Thursday, May 31, 2007

Occupied territory

"Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book II, Chapter 2, "The Invasion"

I'm afraid I've "let the cat out of the bag" on a number of levels.
First, the image of my copy of Mere Christianity both dates and places me in geographical context—an old mended paperback bought for "three bob six" (about 49¢) in London, 1966.

Second, as my son Jacob was once called by his Orthodox opponent in a "friendly" online debate, I may be labelled a "crypto-Protestant" for quoting C.S. Lewis and other "non-Orthodox" authors on my blog, and for (seeming to be) saying that "Orthodox Christianity" is not that important. I hope my friends, though, know me well enough to understand my meaning to be not to say what is un-important, but Who is important, thereby giving "Orthodoxy" and everything else, its true value, for nothing stands except for Him, and on Him.
"Apart from Me, all is nothing." (Isaiah 45:6 Jerusalem Bible)

Third, I also must be no less than a Christian jihadist to have quoted the above and to believe it. As a former friend and reader of my blog wrote me, "I'm glad your true colors have come out," when I publicly took a stand for the truthfulness of the Bible on who Jesus Christ is versus the Islamic concept of Jesus, some people may write me off as a bigoted hypocrite who writes about love on the one hand and on the other dogmatizes that there is a real battle going on, and real sides, right versus wrong. So I'm a sheep in wolf's clothing after all!

Well, I admit that I'm probably a bad person on a number of other levels as well, but let's turn now to the topic I wanted to write about… "occupied territory."

If you type these words into an internet search engine, I guarantee you, most of the results will be something about Palestinian issues, but this is not what C.S. Lewis is writing about, nor am I.

It's the world, that world of which Morpheus speaks when he says to Neo that the matrix is "the world pulled over your eyes," punning on "the wool pulled over your eyes."
Clever, my brothers Wachowski, worthy of your Chicago-Polishness.

I've been mulling over the events of the last few days since the Friday before Pentecost, how Brock and I went downtown thinking we were to read the Word of God publicly and instead were sent on a kind of rescue mission or rendezvous by our heavenly Father.
"Baah!" some people would say, as in the film Luther, when Martin's father abruptly leaves the church after witnessing his priested son's first mass. Luther defends himself to his angry father, "God sent me here [to the monastic life]…" and his father responds, "A bolt of lightning burns your arse, and you say that God sent you! The devil more likely!" and gallops off.

Sometimes in a lonely moment my flesh cries out to my mind for sympathy in its bewilderment over God's incredible work in the Spirit. "How can you do such things? Are you crazy? How can you start what you don't know you can finish? What will people think now? Don't you care about your family and your reputation? Get back in line! Don't be a fool! Nobody's worth that much! There now, wouldn't you rather find a comfy corner and read some nice Christian book? Or history? Or work on your hobbies? Who do you think you are? Remember, you're not worthy! Let those whom God has called do His work! That's what the priests are for! Leave well enough alone!"

My response is to get quiet, and wait it out. [Yawn…] No matter how hard or long the tempter speaks, I can always sleep.
"…and in the night my inmost self instructs me."
(Psalm 16:7 Jerusalem Bible)

Another memory rises up.
During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the family ten Boom, watchmakers in Haarlem, forgot themselves and started helping their Jewish neighbors by hiding them and using their house as a way station in a kind of underground railroad to get Jews out of Holland to safety.
When asked by an agent of the underground why they were taking the risk of helping those in danger, Betsy ten Boom replied, "No, not for excitement or adventure. I would rather just close that door, and stay inside and wait until this whole dreadful affair is over. But that is not what my Jesus wants. He wants us to open our door to all who knock and ask for help. And that's what we will do."

In my flesh, I feel the same way, I'd like to just stay comfortable and safe. But then, there's Jesus. It's not a question of "what would Jesus do" that I can play with as I sit in my favorite chair. It's "what does Jesus do," and do I dare follow Him out into the world where He is constantly seeking that which is lost? That's the question we all have to ask ourselves, today.

