest working monasteries in the world; built between 548 and 565 A.D. Moses received the Ten Commandments on this mountain and this monastery encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush ordered to be built by St. Helena (died 330 A.D.), mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. (The burning bush typologically representing the Blessed Virgin Mary.) It also houses the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts (surpassed only by the Vatican Library) containing Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, and Aramaic texts.

Bethlehem happens to be where St. Jerome (Latin: Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus; Ancient Greek: Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος) (died 420 A.D.) translated the Bible into Latin. (Hieronymus and Ἱερώνυμος mean “sacred name.”) He was also the leading scholar appointed by St. Pope Damasus I to discern which books should be in the Canon of the New Testament. He is also famous for saying, “The whole world woke up one morning, lamenting and marvelling to find itself Arian.”

Warning, Random Rambling:

Do you know who Santa Claus punched on the floor of the First Council of Nicaea? (Actually, Arius was standing on his chair, not the floor. I guess he may have been on the floor when Santa Claus was done with him. He was definitely on the Naughty List.) St. Nicholas died in 343 A.D. and St. Jerome wasn't born until 347 A.D. Gee, St. Nick died before we knew for sure what book should be in the New Testament. Kind of like St. Thomas Aquinas dying before Blessed John Duns Scotus explained the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Scotus was around 3 years old when Aquinas died in 1274, almost 300 years before the Canon of the New Testament was declared a dogma at the Council of Trent in 1546. There was no need for this dogma before this because no one seriously disregarded the Canon of the New Testament until the 16th century: 1100 year after the canon was fixed. Anybody dressing up as Santa Claus for Halloween? Teresa of Ávila, whose feast day is today, was a great reformer. The word reform does get a little misused at the end of this month.