...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:11 AM [+]
Well, if you are a computer game geek (like I am a wannabe game geek), then you are probably familiar with this title. It gets its name from an imaginary planet surrounded by a large ring and in this we can see how we in the west have lost our understanding of what a Halo truly is.
First, it is not a ring around someone's head (or a planet). Second, it is not symbolic of anything. Explanation?
Halos are representations of a concrete reality, they symbolize nothing. They are REAL and show forth the uncreated light of God as has been seen many times throughout history (i.e. Moses coming down from the mountain had to wear a covering over his shinning face, Jesus nearly blinds his disciples on Mt. Tabor, and a more recent example is St. Seraphim of Sarov - which I will discuss later). Therein, the Halo represents the Transfigured life (not symbolically), but in reality. Remember, at Jesus' Transfiguration nothing really changed in Jesus - rather eyes were opened to see past illusions.
As light shinning forth from a tranfigured person, we do not mistake the Halo as a ringed crown. It would no more become oblique if the imaged saint turned their head away from us than the light eminating from the sun would apparently by altered (which it doesn't) by its rotation (which it does).
Iconographers frequenty use goldleaf when filling in the Halo (and in some cases the entire background of the icon may be done thus) and this can often have a remarkable effect. I have a few icons with real goldleaf and in certain light the gold is highly reflective and the details of the Saint are diminished somewhat. It is hard to describe, but in my mind I am reminded of Motovilov's description of what he experienced when he saw the light eminating from Saint Seraphim: "Imagine, in the very center of the sun, in the most brilliant burst of its rays, the face of the man who speaks to you."
From the OCA webpage, the account of St. Seraphim's Transfiguration....
A close admirer and follower of St. Seraphim, Motovilov, described the miraculous transfiguration of the starets’ face. This happened during the winter, on a cloudy day. Motovilov was sitting on a stump in the woods; St. Seraphim was squatting across from him and telling his pupil the meaning of a Christian life, explaining for what we Christians live on earth.
"It is necessary that the Holy Spirit enter our heart. Everything good that we do, that we do for Christ, is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but prayer most of all, which is always available to us," he said.
"Father," answered Motovilov, "how can I see the grace of the Holy Spirit? How can I know if He is with me or not?"
St. Seraphim began to give him examples from the lives of the saints and apostles, but Motovilov still did not understand. The elder then firmly took him by the shoulder and said to him, "We are both now, my dear fellow, in the Holy Spirit." It was as if Motovilov’s eyes had been opened, for he saw that the face of the elder was brighter than the sun. In his heart Motovilov felt joy and peace, in his body a warmth as if it were summer, and a fragrance began to spread around them. Motovilov was terrified by the unusual change, but especially by the fact that the face of the starets shone like the sun. But St. Seraphim said to him, "Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not even be able to see me if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for His mercy toward us."
Thus Motovilov understood, in mind and heart, what the descent of the Holy Spirit and His transfiguration of a person meant.
So, keep an eye out for Halos.