Holland was under Nazi occupation from May 10, 1940 to May 5, 1945.
This world has been enemy-occupied territory since the time of Adam and Eve.
The battle lines are drawn,
and though we can't always see it
with our fleshly eyes
the victory has been won.

Thank you, Lord, for Your great mercy
in revealing everything to us in Your Word.
Thank you for giving us yet one more day
to serve you "in peace and repentance."

The beautiful road of love is effortless…

…and there is neither blemish nor stain in love, but rather the conscience testifies that the soul has boldness towards God. But when there is no love, the soul has no boldness in prayer, and as one defeated and cowardly, it cannot lift its head because it feels remorse for not having loved as God has loved it; it is a transgressor of the commandment of God.

If we do not love our brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen? (1 John 4:20) He who has true love has God; whoever does not have love does not have God in himself. The Holy Fathers say, "If you have seen your brother, you have seen God; your salvation depends on your brother."

The holy monastic fathers of old walked the path of salvation effortlessly, because they sacrificed everything so that they would not fall away from love. Love was their goal in life. Our path, though, is completely strewn with thorns which sprouted because we lack love. And this is why when we walk, we constantly bleed. The foundations of the house shake when we do not lay the foundation of love well.

Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain (Athos)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

By faith and not by sight

This morning, though not different from any other morning, it finally came to me what this strange, tremblesome quality of my life means. I am living forward, one day at a time, like a blind man who cannot see what's ahead, but can only feel his way, taking short, deliberate steps, groping into the next moment, listening to a barely audible voice that's calling me. By faith, not by sight. And faith comes by hearing. And hearing by the Word of God.

Over the past year and a half, this quality has been growing, and I, sensing it growing, am surprised that the initial fear has lessened somehow. But the meaning of "living one day at a time," that I once glibly repeated along with others, has truly become the nature of my life.

There's no wonder, then, nor merit, in the fact that every morning I am surprised, yet usually happy, to wake up, and find myself still alive. No wonder, then, that when I see the sun rising as I drive to work, I am happy and thankful beyond measure. One more day. And today I remembered my old elder, Philip the cabinetmaker, who taught me when I was in my young twenties, how to saw up boards and make furniture. I remembered how he would confess to me, on a bright sunny morning, how he wept as he drove to work. I couldn't understand it then, but I'm beginning to understand it now. I too have wept on the way to work. Sometimes for sadness, sometimes out of gratitude inexpressible any other way. God is good.

I thought to myself, has it always been like this, only I didn't notice?

When you're "young" the thought of death (as the end) never crosses your mind. Life extends limitlessly before you. You can plan things far in advance and expect to do them when you get there. When you're "older" the thought of death starts intruding on this scene of self-confidence, and you begin to understand what "pride of life" means. Is this when some people have their mid-life crisis?

You'd probably expect that life will always go on in the same seamlessly perfect way, though, like it did when "the world was new" (Cat Stevens, Silent Sunlight, Album: Catch Bull at Four).
Perfect in that it's in your control.
But thank God, for at any chronological age, He is always there and willing to let us give our lives to Him, a little at first maybe, and then more later, and at some point, maybe all of it.
As we approach that point of no return, the giving up of all, time begins to "stretch out." Limited time, chrónos, becomes limitless time, kairós, which also means acceptable time.

Every day means more, every hour, minute, second. Every particle of being, of life, takes on the quality of being in the center, of being important beyond measure. The beetle that crossed my path as I fumbled for the key to unlock my door, God's handiwork, down to the least barbed leggy. The coolness of the empty warehouse I walked through on the way to my office, God's gift, at the beginning of a day that promises to be very hot.

When it comes to lunch, there's no question of "saying grace" wherever I am or with whom, He feeds me and I thank Him. Every mouthful of 10 cent a bag ramen tastes as luscious as my favorite food. It's all manna. And if I'm with my friend, it doesn't matter if I eat at all, because the warmth of a friendly smile feeds more than any food. All from God's hands.

