Last week, I brought to your attention the news out of Istanbul that a mosaic of an angel’s face was uncovered in Agia Sophia Cathedral (Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας). The latest news is that this mosaic was above what was the Holy Altar. It appears the face was part of the Platytera Mosaic in the main apse. So from the six century until the end of the fifteen century, this angelic face gazed at the Theotokos and the Christ Child. The faithful looked up for 916 years, that is from 537 AD when Justinian the Emperor finished the Cathedral to 1453 AD when the mosaics were plastered over. All those years the clergy, the laity and the imperial household chanted this hymn:
“All creation rejoices in thee, O Thou that art full of grace, both in the hierarchy of the Angels and the generations of men. Thou art a hallowed temple, and a spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, whence God was made flesh and became a little Child, He Who is from Eternity our God. For He made thy womb His throne, and formed Thy body to be broader than the Heavens. All creation rejoices in Thee, O thou that art full of grace, glory to Thee. “
Now once again, the angelic face is visible. Waiting there to join with the heavenly host to sing praises to the Incarnate One and the Theotokos, who is “more honourable than the Cherubim; and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” This is a manifestation of the true purpose not only of the angel, but also of the temple. The way the angel was covered suggests that it may be the first to be uncovered and that more may be awaiting under the surface to be revealed. From iconographic schemes, angels are usually not placed singularly, except for the Archangels. Our prayer is that this is the first, of many, we will see. Just as we know that each of us is accompanied by our guardian angel, this uncovered angel has been as a silent guardian to the image of the Platytera and the Incarnate Christ. Axios!