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The Icon of The Holy Face

I recently completed the Interior Iconography Project at St. Stefan’s Romanian Orthodox Church, in South St. Paul, Minnesota. The interior project taking place during Great Lent was to adorn the arched wall above the iconostasis with an Icon of The Holy Face (The Holy Icon Not Made with Human Hands) along with angels flanking the image. This icon is traditionally found in the arched space before the sanctuary of the church for this reason:

One of the earliest and most characteristic Mandylion images in Eastern Christian iconographic programs is situated above the arched passageway in the sanctuary barrier. To the left is depicted the Virgin enthroned from the Annunciation scene. To the right, appears the representation of the prophet Isaiah, pointing to the Mandylion by a gesture of blessing and holding an open scroll originally inscribed with his famous prophesy (Is. 6:14) that Immanuel would be born of a virgin (fig. 1). That inscription gave a clue for the interpretation of the message: the Mandylion between the Virgin and Isaiah is depicted as a sign of the Incarnation, and a visual confirmation of God’s presence on earth. Another aspect of the concept is connected with the theory of icon veneration. In a statement of the Second Council of Nicaea, the icon is «the fulfillment of the prophetic reflection», an embodiment of Isaiah’s prophesy that «a virgin shall conceive in the womb and bring forth a son.

– from “Holy Face, Holy Script and Holy Gate,” by Alexei Lidov


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