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The original of this print was 200x 245 mm using acrylic and oil on wood. It is based on an early fourteenth century Byzantine icon now found in the Ohrid Icon Gallery, Yugoslavia. It depicts the story from Luke 1:26ff:

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus..."How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. ..."I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

In the icon we see Mary dropping her hand-work (traditionally thread for making the veil in the Temple), turning towards the angel and holding out the "open hand of abandonment" to accept Gabriel’s message which she listens to with care. Above her she receives the anointing from God. The Greek lettering at the top identify the icon as "The Annunciation"; The letters above the Angel name him, "Archangel Gabriel", and the symbols on the building each side of Mary, name her "Mother of God"

 

Christ Pantocrator

 

The first images of Christ date from the third century and were found in the catacombs in Rome, Fifth century mosaics at Ravenna depict him as a beardless Apollo-like youth, although others show him with a beard. From the sixth century onwards he is always shown bearded and with the same features, as majestic and solemn Pantocrator (the Almighty). He wears Greek clothing and holds a jewelled book either open or closed against his chest, whilst blessing with his right hand, his fingers forming the Greek letters of his name: IC XC (Jesus Christ) which also appear above his shoulders. The lettering in the halo of Jesus identify Him as "I AM" , a title St John uses often in his Gospel and the sacred name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14

The text displayed varies, here calling all who follow Him to abide in His love; the same love that the Father has for Him; and He for His disciples.

This icon was painted in acrylics on gold foil background November 1996

Hildegard was one of the notable saints in an era that has been called the greatest Christian Renaissance and she shared the twelve century with people like Thomas a Becket, Frederick Barbarossa, Bernard of Clairvaux .

Hildegard was born in 1098 in Bingen, the youngest of ten children. She was educated at a Benedictine Monastery which she later joined when she turned 18. At the age of 42 years she had her first vision which became a turning point in her religious life, and from that time on she began to write her Scivias (Know the Ways) and soon she was to come to the attention of the Pope, and Bernard of Clairvaux. Her strength of character, her ability to lead her Monastery well, her writings, paintings and music all resulted in her becoming a striking force during this age of Church History that now celebrates her as a Mystic and Prophet.

In this icon is taken after one of her own self portraits, she sits at her desk listening attentively to the inner mystical source that inspired her art, her writings and her music.

The early Fathers of the Church saw the incident described in Genesis 18 as a foreshadowing of the later revelation of the Holy Trinity. The Lord appears to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, and Abraham sees three men to whom he gives hospitality. The ‘Hospitality of Abraham’ is seen as a meeting of God and Abraham, and by the late fourth century the theme is found in wall paintings and soon becomes a common theme in Christian Art.

For about a thousand years the visual representation of this theme included the three visitors shown as winged beings to represent their heavenly nature, the figures of Abraham and Sarah, the table, the oak of Mamre, the home of Abraham and Sarah, and sometimes a servant killing a calf, and other illustrative details. In the early 15th Century Andrei Rublev, a monk in a monastery of the Holy Trinity some miles north of Moscow, painted the now world famous icon of the Holy Trinity, now exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. In this icon Rublev drastically reduced the traditional details and concentrated on the figures of the three angels.. The home of Abraham and Sarah and the oak of Mamre are reduces to symbols alongside the distorted mountain peak, and the focus of attention is the three angels grouped around the table, with the chalice of sacrifice in the centre. Rublev’s whole composition is assembled around an unseen circle - the shape of the mandorla often used to represent the divine source of the particular revelation given in the icons of the Transfiguration, the Harrowing of Hell, and the Dormition of the Virgin. Unity and diversity are held together in Rublev’s composition, representing the perfection of the communion and mutual love of each Person of the Trinity, and mutual involvement of each Person in the Trinity in the work of Revelation and redemption..

The icon reproduced here belongs to the tradition that was shaped by Rublev’s great work,

One day when Francis was making a trip he came to a place near Bevagna where there were a great number of birds of various kinds...when he saw them, he ran eagerly towards the birds. When he was close enough to them he greeted them in his usual way and begged them to listen to the word of God..."My brothers, birds, you should praise your Creator very much and always love him; he gave you feathers to clothe you, wings so that you can fly, and whatever else was necessary for you. God mad you noble among his creatures and gave you a home in the purity of the air; though you neither sow nor reap, he nevertheless protects and governs you without any solicitude on your part. Francis finally blessed there with the sign of the cross and gave them permission to fly away to some other place. ( Celano, First Life of St Francis Chapter XXI)

In this rendering of this episode in St Francis’ life we see him holding out his hand to received the hovering bird, a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit which dominated and directed his life and love of Jesus. Below are three symbolic flowers, symbols of the resurrected life that flourished around Francis’ desire to know Christ Jesus and serve him totally.

Acrylic on wood. December, 1997.

The scene depicted here is a reproduction of a detail from a Francis panel by Bonaventura Berlinghieri (1235-1274) in the church of San Francesco at Pescia. The panel is numbered among the earliest representations of Francis and his life.

Bartholomew of Narni, paralysed for years, said he was visited by Francis in a dream and told to wash in a certain public bath. When he did, he felt Francis bathe his legs, which were immediately healed.

This reproduction was painted in acrylic wash and ink (218x292mm)

November 1996.

These three praying saints from the orthodox tradition stand in prayer, the traditional posture for prayer and one referred to in Psalm 134:

0 come bless the Lord, all you who serve the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord through the night.

Their right hands are held open - the symbol of abandonment of self. Across this hand are draped the Prayer beads they would use to repeat the prayer:

"Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, Have mercy on me a sinner"

Their left hands tare closed around the Cross - the symbol of a salvation and of the one who would seek to follow Christ. As they have let go of all to follow Christ, they cling to nothing but Him alone.

Below are seven symbolic white flowers. Seven is a symbol of perfection, and the flower a symbol of the new life of the resurrection that will illuminate the pathway to wholeness and "perfection".

The saints are unnamed - they are members of "All Saints" and call us to follow their way of life.

November, 1997.

Now that same day two disciples were going to a village called Emmaus…As they talked and discussed … Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast… ‘ Luke 24:13-16.

The timeless nature of this Easter story is captured in a rural Canterbury setting. The risen Christ meets two travellers on the road sharing his truth and grace. He raises his right hand in blessing, his fingers forming the Greek letters ICXC that pronounce his name, while carrying the scroll of the gospel in his left. The travellers do not perceive his presence, but creation responds with eager expectation (Romans 8:19) as shown by the fern fonds - symbols of new life – which unfold along the path, and silently invite the viewer to also unfold to the moments of hope and grace that are encountered in the course of daily life, sometimes being so close that they are missed in the business or mundaneness of living. The cabbage tree, known as the "resurrection tree" because of its ability to regrow from a cut down stump, balances the darkness of the cave – a symbol of a persons inner undeveloped potential. In the background three rivers stream from the snow caped Torlesse range irrigating the plains while the peaks lift the eye to the ascended Christ, who is enthroned in glory in the dome of heaven, but always near, embracing all of life within his presence.

The original icon (80x60cm) from which this print comes follows the Stroganov Tradition and was written by Phil Dyer in acrylic for the Church of the Holy Trinity, Avonside, Christchurch on the occasion of their patronal festival, 2002.

 

 

Kotuku

(White heron or egret, Egretta alba )

The kotuku is a bird which, in Maori culture, symbolises all things beautiful and rare. The saying 'He Kotuku rerenga tahi' refers to the white heron as a bird of single flight - a sight seen perhaps only once in a lifetime.

It is also said that the Kotuku is the Spirit Messenger.

Phil Dyer

March, 2005