Holy Wisdom Orthodox Mission
1355 North 4th Street • Grand Junction, CO 81501
(On the corner of North 4th Street & Kennedy Street)

holywisdomorthodox@gmail.com • 720-295-7715
A mission parish of the
Orthodox Church in America , and the Diocese of the West

«Ἁγία Σοφία» - “Holy Wisdom”

On February 1, 2021 His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West officially established Holy Wisdom Mission in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The name of our parish, Holy Wisdom, refers specifically to our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ as we know from Holy Scripture.

Saint Paul writes that Jesus is “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). And he also states that Christ Jesus became for us “Wisdom from God, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Since all Orthodox churches are dedicated to our Savior Jesus Christ, very few are designated solely in His name. Most churches additionally commemorate a Great Saint of the Christian faith, many honor the Theotokos, and some memorialize a Great Feast in the life of our Lord.

Because of the ineffable glory of God, if a church is to exclusively commemorate the Lord, it is not given the specific name of Jesus Christ Himself, but rather is named after one of His attributes such as Savior or Wisdom.

This honor is generally, but not always, reserved for the most-significant cathedral churches. For example, the cathedral of Moscow, Russia, is named “Christ the Savior.” The cathedrals of Constantinople and Kiev are named “Agía Sofía” – “Holy Wisdom.”

γία Σοφία, pronounced Agía Sofía, does not mean “Saint Sofia” but, rather, Holy Wisdom. The great church in Constantinople, built in AD 537 by Emperor Justinian (AD 482-565, reigned 527-565), is not called Saint Sofia but “Holy Wisdom” – or, more specifically, the “Great Church of Christ the Holy Wisdom.”

Churches named Holy Wisdom annually celebrate their feast day on the Wednesday of Mid Pentecost. Sadly, few Christians today know about this great feast of the Lord. It was once one of the most-beloved feasts and was celebrated in Constantinople by the Patriarch, the Emperor, and crowds of the faithful.

The fifty-day period following Pascha until the Pentecost is known as the Pentecostarion. On the twenty-fifth day, the mid-point between Pascha and Pentecost, we focus on the central theme of the period: the acquisition of the Holy Spirit poured out as a gift to all the faithful who partake of the Living Water which is Christ Himself.

The Gospel for the Feast of Mid Pentecost is the account of Jesus teaching the elders in the Temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers ... and all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47).

The hymns for this Feast invoke, and praise, our Lord as the “Wisdom of God” spoken of in the Book of Proverbs. They also recognize Him as the One of Whom the Prophet Isaiah says, “And the Spirit of God shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness.” (Isaiah 11:2-3).

The Icons of “Holy Wisdom”

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The principal icon of Jesus Christ, the Word and Wisdom of the Father, is that for the Feast of Mid Pentecost. In it we see Jesus seated in the Temple of Jerusalem listening to, asking questions of, and answering the teachers (cf. Luke 2:41-50).

Icons are not pictures of people and events, but theological expressions about them. In the New Testament Christ is referred to as the icon (image, projection, reflection) of God the Father (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). Man himself was created as an icon of God (Genesis 1:27) called to become like Him (Genesis 1:26).

This icon shows elements of the historical event, a young Christ seated in a group of mature and learned men, who seem surprised at the wisdom of His questions and His answers, as the Biblical account describes.

The Lord is depicted holding a scroll with one hand while the other hand is in a gesture of making a point. The men are shown in a state of amazement and conferring with one another. The semi-circular seating arrangement is also found in the Icon of Pentecost, indicating that this Mid Pentecost prefigures the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Christ is portrayed without a beard as He was twelve years old at the time. This represents Christ as Emmanuel, “God with us,” teaching that Christ is the Wisdom and Word of God incarnate.

Sometimes Mary and Joseph are shown in the background of the icon, for they had returned to Jerusalem to find Him. This indicates not only their concern, but also reminds us that “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” (Luke 2:51).

There is another iconographic composition developed in the northern Russian city of Novgorod during the 15th century to convey the understanding of Jesus Christ as “Holy Wisdom.”

In this icon, “Wisdom” is represented by a red-faced, winged angel sitting on a throne in the center of the image. The throne is supported by the seven Old Testament pillars of wisdom (cf. Proverbs 9:1). The red color represents the fire of divinity, and the icon of Jesus located above shows Him in both His conventional aspect and in His aspect of Holy Wisdom.

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