Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God

The Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Kiev), occupies an unique place in the Russian Orthodox Church. On the icon is depicted the Theotokos, and the Hypostatic Wisdom, the Son of God incarnate of Her.

In Wisdom or Sophia, ponders the Son of God, about Whom in the Proverbs of Solomon it says: “Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars” (9:1). These words refer to Christ, the Son of God, Who in the Epistles of St Paul is called “Wisdom of God” (1 Cor.1:30), and the word “house” refers to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, of Whom the Son of God is incarnate.

The arrangement of the icon bears witness to the fulfillment of this prophecy. On the Kiev icon of Sophia is a church, and standing there is the Mother of God in a robe with a veil on her head, under an archway of seven pillars. The palms of Her hands are outstretched, and her feet are set upon a crescent moon. The Theotokos holds the Pre-eternal Christ Child, blessing with Her right hand, and holding the Infant with Her left.

On the cornice of the entrance are inscribed the words from the Book of Proverbs: “Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars.” Over the entrance are depicted God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. From the mouth of God the Father issues the words: “I am affirmation of Her footsteps.”

Along both sides the seven Archangels are depicted with outstretched wings, holding in their hands symbols of their duties. On the right side: Michael with flaming sword; Uriel with a lightning flash hurling downwards; Raphael with alabaster vessel of myrrh. On the left side: Gabriel with a lily blossom; Selaphiel with a scale; Jerudiel with royal crown; and Barachiel with flowers on a white shawl.

Under a cloud with the crescent moon, serving as a footrest for the Mother of God, is a staircase with seven steps (depicting the Church of God on earth). Those standing on the seven steps are the Old Testament witnesses of the manifestation of Wisdom, the Forefathers and the Prophets.

On each of the seven steps are inscribed: faith, hope, love, purity, humility, blessedness, glory. The seven steps of the staircase are set upon the seven pillars, on which images are inscribed, and their explanation taken from the Apocalypse.