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Unexpected Joy Icon of the Mother of God (Cath-Orth caucus) ^

Posted on 11/06/2009 7:13:44 PM PST by annalex

Unexpected Joy Icon of the Mother of God

Unexpected Joy

Temple of the Holy Trinity in Listy

Unexpected Joy Icon of the Mother of God

The icon is written in commemoration of the following event: one sinner, as he was on his way to commit a sin, said a prayer for his success to the Mother of God. In response she, in anger, pointed at the immediately opened wounds on the hands and feet of the Divine Child sitting on her lap, and explained to the sinner that every time when someone falls into sin, the wounds begin to torment Christ. Fearful of the divine ire, the sinner prayed for forgiveness and began to lead righteous life. In the icon, the display structure where the image of the "Unexpected Joy" is hanging, and the repentant sinner in front of it.

Troparion to the icon of the Mother of God "Unexpected Joy", voice 4

Today the faithful people trumph in spirit as we give glory the zealous Defender of the Christian race, and as we run to her all-holy image we plead: o most-merciful Ruler Mother of God, give us the unexpected joy as we are burdened with many a sin and many a sorrow, and deliver us from all evil as we pray to Your Son Christ our God to save our souls.

[Translation: Annalex]

TOPICS: Catholic; Orthodox Christian; Prayer
KEYWORDS: bvm; iconography
I found this icon as I was looking to post some art fitting for the theme of forgiveness of sin in today's Latin Church readings. I ended up posting a different icon, but I decided to show this previously unknown to me Orthodox icon to our dear co-religionists.
1 posted on 11/06/2009 7:13:44 PM PST by annalex
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To: Salvation; NYer; Kolokotronis

Not my favorite style, but an amazing icon nevertheless.

If you have different executions of this fascinating iconographic type, please post.

2 posted on 11/06/2009 7:16:13 PM PST by annalex (
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To: annalex

19th century Ural Mountains

3 posted on 11/06/2009 8:05:14 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: annalex


4 posted on 11/07/2009 12:35:23 AM PST by GonzoII ("That they may be one...Father")
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To: Kolokotronis
Here's one, without attribution.

5 posted on 11/07/2009 11:02:39 AM PST by annalex (
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To: Kolokotronis
$4,275 on eBay: link
6 posted on 11/07/2009 11:04:57 AM PST by annalex (
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To: Kolokotronis; GonzoII

This looks the oldest, not only because of its condition but also judging by the style. Still, no date given (Source).

I wonder if it exists outside of Russia. This is the image search string in Russian: "Нечаянная Радость".

7 posted on 11/07/2009 11:38:45 AM PST by annalex (
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To: Kolokotronis; GonzoII
So, the question becomes, what was the sinner praying for? It is difficult to imagine a murderer, robber, or an adulterer to pray for the success of such evil enterprise. More likely, the sinful nature of his endeavor was not clear to him. Perhaps it was a business deal that relied on deceit, and he prayed that the defrauded partner wouldn't find out the truth. Or maybe it was some well-founded animosity toward someone who had hurt our sinner, and so his sin was to seek revenge. The sinner, I think, was only dimly aware of the sinfulness of his petition.

This is where we all come in, as we all pray for things such that our desire to have them grieves God. We should, therefore, pray for wisdom before other things.

King Solomon had this to say:

7 Wherefore I wished, and understanding was given me: and I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me: 8 And I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her. 9 Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone: for all gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand, and silver in respect to her shall be counted as clay. 10 I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light: for her light cannot be put out.

11 Now all good things came to me together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands, 12 And I rejoiced in all these: for this wisdom went before me, and I knew not that she was the mother of them all. (Wisdom 7)

The composition of the icon is effective because it puts us the faithfull sinners in the icon yet praying to the icon within the icon. The "outer" icon therefore is the Church herself. That is reinforced by the architectural elements so lovingly executed in the icon I posted first.

The lampade in front is, of course, what we commonly see in front of icons, but its presence in the photograph adds yet another, out-of-the-outer dimension to the complexity of the composition. This helps us discover that any Mother of God icon is an embedded composition as Our Lady encircles and presents the Christ in her arms to us.

We might remember another metaphor for the Holy Church in the Ladder of Divine Ascent icon, where the progress of the sinner is up to heaven. Here, thanks to the embedded nature of the composition, the progress in inward and toward the Divine Child.

