Monday, November 23, 2015

Icons in the South

With the South’s double-mindedness on Christian art, which icons might speak to the souls of Southrons as they make timid steps towards the Orthodox Church?

As was said aforetime, given the mindfulness of the South towards the Savior, icons of Jesus Christ ought to surprise no one.

As well, because of the tradition of chivalry she has inherited, Dixie has always been a land where women, and particularly mothers, are held in high honor.  The Alabamian Alexander B. Meek is perhaps the poet par excellence of this longing of the South’s to venerate women.  Again and again, his poems praise women and mothers, speak of the beauty of Southern women, dwell on the yearning of the knightly man for his maiden.  His poems ‘My Mother’ and ‘A Soldier’s Love Dream’ (from Songs and Poems of the South, 1857, pgs. 115-7, 119-20) show forth this mindset very well:

‘My Mother’

My mother !—at that dear and sacred word,
What thoughts, deep-treasured in this breast, are stirr'd;
How speeds my heart back to long vanished hours,
When life was sunshine, o'er a path of flowers !—
When the young spirit, like an April bird,
Poured forth glad music, in each sinless word !
Boyhood's lost Eden, at that mention, beams.
Its curving sky,—its clear and laughing streams ;—
Its hopes, its pleasures—fancies and its fears,
Its wild ambitionings—its easy tears,
All—all arise, like stars at even-time.
And shed their softness on my manhood's prime !
I see each favorite spot, where then I roved,—
The foes I hated, and the friends I loved !
My morning sports, sweet, innocent and pure,—
My sunset rambles by the river's shore,
Like dreams, return,—and oh, more dear than these,
My night-time worship, at my mother's knees !—
When she, as low my faltering prayers I said,
Invoked heaven's blessings on her first-born's head!

Mother !—dear mother !—though my heart hath grown,
As manhood's will, by care, well nigh to stone,—
Though with a cold, indifferent eye, I gaze
On the fair scenes, that charmed my earlier days,—
And scarce a joy, that, flower-like, wreathed my heart.
In life's young morn, hath, in its noon, a part,—
Though the dear friends, I loved so fondly then.
Have left my side, or grown to cold-browed men,—
And I now mingle in life's fever-fray.
With little lingering of that better day,—
Yet still, my mother, unto thee my breast
Turns, as the ark-dove, to its only rest,
And finds its hopes, affections, feelings, there.
Mirrored in kindness, unestranged by care,—
Twines round thy bosom, as the vine that clings
Around the oak, from which its nurture springs,
And unto thee, its filial worship gives.
As e'er it will, whilst its pulsation lives,
With a devotion fonder, deeper far,
Than the rapt Chaldean pays his idol star !

Yes ! dearest mother !—though mine eyes have seen
Full many a brow, as fair as Paphia's queen,—
Though oft, bewildered, I have gazed on forms
Would madden seraphs, with their starry charms,—
And felt their influence o'er my feelings reign,
Like night's pale maiden, o'er the restless main,—
Yet still, my mother, I have never found
One who could claim affections so profound,—
So free from selfishness,—so pure and strong,—
As these, which ever unto thee belong.
Thy high, pale brow, —thy soft and tender eye,—
Thy gentle smile,—thy dear maternal sigh,—
Thy changeless love,—are dearer far, to me.
Than fame's bright baubles are, or e'er can be !
I would not give one kindly word of thine.
For all the music poured at Beauty's shrine !
And oh ! when life's last pulses cease to play,
And all its dreams, like eve-clouds, melt away,
Upon my heart, undimmed by time or care.
Thy name will stand, MY MOTHER ! —written there !

From ‘A Soldier’s Love Dream’

 . . .

And now, though mountains intervene,
And ocean spreads his waves between,—
Though toil and strife are 'round me here,
And " war's red banners flout the air, "—
I turn awhile from them away,
And dedicate to thee this lay,—
    To thee, whose young and sinless heart.
        Is Virtue's own peculiar shrine,—
    Where Love and Genius grace impart,
        And Beauty's lustres softly shine.
To thee,—my light,—my life,—my star !
Whose radiance glimmers from afar.
O'er mount, and plain and heaving sea.
And fills my breast with thoughts of thee !

With these sentiments etched within the hearts of Southerners, we may likewise expect to see icons of our Lord’s All Pure and Holy Mother in the South, whose life free of all blemishes and full of beautiful virtues made her worthy to become the living Tabernacle of God the Word.

Beyond our Lord and His Holy Mother, the whole tirfæst (glorious) host of saints from Dixie’s fatherlands in Western Europe and Africa waits to be discovered:  Anthony the Great and Pachomius the Great of Egypt, Ælfred the Great of England, Andrew the Holy Apostle (patron saint of Scotland), and so many others.

(St Pachomius receiving the Rule from an angel for organizing communal monastic life.  Icon from this site:

Paintings and pictures have long been used to remember and honor family, friends, and other praiseworthy men and women.  The South’s Heavenly Family - Christ our Lord and Master, the Holy Apostles and Prophets, and saints and angels of all kinds - now await their turn to receive honor and glory through the veneration of their icons in churches, homes, schools, businesses, senates, and so on.  How long, O Southron?

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