While I grew up in a Christian family, I did not grow up in an “orthodox” church, nor in the Catholic church. As a result, my knowledge of icons and iconography is very, very limited (one could say that up until about 2 weekends ago, it was really non-existent!) But when we attended the Greek Festival here in Cumming, Georgia, we took time to drop in and visit the Greek Orthodox church upon whose grounds the festival was conducted. There was a very nice parishioner there who spent some time with us showing us around the church and explaining some of the icons and art that was hanging on the walls and in the front of the sanctuary. Today I’m going to share two pictures with you and explain one of the things that he told us that I never knew before. (I apologize for the quality of these pictures as it was a bit on the dark side and I was forced to hand-hold the camera, and as if that weren’t bad enough, the images were behind glass and there’s a glare over the surface of the images. The poor quality, however, will not really interfere with the point I’m trying to make today.)
Here’s the first picture, a picture of Jesus:
Here’s the second picture, a picture of Mary:
Look at the two images closely. There is an intriguing contrast in something between the two pictures. Do you see it?
In the picture of Jesus, what color is his inner and outer robes? Yep, red on the inside and blue on the outside. What about the picture of Mary? Blue on the inside and red on the outside. This is not just coincidence. This has a meaning to the Orthodox.
Red, as it was explained to us, is the color of divinity. The red on the inside robe of Jesus indicates his divine nature. The color blue to them represents humanity. So Jesus was divine in nature, but put on the “cloak” of humanity.
Mary, on the other hand, has the blue robe on the inside (showing her own human nature) but the red robe on the outside (indicating that she was taking on the heavenly nature).
Pretty cool, eh? But maybe you already knew that….
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: it was in 1901 on this day that President William McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was executed in the electric chair at Auburn Prison in New York. Czolgosz had shot McKinley on September 6, 1901; the president succumbed to his wounds eight days later.
McKinley was shaking hands in a long reception line at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York, when a 28-year-old anarchist named Leon Czolgosz approached him with a gun concealed in a handkerchief in his right hand. McKinley, perhaps assuming the handkerchief was an attempt by Czolgosz to hide a physical defect, kindly reached for the man’s left hand to shake. Czolgosz moved in close to the president and fired two shots into McKinley’s chest. The president reportedly rose slightly on his toes before collapsing forward, saying “be careful how you tell my wife.” Czolgosz was attempting to fire a third bullet into the stricken president when aides wrestled him to the ground.
McKinley suffered one superficial wound to the sternum and another bullet dangerously entered his abdomen. He was rushed into surgery and seemed to be on the mend by September 12. Later that day, however, the president’s condition worsened rapidly and, on September 14, McKinley died from gangrene that had remained undetected in the internal wound. According to witnesses, McKinley’s last words were those of the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.” Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president immediately following McKinley’s death.
Czolgosz, a Polish immigrant, grew up in Detroit and had worked as a child laborer in a steel mill. As a young adult, he gravitated toward socialist and anarchist ideology. He claimed to have killed McKinley because the president was the head of what Czolgosz thought was a corrupt government. The unrepentant killer’s last words were “I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people—the working people.” His electrocution was allegedly filmed by Thomas Edison.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: There have been four major global flu pandemics since 1900. The most recent pandemic is the current swine flu (officially named “Novel H1N1 Influenza A”). The last global pandemic was the Hong Kong flu (1968-1969) which killed approximately one million people. The Asian flu pandemic (1957-1958) originated in China and is estimated to have killed between one and four million people. The Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1919) killed between 50-100 million people worldwide.