Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Icons and the Song of Solomon


I found two beautiful pictures of frescos from the Monastery of St. John Makrinou, Megara (Greece). I've never seen any equivalents yet. From what I can tell, they are depictions of verses from the Song of Solomon in the Old Testement. They are obviously depicting Christ in the icons, so they are interpreting the beautiful poetry of the Song as "eros" for Jesus Christ. They aren't very high resolution, so I can only pick out some of the verses, but here is what I can determine below (along with my amateur translation and rearrangement, after consulting with http://sepd.biblos.com/songs/8.htm and http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/Bible/Song_of_Solomon.html).
Note: thanks to Pigi Zois for the images (specifically: http://www.pigizois.net/ieres_mones/i_m_ag_ioanou/i_m_ag_ioanni_megara.htm)
Quotes gleaned from the first icon (from the Song of Solomon):
-(Song of Solomon 8:6-7) κραταιὰ ὡς θάνατος ἀγάπη...περίπτερα αὐτῆς φλόγες πυρός; ὕδωρ πολὺ οὐ δυνήσεται σβέσαι τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ ποταμοὶ οὐ συγκλύσουσιν αὐτήν

love is strong as death...its coals are flames of fire; Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.

-(5:10) ἀδελφιδός μου λευκὸς καὶ πυρρός

My beloved is white and ruddy

-(4:12) κῆπος κεκλεισμένος ἀδελφή μου νύμφη πηγὴ ἐσφραγισμένη

A garden inclosed is my sister, my bride; a fountain sealed

-(2:16) ἀδελφιδός μου ἐμοί κἀγὼ αὐτῷ ὁ ποιμαίνων ἐν τοῖς κρίνοις

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.

Quotes gleaned from the second icon (from the Song of Solomon):
-(Song of Solomon 7:12) ὀρθρίσωμεν εἰς ἀμπελῶνας
Let us get up early to the vineyards

-(7:6) τί ὡραιώθης καὶ τί ἡδύνθης ἀγάπη ἐν τρυφαῖς σου!
How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!
-(2:8) μου ἰδοὺ οὗτος ἥκει πηδῶν ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη διαλλόμενος ἐπὶ τοὺς βουνούς
He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills
-(2:2) ἀκανθῶν οὕτως ἡ πλησίον μου
my love is as thorns [This seems to be bridging two different phrases and I'm going to guess the meaning that the iconographer is implying is different than the translation given in the link above. However, it makes sense as it is possibly referring to Christ's love as a two-edged sword.]
-(2:5) στοιβάσατέ με ἐν μήλοις ὅτι τετρωμένη ἀγάπης ἐγώ
comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
-(2:9) ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀδελφιδός μου τῇ δορκάδι ἢ νεβρῷ ἐλάφων
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart.
What a beautiful expression of the person of Christ and His Love for us, and the love that the righteous show Him in return! May God have mercy on us, so that before our end we might be able to offer an infinitesimally small sign of our love to Christ! Amen!

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