Icons, the sacred images of our faith, are not meant to be realistic portraits of people or events. Instead, they are referred to as “windows into heaven,” which allow us to catch a glimpse of the material world in a spiritual light. For the iconographer, the ultimate message of his work is far more importantly than even its historical accuracy.
Such is the case with the icon on this morning’s Church Bulletin. ST. SISOES THE GREAT is depicted here. This 4th century saint lived a monastic life in the deserts of Egypt for over sixty years. He was described as being a “fountain of living wisdom,” and people from all walks of life would journey great distances to receive both his advice and blessing. When asked once about the method for acquiring humility, he responded with these profound words: “WHEN YOU LEARN TO REGARD EVERYONE AS BETTER THAN YOU. YOU, YOU WILL HAVE ACQUIRED HUMILITY.”
Our icon shows Sisoes staring into the open casket of Alexander the Great. While the possibility of this actually occurring is highly unlikely, the iconographer makes a powerful point with this frightening scene. Alexander the Great was the mightiest conqueror of his time and a symbol of glory for the ancient Greeks. But the pleasures of the flesh, as evidenced by the ruler’s decaying bones, are only temporary in nature. The GLORY OF THE SPIRIT, as seen in the towering figure of Sisoes, is EVERLASTING. Who then, really deserves to have the term “great” associated with his name?
The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