Sophia is the Wisdom Icon, celebrated on December 17. The feast day is placed towards the end of Advent and dedicated to Sofia of the Sacred Wisdom. In the first centuries, the Church had a custom of praying seven great prayers calling on Christ to come. The mysterious titles used in Inspirational wisdom icons, and the theology in holy silence are found in the Isaiah. We hear O Wisdom. O Root! O Key O Light! come to us! On the last seven days of Advent, we exalt and praise the coming child.
Holy Silence is an angelic being who praises the wisdom of God, personified, in Jesus. The early Christian theologians looked to the old testament scripture for prophetic references to Jesus. The figure of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 and in the Wisdom of Solomon 7 inspired Holy Silence and Holy Wisdom iconography.
In the icon painting tradition, Sofia of the Sacred Wisdom.
We see Christ as the Messenger of Great Counsel/Wisdom — one of two times Jesus Christ is shown with wings. The angels face is often shown in red because He is filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
I like the idea, it reminds me of prayer with my eyes closed. When the sun’s light enters a room, I see the bright red color behind my eye lids.It is like to the face of Holy Wisdom Icons. Another detail; notice the angel’s feet are resting on a orb, like the Earth. It reminds me of the holy ground Moses was reminded of. Including small icon details like this contribute to the preservation of the spiritual language utilized in Iconography.
In classic iconography, as a narrative icon, the figure of Jesus is sometime seen extending his open arms just above the angel of wisdom. He is expressed in his fullness outside of himself as a manifestation of angelic inspiration and offers insight into divine being. His Divine wisdom affirms in us who we are in God. In larger narrative style icons, Mary and St. John the Baptist stand in authority on either side of Wisdom.
There is nothing insipid about Wisdom icons: this angel is forceful and attractive.
Wisdom sits on the seven pillars on which the universe is founded; she is dressed in vivid colors, full of energy and passion. The attention and praise that are given to her are channeled upwards to the figure of Christ, and from Him still farther up to the Father’s throne, where the angels echo earth’s praise.
She is represented as feminine. Jesus the Christ becomes a completely integrated person, both male, and female. St. Augustine talks about the “breasts of the Father” from which we are fed; Julian of Norwich describes Jesus as a mother pelican, tearing her own breast to feed her children; Jesus describes Himself as a mother hen; Hosea pictures God as a mother helping her infant with its first toddling, unsteady steps.
Modern icon painters paint versions of Sofia of the Sacred Wisdom
Here we see only her angelic being. As I painted this I was struck by the calm embrace of the angel to herself. I took time to stand in this position for an extended time to know what it felt like. I found my love of self, love for having been created and love for that divine spirit deep within. It is a powerful embrace. Sofia of the Sacred Wisdom is magnificent ancient iconography, with a powerful message for this age of fear and trembling.
We hold within us all of Christ’s silent offering, available and accessible at every moment. The stillness you see in the angel becomes your own stillness. We can behold all the majesty of being fully human in gratitude, as God witnesses of his greatest creation.
Mary Jane Miller is one of many contemporary icon painters who self-publishes books. Hers include Icon Painting Revealed, Embossing Metal, The Mary Collection, In Light of Women, and Life in Christ. Her next two workshops we will be painting this Inspirational Wisdom Icon,and reflecting on the Theology behind Holy Silence. The 5-day immersion workshops are offered throughout the US and Mexico. Website: https://sanmiguelicons.com/, http://sacrediconretreat.com/