Brandon's Notepad

January 2, 2015

January 2, 2015: Moltmann, Filioque, Penny Floor, UFOs

Filed under: My Stack — Brandon @ 6:41 pm
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Jürgen Moltmann & Filioque
A fellow whom I follow on Twitter recently mentioned that a man named Moltmann has suggested some changes to ‘The Creed’ (which I correctly assumed to be the Nicene Creed). I did a little research and he was referring to German Reformed theologian and professor Jürgen Moltmann, whose work is heavily influenced by social and political philosophy. Being very limited on reading time at the moment, I searched specifically for the aforementioned changes and found this post by PostBarthian, which details very neatly the insertion of a proposed clause into both the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. This clause gives some feel for the life and ministry of Jesus during his life on earth. As part of Sacred Tradition, both Creeds codify certain essential beliefs that, in the age of the first and greatest heresies, preserved the teachings of the Church for the instruction of the faithful. All of the points made in the proposed clause are simple and can easily be supported by Sacred Scripture — that is to say, none of them have been disputed in such a way that would lead to their inclusion in the Creeds from the start. What’s even more interesting to me, though, is that Moltmann strikes the Filioque phrase, that the Holy Ghost proceeded from both the Father and the Son. This is one (very important) dogmatic difference between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East.

The Penny Floor
Speaking of the East, when I think of Greece, Turkey or other places near the Mediterranean, I think of intricate and ornate tile work. And that, in turn, reminds me of something a coworker pinned on Pinterest recently about a couple who laid an entire floor with U.S. pennies. 59,670 pennies to be exact. Of course, they erected a website in honor of this novel idea, with project details, stats, and photos.

UFOs in Ancient Art
It is interesting how things tend to show up in threes. What does the theory that aliens visited the Earth in ancient times have to do with Eastern Orthodoxy, the Filioque, or Mediterranean art? Quite a lot, actually. I don’t watch a lot of TV (I don’t even pay for a subscription service), but I guess the History Channel has a show called Ancient Aliens that attempts to prove this theory through the examination of historical writings, artwork, etc. A site dedicated to debunking the claims made on the show explain here how strange objects painted in the skies over important scenes, such as the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, are not flying saucers at all, but depictions of the sun and the moon, or of God and the Heavenly Host of Angels. The symbolism of these pictures arise from Medieval and Byzantine Christianity. Watch the video embedded on that page, it is fascinating! One of my favorite parts of the video is about the Creation Globe, and how in one painting at least, it resembles the Russian satellite Sputnik. It really depicts how the world was created by the eternal Trinity…which kinda brings us back to the Filioque.

February 16, 2012


Home > My Research > Christianity > Iconography

The icons of Eastern Christianity are fascinating from both a religious and an artistic point of view. Far from idolatry, icons are used to draw Christians closer to the persons and events of the Bible, as well as to the good lives of the saints. This genre of art is dedicated to depicting Heaven. While the history of and theology behind iconography is interesting and important, this page focuses on the language of icons and the technical aspects of iconography.

There is a lot to know about icons. Much information is obscure, at least to the people of the West, as icons are not neary as popular as in the East and the most direct information is available in other languages, most notably Greek and Russian. This page began as a cursory study of iconography, and I hope to add more detail as time allows, but this information will never be comprehensive.

General Information

The following pages provide good general information about icons and related topics:


Christogram. A Christogram is an abbreviation for the name of Jesus. In Greek, this is depicted as “IC XC”, which stands for “IHCOYC XPICTOC”. These abbreviations use the first and last letters of the words and usually have a line above the combination (like a tilde character, “~”) that denotes that letters in between were omitted. More: Wikipedia


Halo. This is a familiar symbol representing a ring of light around the head of a person, usually a member of the Holy Trinity, a saint, an angel, or any other inhabitant of Heaven. The ring often circumscribes a cross when shown around the head of a member of the Trinity. In icons of Christ, the arms of this cross (usually only three are visible) contain the letters omicron (ο), omega (ω) & nu (Ν or ν), which means “one who exists” or more properly “I Am”. Greek iconographers order the letters clockwise, from left to right, whereas Russian and other Slavic iconographers place the omicron on the top and work downward, with the omega on the left. More: Wikipedia


The colors used in icons are also symbolic. Modern readers in the western world may associate purple with royalty, white with purity, black with death, blue with sorrow, green with ecological awareness, etc. More: Nazareth Studio, Nicusor Dumitru Byzantine Studio, Abp. Gregory

