Monday, July 1, 2019

The Glykophilousa Icon and Aim of Our Life, Theosis.

My soul clings closely behind You, Your right hand upheld me. (Psalm 63:8)
This phrase shows that there are two things necessary if we are to find union with God, says Elder Aimilianos. “The exercise of our free will, which is expressed in the first part of this verse, and divine grace, which is expressed in the second.

The image of this union we seek as Orthodox Christians is most vividly seen in the icon know as the Glykophilousa. 

This icon like the “Portaitissa” is one of the icons saved from the Iconoclastic Controversy and brought miraculously to Athos. It was the property of Victoria, the devout wife of the eikonomachos senator Symeon, who, to avoid having to hand it over, threw it into the sea. The icon, floating upright on the waves, reached the dock of the Monastery of Philotheou, where it was received with great honor and rejoicing by the Abbot and fathers of the Monastery, who had been warned of its advent by a revelation of the Theotokos.

In this image we see the Theotokos holding the Christ child so tenderly and yet so firmly in and embrace. Their mutual love is obvious. It appears as if their bodies merge and form a union of one body. With their cheeks pressed together they have like one face and project a single person. This, says Elder Aimilianos, “is the exercise of free will.” When we are free of passion and join our will with His, we become free and joined as one with Him. We embrace Him with the same tenderness and firmness shown in this icon out of our boundless love for Him. He then merges with us and we become like one person.

The Psalm is showing us that David’s “inner disposition is simple, namely, not to be separated from God.” To Hold God in a loving embrace as seen in this icon. The last part of the verse shows that our ability to have this union comes from God. It is by our free will working in synergy with His and His Grace, brings the desired joy found in union with Him.

We can use this image to remind us of the aim of our life, to be united with Christ in love. 

Saint Athanasios of Alexander says commenting on this verse,
Not even for a moment, my God, can my spirit be separated from You, for I am afire with ardent love, and as if my mind were a mass of glue, I adhere to You in desire.”

Reference: Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp15-16.

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

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