Windows to Heaven

At Theology on Tap on November 28, 2011, Jaroslav Skira, professor of Eastern Christianity at Regis College, discussed icons of Christ and the Theotokos (Mother of Christ). Professor Skira described icons as the illustrated continuation of holy scriptures. They are windows to heaven that communicate holiness and the light of grace. The light from icons is comparable to the light that flowed from Jesus in the Transfiguration. In icons, Jesus and Mary are often written with large eyes, which provides an important point of contact with the reader. Heads are large, representing contemplation, and mouths are small, representing silence. Professor Skira showed two examples of icons of the Theotokos (Mother of Christ). The first was Hodigitria (She Who Shows the Way) in which Mary was written in a serious, peaceful, and contemplative way. Three stars (one on the head and one on each shoulder) represented Mary's virginity. The second icon was the Eleousa (Lovingkindness / Mercy) that showed Mary holding the infant Jesus closely. Artists throughout the centuries have written icons based on these themes.

Professor Skira also showed a complex representation of the nativity scene and explained some of the symbols. In the example, the infant Jesus was shown in a coffin-like manger, which represented the triumph of life over death.

Overall, Professor Skira gave the audience a new sense of appreciation for icons and an ability to read and understand the symbolism contained within them.

For more information and to view examples of icons with discussion, visit http://individual.utoronto.ca/jskira

By a Theology on Tap Volunteer