Gold. Gold backgrounds are used to represent the heavenly abode of saints and angels. It symbolizes divine light.
Red. In general, red symbolizes life, health, fire…things dynamic. It can also represent the Last Judgment.
Blue. In geneal, blue symbolizes the sky, things heavenly. Used in frescoes to represent Heaven instead of gold.
White. Life, purity.
Red & Blue. When used in this combination, red clothing denotes divinity and blue clothing denotes humanity. Order matters. Jesus is often shown in a red tunic and blue robe, symbolizing how the divine being took on human flesh. in contrast, Mary is often shown in a blue robe and head-covering draped by a red one, an expression of a human divinely graced.
Red & White. I have seen at least one reference to this combination to express purity (white) through washing in the blood of Christ (red). This meaning may be of Western origin.
Orange. Purification, as with fire.
Purple. Royalty, nobility, wealth, the preisthood, etc. See Daniel 5:29 & Luke 16:19.
Green. Life and fertility. Used in the clothing of the martyrs and prophets and in scenes of life, such as the nativity.
Brown. Humilty (as in dirt) and asceticism.
Green & Brown. These colors also represent the earth or ground. Saints and others are depicted as standing on grass or dirt.
Black. Absence or (more symbolically) absorbtion of light. Thus, absence of life or purity.
Yellow Sadness. Also, leprosy (see Lev. 13:29-37).

Types & Patterns

Icons are part of our Sacred Tradition. Since they depict events from the Bible and the lives of he saints, the details of the pictures are preserved with great diligence, so as not to change what they represent. When painting a new icon of a particular person or event, the iconographer should study earlier copies of the same icon and faithfully reproduce the details. To assist in this, pattern books are availible. Today, it is possible to search for graphic images of an icon by name in any popular search engine and instantly receive a large sample of pictures to compare and contrast. I’ve also seen these refered to as “Types”.

Many line drawings of icons that can be used as patterns can be found online:

Icons of Christ

Pantocrator. Despite what many websites claim, “pantocrator” does not translate directly as “almighty”, but is Greek for “ruler (-crat) of all (pan-)”. It is a frontal view of Jesus, often showing only the head and torso, but may also be a full-length view of the Lord sitting on a throne. He is dressed in a red tunic (divinity) enrobed in blue (humanity). The robe covers left side completely and in his left hand he holds a book (the Gospels). The book is almost always closed (See “The Teacher” below). In some icons (mainly Russian, I think), the left hand is veiled by the robe as well (this reminds me of the way a priest uses a humeral veil to cover his hands when holding a sacred vessel such as a monstrance). On the right, the robe covers only the shoulder (and sometimes the elbow) and his right hand is extended in a customary eastern blessing (sometimes with the raised pinky, ICXC-style). The tunic on the exposed side usually has a golden edge that runs down from the shoulder; however, this looks more like a sash in many icons. There is always a halo, almost never without an inscribed cross, and almost always bearing the Greek “I Am” as described above. The other text on the icon varies. The Greek Christogram IC XC (“Jesus Christ”) is found most often, split with his head between the abbreviated words. Other variants “Jesus/Christ” or “Panto/Crator” split by the image as indicated by the slash mark, and presented in Greek, Russian, English, etc. Some examples show an Alpha on the left and an Omega on the right. More: Wikipedia, Orthodox Wiki,

The Teacher. Christ the Teacher is almost identical to Christ the Pantocrator, except the book is almost universally open. In fact, that may be the distinguishing difference between them and a minority of the examples found online could be mislabelled. More:

The Good Shepherd.

Icon Made Without Hands.

Icons of Mary

Theotokos. More to come…

Icons of Other Saints

Saint Nicholas. More to come…

Icons of Angels

Saint Micheal. More to come…
Gabriel. More to come…
Rafael. More to come…
Guardian Angels. More to come…

Icons of Biblical Events

Nativity. More to come…
Baptism of the Lord. More to come…
Transfiguration. More to come…
Last Supper. More to come…
Crucifixion. More to come…
Descent into Hades. More to come…
Resurrection. More to come…
Ascension. More to come…
Hositality of Abraham. More to come…


Here is a list of stores I’ve found while doing my research. I’ve not purchased from any of them, but thought the list may be handy someday.


How to Paint an Icon — Learn Byzantine Iconography (Squidoo)
Technique: Preparation, Transfiguration, Finishing (Icon Arts)
The Technique of the Iconography… (Moscow Icon-Painting Center)


Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi, E. N. Trubektlskofi, 1973, ISBN-10: 0913836095

Uncategorized Links (now only available on Wayback Machine)

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