On the Second Day of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, we celebrate the Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God. It was on this day, 26 December, 2015/8 January, 2016, that Archpriest Vladimir Vilgerts, after Divine Liturgy, blessed the mosaic icon of the Most Holy Mother of God which has been installed above the west door on the exterior wall. It measures 92.5 cm x 73.5 cm.
The icon is that of the Most Holy Mother of God ‘of the Sign.’ The principal feast of the Icon of the Mother of God ‘of the Sign’ is observed on 27th November. The icon depicts the Most Holy Mother of God with her hands raised in prayer. Depicted upon a round shield or sphere, upon her breast, is the Divine Infant – the Saviour -Emmanuel – in an attitude of blessing. Such a representation is of a type manifested in the very earliest iconographic depictions of the Theotokos. This image dates to the fourth century. Moreover, there is a well-known sixth century icon of the Theotokos, known as the ‘Nikopeia’ icon, in which the Most Holy Theotokos is depicted, seated on a throne, and holding before her in both hands an oval shield bearing the image of the Saviour-Emmanuel. Icons of the Mother of God known by the name of the ‘Sign’ appeared in Russia during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and took on that name after the miraculous sign given by the Novgorod icon in the year 1170.
The icon is also associated with the prophecy of Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
The design of the newly installed icon is similar to an icon from the Chora Monastery (Kariye Camii) in Constantinople. This is a mosaic on the dome of the inner narthex of the Church. It is in the Palaeologian Renaissance style and dates back to the 12th century AD. The Theotokos is dressed in blue as was customary in early depictions of the Theotokos. Christ is clothed in a brilliant golden and silver garment to signify His glory and divinity. He is the Light of the world; hence, He is clothed in very bright coloured garments. He is holding a scroll symbolising His teachings.
The gold in our mosaic is genuine Venetian gold glass, especially made for mosaics, and so is the silver in Christ’s garments. Real gold or silver leaf is embedded between two layers of glass. The mosaic glass is both weatherproof and fade-proof.
The Cathedral Clergy, Church Council, and Trustees express grateful thanks to the mosaic artist, Eirini Batham; to the icon painter, Anna Zdanovich, who selected the design and managed the project; and to Andrei Borisas for his expert help in placing the mosaic in the west wall.