8 posted on 11/07/2009 12:41:04 PM PST by annalex (
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To: annalex; GonzoII
Here is the explanation of the icon given by +Dimitri of Rostov:

"This sinner had the habit of praying each day to the Blessed Virgin, often repeating the Archangel’s greeting: “Rejoice, O Virgin full of grace!” Once, before routinely going out to sin, he turned to the holy image and fearfully saw the Holy Virgin standing live with Her Divine Son in Her arms. The Infant had wounds on His hands and feet, and blood was flowing from a wound in His side, just as it had been on the cross. The sinner fell to his knees and cried out: “O Mistress! Who did this?”

“You and other sinners. Over and over again you crucify My Son by your sins, just as the Jews had done,” – the Theotokos answered softly.

“Have mercy upon me,” – tearfully cried out the sinner.

“You call Me the Mother of mercy, yet you offend Me and bring Me sorrow by your deeds.”

“No, Mistress,” – the sinner cried out in fear. – May my malice not overcome Thy indescribable kindness and mercy! Thou alone art the hope and safe haven of all sinners! Have mercy upon me, O benevolent Mother! Entreat Thy Son and my Creator on my behalf.”

Seeing a soul being purified by repentance, the most blessed Mother began to entreat Her Son: “My benevolent Son! For the sake of My love have mercy upon this sinner.” But the Son replied to Her: “Do not be angry, My Mother, if I do not obey Thee. I, too, entreated My Father to have this cup of suffering pass Me by.”

Over and over the Mother of God entreated Her Son, reminding Him how She had nurtured Him at Her breast, how She had suffered at His cross. But the Lord would not bend down to mercy. Then the Mother of God arose, put Her Son down, and was ready to fall at His feet. “What dost Thou wish to do, Mother?!” – cried out the Son. “I shall remain, – She replied, – lying at Thy feet together with this sinner until Thou forgivest him his sins.” Then the Son said: “The law requires a son to venerate his mother, while justice demands that the giver of the law be himself obedient to the law. I am Thy Son, Thou art My Mother; I am obliged to do Thee homage by fulfilling Thy request. Let it be asThou wishest! His sins are now forgiven for Thy sake! And as a token of forgiveness, let him press his lips to My wounds."

The sinner arose, with trembling and joy kissed the most holy wounds of the Infant, and came to himself. When the vision ended, he felt within his heart both awe and joy. His soul exulted, streams of tears ran down his face. He kissed the icon, filled with gratitude for having found repentance and forgiveness, and prayed that he be granted the gift to always see his sins and repent of them. His life changed completely and remained God-pleasing to the end of his days."

The composition is certainly interesting since it is an icon within an icon. So far as I know, this is a distinctly Russian form of icon and not particularly uncommon. A modern example is this one of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Passionbearers:

9 posted on 11/07/2009 5:08:47 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis
His sins are now forgiven for Thy sake!

The essence of all authentic mariology. Thank you for St. Dmitri's explanation.

That the sinner had a habit of praying to Our Lady discloses another aspect of this icon: that a prayer said in an imperfect disposition of soul still has a purifying effect on it.

10 posted on 11/07/2009 7:41:18 PM PST by annalex (
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To: Kolokotronis
Embedded images, similar to how in Royal Martyrs icon you posted the Oranta is embedded, are used very often, especially when showing episodes from the life of a saint. The unusual aspect of the Unexpected Joy icon is that the embedded image is being prayed to from the embedding image, thus making the embeddedness a necessary element of the story being told.

Another example of that is Triumph of Orthodoxy type.

11 posted on 11/07/2009 8:01:55 PM PST by annalex (
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To: annalex
"Triumph of Orthodoxy type."

Of course! That's the one I couldn't think of yesterday!

Embedding an iconic image also shows special favor of the image, as that of Panagia shows a special relationship with the Royal Martyrs.

Here's another one with +Seraphim of Sarov praying to an icon of Panagia:

12 posted on 11/08/2009 4:28:26 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis
I have a small book, The Glenstal Book of Icons, where no other than St. Dmitri of Rostov is praying to the Mother of God on the cover. I very much recommend the book, especially for anyone interested in the dual perspectives of the two Churches.

The Glenstal Book of Icons
Praying with the Glenstal Icons
Gregory Collins, OSB

13 posted on 11/08/2009 7:52:22 AM PST by annalex (
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