Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Icon of Pentecost


What I like best about this icon is how it depicts the relationship between earthly knowledge and spiritual knowledge, or between mere knowledge and Wisdom.

The king in the middle represents the world, crowned with human knowlege. The scrolls he is holding represent various branches of human learning, such as medicine or astronomy or mathematics. Or theology, which in and of itself is also a wordly discipline. (That's right; it is not the subject matter that determines whether wisdom is worldly or spiritual. Even the study of the Bible can be worldly, and most often is.)

Notice the figure is a king; he is sumptuously robed and there is a crown on his head. This is because we Christians do revere learning. We do not disparage worldly education or try to restrict the use of the human intellect.

But this king's crown is of gold and jewels, while the Apostles are being crowned with fire. This king's wisdom is purely of this world; that of the Apostles is divine, sent by the King of Heaven. While the uneducated fishermen are being enlightened, this learned king is standing in a realm of darkness.