To know with every fibre of my being, He is here, He provides, in His hands are life and (what we call) death, as in the old spiritual "He's got the whole world in His hands," did this knowledge come first? Or was it the willingness to follow Him blindly, and to accept each next moment as His free gift, that ushers in the leading edge of His parousía?

"Let us go where He is waiting and worship at His footstool."
Psalm 132:7 Jerusalem Bible

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


You're quite right if you think my blog lacks organization and order. At the moment I am visiting Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945), and a poem she jotted down in 1938 can't just be read and passed by.
I want to have it at hand for the next few days, where I can come back to it when I need it. The title of this post is not the title of the poem, which has no title. I just wanted to call it something, something simple. Maria and I are, I think, good friends. I'm learning the same lessons she learned, and from the same Master. To have her words near me is somehow reassuring. I thank God that such people as Maria exist.

The clerk will note the words,
with care the judges will apply the law.
They'll lead me off. Bells peal.
A trumpeter stands poised. I hear crowds roar.

Before me, a fiery and glorious path.
The monks take care to keep the sacred flames alight.
The flickering embers of my life subside.
The end. (Why were the ropes so tight?)

Come, intersection of two beams,
come in the final throes.
For centuries, unseen, from wounds
that have not healed, blood flows.

We made the first step!

The arrangement was, that our friend would telephone me between 6 and 6:30 p.m. this evening. I would stay near the phone, and he'd call. Well, at six-twenty-something, he called!

For those of you who read the story so far, I want to update you. The Lord does work with us as συνεργοι (sýnerghi, Greek: "co-labourers"). We just have to respond to His call and follow His instructions.

On Monday night, I contacted an old friend of mine who worships at Holy Apostles Orthodox church on N.W. Overton. He lives in an Orthodox communal house. He connected me to another mutual friend, actually an Orthodox god-brother of mine that I've been out of touch with for awhile, who works at CityTeam ministries. I telephoned that brother this afternoon, and got confirmation that we could get our homeless friend a regular, clean place to sleep, and showers, etc., for an indefinite time, at a nominal cost. This is a ministry, and so it's a Christian safe zone.

When our friend phoned me, I gave him the details, asked him again if he wanted to go through with this, with the helping hand we want to give him to get off the streets, and he affirmed it. He started to show some excitement in his voice. The instructions are: to go the Harbor Light tomorrow (Wednesday) and get a free TB test. He'll have to go back there Friday to get a card that is good for one year certifying him healthy, to be able to stay at CityTeam's facility. Then, I gave him the address of City Team, so he could go and see it. If everything goes well, he will return there at 5 p.m. tomorrow and I will meet him, introduce him to my god-brother, and pay for his first week of "roof." Then, we'll start assessing what else he needs. (By the way, he had work today, day labour.)

Those of you who have a heart for the lost, and who have read the beginning of this story, stay with us, and see how the Lord works. Much of this is as new to me as it is to you. A big thank you to brother Jerry (Athanasius) who told me about CityTeam, to Subdeacon Philip at St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church for his encouragement and help, and of course to my god-brother Roger (Michael) at CityTeam.

We've past the first step, now remember us when you pray to the Father, may His will be done.

The whole meaning of Orthodox Christianity…

…has to do with looking outward, remembering the other! The Philokalía teaches, "Blessed is the one who rejoices in his salvation, but even more blessed is the one who rejoices in the salvation of the other."

Our Triune God has a love and vision for all. In the Old Testament, we may remember how God chose a certain people as His prized possession, but we often forget why He chose them. When God called Abram in Genesis, He said, "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, SO THAT you will be a blessing… And all the families of the earth shall find blessing in you."

Jesus Christ, the supreme example in the New Testament, made abundantly clear that no boundaries could limit His unconditional love for all people. Whether it was a heretical Samaritan, a Roman centurion, a foreign Syro-Phoenician woman, a corrupt tax collector, or an immoral adulteress, Christ saw each and every person as a beloved child of His. He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, "Although a mother may forget her child, I can never forget you. I have carved you on the palm of My hand."

