April 2, 2012

An Icon of Christ With An Earring

The following explanation is taken from the book Ιερά Μονή Παναγίας του Άρακα (Sacred Monastery of Panagia of Araka) by Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou. It concerns a fresco of Christ found within the church of the monastery. The 12th century Church of Panagia of Araka, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands just outside the village of Lagoudera and boasts some of the finest frescoes of the late Komnenian style (1192) prevailing throughout Greece, the Balkans and Russia. Together with the churches of Asinou and Agios Nikolaos of Stegis, it is considered to be one of the most important Byzantine churches on the island of Cyprus.

In the south wall is the large fresco of the Panagia the Arakiotissa where angels are praying to the right and left and with shock hold the symbols of the Passion - the cross, the sponge and the lance. This is an early depiction of the Panagia of the Passion.

The Panagia is sad and on her head is a deep red mantle which reaches her feet. Behind the Panagia is a magnificent throne with many inscriptions and prayers written on the walls.

The colors are dark, while the almond shaped eyes of the Theotokos are both linear and sophisticated as they unite with the eyes of the infant Jesus. It seems that she is not looking at us, but speaking as a representative of mankind with the infant Jesus.

In this thoughtful discussion of color and movement, there is a detail that adds charm. If you look carefully we will see that on the ear of Jesus He wears an earring. The same jewelry can be seen on the mural that is located directly across from the Panagia, where Jesus is embraced by the "presbyter hands" of Symeon. The earring was called in Byzantium scholarikion and worn by the cadets of Constantinople to distinguish them, because they are intended for members of the imperial guard. Because they were named Scholari, the ear tags that gave them a distinctive feature were called scholarikia. So, from scholari we arrived at the name scholarikion (which in Greek means "earring").

Now, why does Jesus wear an earring? Because He is the Only-begotten Son and Word of God and the only child of the Panagia. And this refers to a very old custom. I remember my grandmother Mirofora who lived 97 years, who told me that when she was young in her village, Kato Zodeia, rich families had the custom to put a gold earring on the right ear of their only son. When the child grew and married they took off the earring and said: "My son, now that you will get a woman with an earring, an earring you will not wear."

When I asked her "Why did they put the earring on their only son, Grandma?" she gave a very educational answer: "They put an earring because he didn't have other siblings, and so they distinguished him in the village and payed attention to him, took care of him, did not hurt him and loved him more. He was in need of special importance, since he had no brothers and sisters to give this to him. And when he found meaning and love from his wife when they married, he took off his earring."

I remember on one of my visits to a high school in Kato Pyrgos, I distributed to the children of the third grade of high school an icon of the Panagia Arakiotissa. At which time a child asked me quietly: "Father, is it a sin to wear an earring? The professor gets angry and says it is a sin." I told him: "My son, even Christ, God, which I now gave you, wore an earring." "But where Father?" asked the child. "Look at the icon well," I answered. Then he yelled triumphantly: "Miss, even Christ wore earrings." I told him: "You want to know why?" And when I told him the story of my grandmother Mirofora, in the end I said: "If you need, my son, special importance, more love, then wear earrings. But if you have this love from your classmates and from your environment and your family, then they are unnecessary."

St. George wearing an earring.