1. This is so fascinating! I will re-read this many times. Photini is my patron saint and I am just awe-struck with the wealth of symbolism and truth in this story. Thank you very much for this in-depth piece.

    1. I am happy you could find some aspects of the story that you can ponder. We are often so used to Biblical stories that we often take them for granted and fail to see how profound and intricate they are behind their simplicity.

  2. Ryan

    I had read somewhere that the two men in the river in the Theophany icon represented the Jordan and the Red Sea, corresponding to the psalm verse: ‘What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?’

    1. Yes, you are of course right, but they are represented using the ancient iconology of minor river and see gods, riding sea monsters and carrying vases, sometimes staffs, see for example this ancient representation: http://www.maicar.com/GML/000Images/qrim/rivergods3405.jpg Some people do not want to represent these little creatures in the Theophany icon and in later icons you sometimes see them disappear, though hopefully in the context of what I have explained, it makes sense to represent the “waters” with ancient gods.

  3. Amazing. Are there other places in art you know of where the number six represents creation, or humanity? And what can you say about the devil’s number 666? Does this signify a created trinity of Satan, antichrist, and unholy spirit – in contrast to the uncreated Holy Trinity?

    1. Well, St-Basil’s commentary on Genesis is called the “Hexaemeron”, the six days. Often the hexagram is called the “star of creation” in Christianity though I don’t know the origin of this. As for the number 666, it is a very mysterious thing indeed. Just as 6 is a perfect number, 666 is also a perfect number in many ways. Just as saint-Augustine showed that 1+2+3=6, well if you add 1 through 36 (6×6=36) in the same manner, then you get 666 . There is a 6 x 6 “magic square” in which each row and column adds up to 111 and so comes to 666. In the Bible there is another place where 666 appears and it has to do with gold, it is the number of talents of gold taken in by Solomon every year. 666 in revelations has something to do with money as well. According to st-Irenaeus 666 is related to Rome. My opinion is that 666 has something to do with an excess of perfection, or an excess of self-sufficiency, of control where someone or some system believes itself to be “perfect”. So 666 is not so much the “number of a man” rather than the “number of man” in the manner in which man reached on his own to be the equivalent to God in the Garden. That is a sin of the right hand, a sin of excess of perfection. Of course it is also the sin of the Evil One and so it is the root of all blaspheming. So in our context, we could easily see modern civilization’s excess of perfection and control bringing arrogance and self-sufficiency and causing humans to reject God and blaspheme him. Of course these are just intuitions and thoughts, I’m pretty sure the full mystery of 666 will only be revealed in the end.

  4. Daniel

    This was a really great article! I like to use icons in our Sunday school lessons, so the next time we discuss baptism or the Samaritan Woman we will also have the well to spur conversation.

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