Saint John Chrysostom said… "I do not believe in the salvation of anyone who does not try to save others."

Our Church Fathers cultivated a truly ecumenical, universal and missionary spirit that we need to practice today.

We must recover the life of asceticism and self-sacrifice. We must make every effort to flee from our self-centered wills, and enter into the "mind of Christ".

Excerpted from the article, The Universe is Our Parish, by Fr. Luke Veronis, OCMC magazine, Spring 2007 issue.

Father Luke Veronis and one of his kids visiting a housebound woman in Tirana, Albania

Friday, May 25, 2007

Break a leg

Father Yakov Krotov left a post on his blog entitled Power and Personality, which was interesting, but the comment left by Argent Smith (pseudonym, "Agent" Smith, like in The Matrix?) was notorious. You can connect to the originals using the link above, but here's what these brothers in Russia wrote (slightly edited for English usage)…

Power and Personality

"Power corrupts," but what is corrupted by power, and what are the mechanisms of corruption?

When [Lord] Acton made this famous statement (describing the popes of the 16th century) there was no conception of feedback (or would another term is better?).

On the eve of human history lust for power corrupted a unique human quality: to live through mutuality, to put forth questions and receive answers.

There is a Russian expression "to tear out the legs" (nogi vyrvat'), meaning "to punish," or "to make one passive." Thus, the first and the last argument of power—tearing out legs of the disobedient.

To counterbalance this, man must wash the legs (or the feet) [nogi, same word in Russian] of one's own brother or sister, neighbor or enemy.

Some examples of such washing are known to historians.

Now here's what Argent Smith wrote…

This reminds me of a myth (?) very popular among charismatic legalists:

A true shepherd can break a leg of a sheep to prevent her from going the wrong way. And, of course, the shepherd then treats the poor, sick sheep, showing a true example of care and love.

Practical application of this myth:

1. "True pastors" would break all legs of all sheep to maintain control over them.

2. In Russia, this tradition is known as "kill the ram which thoughtfully watches the new gate—better you eat it than a wolf.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Where would we be without Judas?

I run the risk of alienating some with this title, though it is a 'matter of fact' question, and not intended to startle, shock or annoy. This question is not to be taken lightly either, because Judas Iscariot was, after all, one of Christ's disciples and, yes, even an apostle during His earthly ministry. Not only this, but Christ loved him as He loved His other followers, and He would lay down His life for him too, if he had only accepted it. "I have watched over them and not one is lost except the one who chose to be lost, and this was to fulfill the scriptures" (John 17:12 JB).

Yet, here's the mystery:
That someone whom Christ called, someone He loved, someone who loved (or thought he loved) Christ and even believed in Him, was capable of turning his back on the Light of the world, to go back to the darkness "spiritually called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8), and sell the One he called his Master for a mere "30 shekels of silver" (Zechariah 11:12). How could anyone do such a thing, and why? The poetry of the Greek services blames it simply on avarice.
Could it be that simple, is it that simple, even today?

What I'm thinking about is this "spirit of Judas", if it can be named at all, and how it has followed us all through history since that Day like the proverbial Kartóphilos, the "wandering Jew," except that it's no Jew, but our Christian brother who sometimes worships with us one day and betrays us the other six.
Where would we be without him?

As a young man just born again in Christ, I was sent to work in a furniture factory where the conditions were extreme. (See Love without limits.) The man I worked under was a true Christian man and my first mentor, 32 years my senior. Working with him was an unlooked for blessing but, thank God, we worked together in an environment where co-worker abuse and even near homicidal violence often erupted. Thank God? Well, yes, thank God!

