Last night, unable to sleep, I picked up a copy of Christian Mysticism, East and West. I opened a chapter called Spirituality and the Arts. The two are intertwined. The author, Dr. Maria Joudi, PhD., says “In the Christian West, the tapestry of sacred music is a path leading to a deepening, ongoing relationship with the presence of God. In the Byzantine East, the golden, ponderous tradition of iconography, like the famous Vladimir Madonna, gazes contemplatiely with a bittersweet expression, fearlessly facing life’s tragic crucifixions, and paradoxically, the Christ child in her arms, a mother’s greatest joy.”
I love sacred music, and I always enjoy the music program in Sunday worship at First Christian Church in Ashland where I am a member–the prelude, the bells, the choir, the solos, the congregational hymns are very fine. I enjoy, too, when I go to other churches and am able to join in the hymn singing–it gives me a sense of connectedness with other people. I once worshipped in an Anglican church in Rye, and immediately felt at home, and felt such power joining in the prayers for the church, the local community, and the world. Certainly it was a good way to spend an hour.
I wanted to know more about the Vladimir Madonna because this painting is one of the most venerated icons of the theotokos (which is Greek for Virgin Mary, literally meaning “Birth-giver of God.”) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theotokos_of_Vladimir
Icons can be used for meditative purposes by sitting quietly in front of one, with perhaps a candle nearby: gaze at the image, seeking God’s presence, God’s word. Be still. Wait. Spend twenty minutes. What insights arise? What thoughts? What emotions? How do you view the Mother of God?
The Theotokos of Vladimir (Greek: Θεοτόκος του Βλαντιμίρ), also known as Our Lady of Vladimir or Virgin of Vladimir (Russian: Владимирская Икона Божией Матери) and “The Vladimir Madonna” – is one of the most venerated Orthodox icons and a typical example of Eleusa Byzantine iconography. The Theotokos (Greek word for Virgin Mary, literally meaning “Birth-Giver of God”) is regarded as the holy protectress of Russia. The icon is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Her feast day is June 3. Even more than most famous icons, the original has been copied repeatedly for centuries. Many copies now have considerable artistic and religious significance of their own. The icon is a version of the Eleusa (tenderness) type, with the Christ child snuggling up to his mother’s cheek.