An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
One account of the author's visit to the Hagia Sophia had a wonderful section with regard to this mosaic:
Mr. Ash references a sermon delivered by Patriarch Photios when the mosaic was inaugurated on March 29th 867, in which the Patriarch celebrated the life-like qualities of the work:
She looks as if she might speak if someone were to ask how she could be both virgin and mother, for the painting makes her lips seem of real flesh, pressed together and still as in the sacraments...
Fascinating. Intrigued by being able to "hear" what the Patriarch said of a specific icon still able to be seen today, I did some more searching and found more of his sermon, including the quote from the book:
A virgin mother carrying in her pure arms, for the common salvation of our kind, the common Creator reclining as an infant – that great and ineffable mystery . . . A virgin mother with both a virgin’s and a mother’s gaze, dividing in indivisible form her temperament between both capacities yet belittling neither by its incompleteness. With such exactitude has the art of painting, which is a reflection of inspiration from above, set up a lifelike imitation. For she fondly turns her eyes upon her begotten child in the affection of her heart . . . You might think her not incapable of speaking . . . To such an extent have the lips been made flesh by the colours that they appear merely to be pressed together and stilled as in the mysteries, yet their silence is not at all inert neither is the fairness of her form derivatory but rather it is the real archetype.
There is also THIS interesting Art History work on the mosaic, from which I could this extended quote. I imagine if one had the time they could find the entire sermon online.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:51 AM [+] +++
What a great picture of this magnificent, almost achingly beautiful mosaic. I remember practically laying on the floor of the Haghia Sophia, trying to get a good shot of it--and mine still came out blurry. Ash's book sounds worth investigating, as well.
I'm going to Turkey in two weeks with my dad. My first reaction was to ask if we could see the church (now museum) "Of course I love spending time with you, Dad, but Hagia Sophia!" I'm a little excited...