It was working there and living, sometimes, in fear of getting beaten up or ambushed on the way home (I rode the bus in those days), that began to draw my life into the Word of God, that filled the pages of the Book I carried with me everywhere every day with living words. It was living in "the world as a jungle" that opened the words of holy scripture to me, making me read about my own life in its pages so that, after so many years, I could honestly say, "my name is written on almost every page." Sometimes I still wonder, is that what is meant by saying our names are written in "the Lamb's Book of Life" (Revelation 13:8)?

Back to my question, where would we be without him?

I know a company where the good workers, the productive workers, are kept in subordinate positions and paid low wages. Periodically, they are called into closed door meetings by their supervisors, accused of misdemeanors (many of them unjustified or hearsay), and threatened with termination. Of course, these workers are never terminated, but they are bullied and humiliated so they don't dare to ask for raises or promotions, since they're conditioned by this treatment to consider themselves "lucky to have a job." This is, of course, criminal, but it's happening here in America and thoughout the world every day.

What really pains me is when it is managers who are or claim to be Christians, or who are non-practicing offspring of Christian parents, that do this bullying. I remember how disappointed I was the first time a Christian employee I had hired and mentored made a conscious choice to subordinate the Truth in a situation and fall in line with the corporate cult. I knew this happened to unbelievers, but I really had a hard time accepting that Christians could act this way. That incident happened years ago, and it's been repeated since then. I've historianed my memory, and I notice the pattern has always been there, in my lifetime, and throughout history. The "spirit of Judas" is still with us. But what for?

It squeezes us out of the world system, those of us who are trying "to keep our robes from being dirtied" (Revelation 3:4). It makes us "still hold firmly to Christ's name and not disown our faith in Him" (Revelation 2:13) even when we live or work "where Satan is enthroned". It gives us the opportunity to suffer with Christ, "to keep His commandment to endure trials" (Revelation 3:10), and thereby be kept "safe in the time of trial which is going to come for the whole world, to test the people of the world."

Right up to the end, to the last second of the last minute of the last day, the lure of riches will continue to seduce men, even those whom Christ has called.

"It is not those who say to me, 'Lord, Lord,' who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Church, where are you?

The title of this post is a question posed by a local Baptist pastor after returning from a trip to Israel. He asked it in a post entitled Some Final Thoughts Regarding My Journey. His question provoked a response that I'd like to share with you. The pastor may not have expected anyone to answer it, because it was probably rhetorical from his point of view. The answer he got to this question, whether he expected it or not, rings very true. What do you think?

Yes, amen! Church where are you?
But wait…which church are you talking about?

The Invisible Church has always believed, has always done the work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, for the Three are in agreement.

The Invisible Church has NEVER CEASED to do that work.
Those of the body of the Invisible Church have maintained the testimony of Jesus Christ, which is the spirit of prophecy.

The Invisible Church encompasses that mighty construct, that institution, the Visible Church.
Is it just now that that institution is waking from its slumber?

The Institution turns to new movements, new strategies, calling them “emergent” and “missional” and “intentional” and “emertional”, when the whole time the Invisible Church has been quietly working.

You have not found something new, no; perhaps you have just now noticed what has been going on outside the worship centers since the time of the Apostles.

If the church has ever ceased to believe and do the will of the Father, then Christ has failed, which is impossible.

No, even if all the churches were dead organisms, Christ would still have two or three doing the work somewhere.

He wastes nothing.

If 500 are gathered, He uses it.
If one is testifying, presenting the gospel to another, He uses that.
He is never more present with the 500 than with the one, for the one is often the sole person in prison somewhere for their testimony, like Antipas, the faithful witness who was put to death in that city where Satan lived, Pergamum.

The one is often the elderly widow, who retires to her bedroom, shutting the door to pray alone, lifting up the saints everywhere in intercession.

The sole person is even the young spry man who helps the wheelchair-bound retrieve a pack of bottled water from the top shelf at “Freddies”.

The work of Christ is active, whether we see it or not.
Messiah, raised in power, never ceases to work through His Bride.
Whether we labor or sleep, planted seeds grow.

The goal is to plant the seed, and then God can work.
If no seed is sown, nothing is reaped.

