Admittedly we waited to post this entry so that Rev. Fr Leslie's sermon on St Gerasimos's scroll could be right at the top while we celebrated his feast day last Monday with Vespers and Tuesday (20/10) with Divine Liturgy, with bishop Seraphim in attendance. Xronia Polla!
In a recent sermon on the 7th Ecumenical Council (Sunday 11/10/09), Fr Leslie spoke about icons and one in particular that has always brought a lot of confusion. Even when explained before, it seems to not sink in...just flying overhead.
Can we depict God Th e Father? The answer has always been no. Yet why is there an icon with a throned Jesus Christ and an elderly man beside him? If it isn't God the Father, then who could it be?
His identity is in fact of the Ancient of The Days (Old Testament - Daniel 7). You might ask: what is the 'Ancient of the Days'?
It is in fact Jesus Christ. The Fathers make it clear in the Vespers service of the meeting of the Lord (February 2nd):
"The Ancient of Days, who in times past gave Moses the Law of Sinai, appears this day as a babe. As Maker of the Law He fulfills the Law, and according to the Law He is brought into the temple and given over to the Elder. Simeon the righteous receives Him, and beholding the fulfillment of the divine ordinance now brought to pass, rejoicing he cries aloud: 'Mine eyes have seen the mystery hidden from the ages, made manifest in these latter days, the Light that disperses the dark folly of the Gentiles without faith and the Glory of the newly-chosen Israel. Therefore let Thy servant depart from the bonds of this flesh to the life filled with wonder that knows neither age nor end, O Thou who grantest the world great mercy."
"The Ancient of Days, a young child in the flesh, was brought to the temple by His Mother the Virgin, fulfilling the ordinance of His own Law. Receiving Him, Simeon said: 'Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, O Lord."
Other proofs are in the comparisons of Old Testament to New Testament as follows:
Daniel says the Ancient of Days is "coming with the clouds."
Christ says He is "coming on the clouds with great power and glory." (Mt. 24:30)
Daniel says the Ancient of Days comes to "utterly destroy the dominion of the beast who will wear out the saints and prevail against them."
Christ says He is "cutting short the days and coming for the sake of the elect or no flesh would be saved." (Mt.24:22)
Daniel says the Ancient of Days presides at the judgment.
Christ says, "the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son." (Jn.5:22)
Daniel says, the "wild beast was slain and given to the fire" by the Ancient of Days.
St. Paul says Christ "will slay the lawless one with the breath of His mouth," (2Thes.2:8) and raise him up and the false prophet, and "cast them alive into the lake of fire to be tormented with Satan day and night forever and ever." (Rev.19:20; 20:l0)
Daniel says, "thousands of thousands ministered to Him [Ancient of Days], and ten thousands of myriads attended upon Him."
St. John says (referring to the worship of the lamb, Christ), "and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain..." (Rev.5:ll, 12)
Christ Jesus is depicted in many forms: Pantokrator, Good Shepherd, High Priest, to name a few. Jesus Christ as the Ancient Of The Days is another one to add to this list.
So why is he depicted like this? Daniel saw him this way. The white hair is a traditional symbol of venerability, showing us he is the Lord - the Alpha and Omega, not aged but ageless (Rev 22.13). Fr Stephen Ritter writes: "Alpha because He is from before the ages and before all time, and Omega because His Second Coming will mean the end of the seventh day, the end of time, and the dawning of the eternal Eighth Day.
You will see the same nimbus (halo) and inscription (IC XC) as you would on any image of Christ. This is because the two are one and the same, and should be designated as such. The Ancient of Days, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was the sole divine person to appear to anyone at anytime in the Old Testament, is also the one who is worshiped forever in heaven."
We hope that this helps everyone who has been a bit confused regarding the depiction of this icon...or maybe this has brought forth a new icon that some have yet to see.