Gallery Icon of Saint Nadezhda

5. september 2020

Description of the icon:

The icon depicts St. Nadezhda (from Russian Nadezhda "Hадежда"), or "Hope". Christians of the Eastern Rite know her especially from the depiction where she is with two sisters – Viera (Faith), Ljuba (Love) and her mother Sophia, who was a widow before her daughters managed to grow up. All four lived and suffered in Rome during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, during the cruel persecution of Christians (117-138 AD). Finally, when Sophia and the children were brought before the monarch, Viera was twelve years old, Nadezhda was ten and Ljuba was only nine. However, despite their young age, although under threat of death, they fearlessly professed their faith in the one God and in Jesus Christ. One by one, they tortured them with unspeakable torture, beating them, cutting them, burning them with fire, until they finally cut them with a sword. When the tyrants left three dead bodies at dusk, Sophia humbly took them out of town and buried them with respect. For three days and three nights she prayed earnestly over the graves. On the third morning, the Lord looked upon her affliction and had mercy on her. He called her to his abode in the paradise, where the blissful and glorified souls of her three holy daughters were already waiting for her, beautiful and radiant with the light of the stars of heaven.

Holy men and women, who came from the ranks of the early Christians and laid down their lives for the faith, were later appreciated in hymns and iconography. In the 2nd century, Church Father Tertullian wrote that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," because already during his earthly ministry, Christ foretold the suffering of those who remained faithful to him: “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13: 11-13).

On the icon we see Sophia's middle daughter Nadezhda standing alone under a clear sky in the middle of unspoiled nature talking to Christ. Youth and immaculate beauty combine in her clean face, surrounded by a supernatural charm. She is praying. This is pointed out by her outstretched hands and palms facing the heavens. From there, Christ blesses her with two fingers, emphasizing that He is forever God and man, because although He was Lord from the beginning, He descended to earth out of love for humanity. The glowing halo around the girl’s head bears a golden reflection, which also stands out against the background of the upper part of the painting, where the resurrected Jesus sits above the clouds. The author hereby indicates the boundless glorification of the kingdom of God. Blessed Nadezhda bears no sign of suffering, because her spirit is constantly rejoicing in paradise, where she praises God with the multitudes of angels. The icon is a window to heaven. There is no more pain, sorrow or death, only infinite joy, happiness and perfect peace of God. For this reason, the girl does not have a red robe that would resemble her innocent blood that was shed. On the contrary, she is dressed in a festive dress worthy of a princess. The lower dark blue tunic indicates her deep faith in the incomprehensible mystery of God. He has a green cloak draped over his shoulders. This colour is associated with the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into all creation, indicating the growth and presence of God's providence. The outer gold garment, decorated with precious stones, gradually changes from dark, fiery red shades to light yellow to white. It refers to Nadezhda's zeal for Christ and at the same time highlights her inviolable holiness in the abode of the Highest.

The inscriptions on the icon confirm the viewer in the unambiguity of the depicted scene: at the top left is a short text: “The image of St. girl Nadezhda ”(ОБР. СВТ. ДЕВА НАДЕЖДЫ). Above the Saviour’s face is a less used Church Slavonic version of the common Greek abbreviation IC XC, t. j. Jesus Christ (IИС – ХСъ).

Spiritual heritage:

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. (Luke 21: 11-19)