Jesus Christ is God and and Man, the staple teaching about God in His Church. This has been true since the birth of Christ, actually since the Annunciation, when Christ was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Perfectly God. Perfectly Man. Two natures. One Person. This dual nature (hypostasis) has been expressed in the Oral Apostolic tradition and in iconography, long before the printing press and the more widespread literacy that occurred in the second millennium. In ancient iconography, this is written in the extension of the second and third digit of the right hand of Christ as in the the ancient icon of Christ Pantocrator from Mount Sinai monastery:
(The opposing two remaining fingers with the thumb represent the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one Divine Person, but that is not the subject of this essay.)
The dual nature is also written in the asymmetry of the eyes and facial expression. The asymmetric eyes indicate Christ’s (God’s) new (since the Incarnation) will to see with both Heavenly and human eyes.
A Heavenly and earthly perspective. This is for us, as He intercedes for us humans before God the Father. It is also representative of His life when He walked on earth, Perfectly God, and perfectly human. Two planes of existence. (Here are two examples of Christ being perfectly human in humility while being God: John 11:33-35, Matthew 24:35-37.)
We humans also have this asymmetry of face, unlike other mammals. A mark of man made in the image of the Divine.
Now what this means to us in the Vine of Christ is exactly the same. It is our life on two planes of existence, the human plane and Divine plane, where the Divine is through the Sacraments, the perspective of the eastern churches. How we live in the Divine plane is by living our ordinary human lives while partaking in the Sacraments. (Willful rejection of the Divine plane of existence is remedied through the Sacrament of Confession). We cannot fathom the full significance of our Divine plane of existence at this time (we can barely appreciate the significance of our human existence) but one way we can remind ourselves of this mystery is to think of ourselves as a chamber or temple where God and His angels, patriarchs, faithful, saints and the Queen of saints meet, confer, inspire, and act exactly in our moment in history, without us necessarily knowing of any plan or action, nor necessarily while receiving any inspiration, although He may let us, His vessels, know some things according to His Holy will. Sometimes this occurs in the humiliations and sufferings of our human lives and these states may be when His power is most manifest (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Sacraments are the exquisite methods used by God whereby He imparts His Nature to us in doses while implementing His will on earth, even before we are fully converted. Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
How encouraging it should be to seek the Sacraments in this, God’s plan of salvation. How encouraging it should be to know that Christ’s dual nature becomes manifest in us this way. But how ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great. So let’s look at another icon for inspiration. This time of the Mother of God and from a different era and civilization, also without widespread literacy.
We can extend this further, noting that the “brighter” or blissful side of the face is on the heavenly side, represented by the mantle of stars and the “sad”, or we can say more human/suffering side, is on the side of the earth colored tapestry. The pattern on the earthly tapestry is a direct reminder of the Mayan calendar for the peoples of that culture and represents our human existence at any moment in history. This is the sojourning side with the knee bent forward. (Click on image for detail.)
The Virgin’s forearm lifts the heavenly garment out of the way to expose the earthly tapestry for us on that side of her face. The winged angel (or Saint Juan Diego) reinforces this point by having one hand on the heavenly and the other on the earthly vestment, bringing each forward to parallel the facial expressions.
How ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great, but how full of grace is the Theotokos to give us insight into the mystery in such a beautiful way.
Holy Virgin in my heart
every day before I start.
And when the daily heartbeats stop,
call me O Virgin when I drop.