Taking it further, it seems the Visible Church has plunged into social issues.

Is feeding the hungry a must?
Yes, but IT IS the by-product of living a Spirit-filled life.

Does the gospel take
the back seat?
What difference does it make if we feed bread to the starving today, so that they might live today, though die the next, the whole time withholding from them, today, the Bread of Life, the bread that satisfies eternal starvation?

Those good deeds are in vain.
Anyone can feed the poor, the poor we will have with us always.

But what is needed to present the Good news?
The Spirit-filled church.

Feed them both breads!
The Bread of Life first, even together!

The message must be presented, clearly and straight, so that others can make an intelligent decision. If they reject it, so be it. At least it was presented.

Let them eat the physical bread still, perhaps they’ll have a change of heart tomorrow and feast on the Bread of Life.

Is a life in Darfur, a poor, helpless child, any more valuable than the rich, retired neighbor next door, who has everything but salvation?

Does God see one as more valuable than the other? Should we?

Who ended up in the fire, Lazarus or the Rich man?
The beggar or Dives?

The testimonies for the Churches are contained in the first 3 chapters of the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, the Revelation.

He, who has ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.

My question is:
Institutional Church, where are you?

These associations cannot seem to leave the walls
they were created in.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No turning back

Who is this Man?

The discussion of Muslim versus Christian beliefs is irresolvable, because it demands that one side admit that the other is right and then cease to exist, like the meeting of matter and anti-matter.

If there were a real resolution other than mere peaceful co-existence between Islam and the faith of the Bible, I think we would have found it by now, after fourteen centuries. But this is simply not a resolvable issue. To bring up the differences at all is, I think, asking for trouble. One or the other faith is a fabrication. And if there is a place where being wrong is more dangerous than this one, tell me about it.

We can all start out being "nice" to each other, that is, to people of different faiths. We can call our viewpoints "faith traditions" as it is fashionable to do now in the ecumenical movement within Christianity. That's possibly very dangerous, even within Christianity, because we're using humanistic humdrum like "faith traditions" to cover up real differences that can come back and bite us.

But when we're dealing with any belief system that denies that Jesus is the Christ, it's best to just be honest and give our testimony. We can still be friends, and even brothers on the human level, and live in hope of the salvation of those who now deny Christ. But it's just 'soft soap and wishful thinking' and 'boys' philosophy,' as C.S. Lewis says, when we try to make people comfortable with things that should make them very un-comfortable.

If followers of Jesus were more willing to speak the Truth in love instead of abdicating and compromising with the world, maybe even suffering, maybe even dying for their truthful testimony, then maybe at least some of the Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Baha'is, Buddhists and others would see the suffering of Christ (in our suffering) and turn to Him and be saved.

This is the hard Rock of Truth.
Let's not be wishy-washy and make our home in a sand castle.

I don't go looking for opportunities to offend, as you should know, but if the Lord gives me a word for someone, I try not to hold back.
I spent the first 50-odd years of my life doing that. That's over and done with now, come what may, no turning back.

The bottom line is that it really is love for my brothers that forces me to speak, and not some dogmatic obsession or triumphal attitude. You should know that, if you know me at all from my testimonies.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Our First-Foremother Eve

"A picture is worth a thousand words," or so they say. It is well-known that the Orthodox are distinct from the rest of Christendom by our icons. These pictures are painted, I mean, written by artists who are fasting and praying and working with God to reveal in paint what God is speaking in His Word, the Bible. That is the standard, though it is not always the case. Many icons are simply painted by artists, who knows whether they're fasting and praying or not. Fortunately, though, as long as these are following the models provided by true writers of icons, their work will not deviate. So, that being said, I just wanted to share with my friends the icon above. If you click on it, it will enlarge and let you see the details. What was handed over to me regarding icons is, if the event didn't happen, the icon would not have been written. To some, this may seem to be putting the cart before the horse, to say that an icon portrays something, therefore it must be true. But that's what we believe. Most icons portray Bible events from Old and New Testaments, or historical events from the first Christian century onwards.

