Sunday, December 13, 2015
Saint Michael Underdrawing
As most Eastern Christians worth their salt know, there's a certain iconography store that's only slightly on the heretical side of things. What's a little heresy now and again, right? We all know who they are and we'll keep it that way for the moment. Suffice it to say none of us buy from them, I'm hoping.
I'll confess to really liking their St. Michael the Archangel icon.
The whole St. Michael stabbing the dragon in the throat really appeals to my inner nerd, so when this comissioner asked for an icon of St. Michael I couldn't help myself, but suggested something similar to that heretical writer's icon. After all, there's nothing in his concepts that are overtly heretical, and as a good Christian it's my job to steal back from the pagans, right?
As I started on this underdrawing, I realized that a very important spiritual truth about St. Michael doesn't come up terribly often: the argument over Moses's body chronicled by Jude. In it, St. Michael is about to take up Moses's body to heaven when Satan comes to claim the body. St. Michael's response was "The Lord rebuke you!". The archangel of the heavenly hosts, the most macho being in the whole universe, did not overcome Satan by his own strength, but by invoking God against Satan and just being the channel that God acted through. As Christians it is our God-given vocation to combat the demonic. Most of the world has forgotten about Satan's existence, and we need to be on our game now more than ever. But in order to defeat Satan we must surrender to God first. This is why I changed the icon the way I did. Satan is no longer a dragon, but a black serpent without form and detail and life and all the things that you'd expect of something good. Satan has lost his form. Michael, instead of holding a shield, is holding a scroll that says "The Lord rebuke you, Satan!" The hand that clasps the spear is blessed by God from the glory of the Lord, creating a dynamic and wholesome scene. It's not anything I've ever found in my search through the iconographic tradition, but it comes from Tradition itself. And that's what an icon should do: put Tradition in full color.