What can we tell from this icon?

Well, first off, Jesus Christ is the one who put Adam to sleep, so that Eve could be taken from his side. Although God the Father is the "Creator of heaven and earth," as we have it in the Symbol of Nicaea, it is "through Him [the Son, the divine Logos or Word of God] that all things were made." That's why you will always see Jesus in icons of the creation, and in the Garden of Eden. As the Bible says, "No one has ever seen God; it is the Only Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, who has made Him known." (John 1:18, Jerusalem Bible).

In the exact center of the icon sits a naked man, Adam the First-Created. Notice, he looks just like Jesus! This is no coincidence. Adam was, before the fall, perfect Man, an undistorted image of the Father. (Notice the ray of light falling on him from the Father.) Since we have no other picture of what the Father looks like except Jesus (see John 14:9), iconographers (icon-writers) always paint Adam as they paint Jesus, who was and is perfect Man, though He is more than that, He is theánthropos, God-Man. It may seem a trivial detail to some, but to us, seeing Adam portrayed this way reminds us that as God created us, and as He wants us to be when we are restored to Him, is like Jesus. In the left panel of the icon, by the way, Adam is shown naming the creatures.
(Notice the raptor on the far left!)

On the far right sits Jesus Christ on a throne. I hope I don't have to explain that there are imaginative and symbolic elements in icons. I mean, we don't think that there really was a throne that He sat on while He operated on the sleeping Adam. There is much in the Bible that cannot be depicted visually, except by resorting to symbolism. The symbolism, however, cannot contradict the plain words of scripture or the broad view provided by Orthodox theology. An intentional deviation in writing an icon is almost as perverse as intentionally mis-translating or mis-quoting the Bible. Why? Because the Orthodox regard icons as visual scripture. Not exactly of the same authority as the Bible, but (as we might call it) a paraphrase for the eyes. Are there "bad" icons? Well, uh, yes, but I don't want to get into that right now, other than to say, a bad icon is simply not an icon at all.

What about our First-Foremother Eve?

Well, back to the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words." This subject, too, is one which transcends the ability of mankind to visualise factually. We can do no better than the Word of God does, we can only write in an icon what we find written in the Bible, "So YHWH God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, He took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh." (Genesis 2:21 JB) Admittedly, the iconographer has "smoothed over" the mechanical aspect of the operation, probably because it could not be shown that way. But if not factual, the icon portrays an actual truth—God took woman out of man. Beyond that we have no other knowledge.

This too belongs to the category we call the mystírion. And this is something not to be doubted, but accepted in simplicity. It is by our simple acceptance of the plain words of divine Scripture that we are instructed by the Holy Spirit in those matters that "no tongue can utter." We are allowed into the realm of the mystírion.

"The way into the Holy Scriptures is low and humble, but inside the vault is high and veiled in mysteries." (Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Ch. 3)

By the way, where is this icon?

This icon is in Saint Basil's Greek Orthodox Church, Chicago, Illinois. It is literally wrapped around the curved front of the pulpit at the front of the sanctuary.

Saint Basil's is unusual in that it got its start in a synagogue. Built in 1911 as the Anshe Shalom Temple, it was originally a house of worship for Yiddish-speaking Polish Jews. In 1927 that congregation merged with another, and the Greek community purchased the building and consecrated it as an Orthodox Christian church. Though the iconography and furnishings are Orthodox Christian, there remain many reminders of its use as an Orthodox Jewish synagogue—the pews have seats that swing open to store prayer shawls and their ends are carved with replicas of the tablets of the Law, the balcony was constructed for the use of female worshippers (who worship separately from the males, as in some Orthodox Christian churches), and three hand-blown stained glass windows still adorn the balcony and are often visited by Orthodox Jews who want to see them. There are also the faint outlines of Hebrew inscriptions on the entablature below the central pediment. If you are in Chicago, go take a look!