”The mandorla is an ancient Christian symbol of two circles coming together,
overlapping one another to form an almond shape in the middle.
The circles may represent spirit and matter, or heaven and earth.
In the middle is a place of reconciliation, of transformation – the incarnation.”
Further Info ~http://www.sandplay.org/symbols/mandorla.htm
The mandorla is one of the clearest and most majestic attributes of Christ in iconography. With it, the glorified body of Christ is depicted beyond the earthly plane of being. Christ’s garments are usually bright and worked with gold when shown in this manner. It is also used for the Mother of God in those cases when it has to represent her glory beyond the earthly plane. A mandorla usually consists of three concentric circles most often of different shades of blue pierced by rays of light issuing from subject.
It is found in the icons of Pascha, the Ascension, All Saints, Transfiguration, and the Dormition. The mandorla shows that Jesus is present to the faithful, in these events, from outside time and space. The presence of the mandorla and the rays of light coming from Christ reveal his divinity, something that is beyond human comprehension. The mandorla is simply the iconographic way of representing heavenly glory, mystery, and majesty.
Source ~ http://orthodoxwiki.org/Mandorla
The Mandorla is an ancient symbol of two circles coming together, overlapping one another to form an almond shape in the middle. Mandorla is the Italian word for almond. The Mandorla is also known as the “Vesica Piscis” (see the Jensen references below), symbolizing the interactions and interdependence of opposing worlds and forces. Although the symbol has its origins before the Christian era, the early Christians used the symbol as a method to describe the coming together of heaven and earth, between the divine and human.
The circles symbolise interacting but complementary opposites. The space within the overlap is the place in which we are called to “remain“, the “liminal space” Richard Rohr speaks of.. This is the place where you arrive after you leave one room and have not yet entered another. In this place, you are living on the threshold and this requires faith. All transformation takes place in liminal space.
If we deny one of the opposites (eg. our shadow, death, ..), the circles may only touch; they do not intersect. In this situation, we are polarised, out of balance. Perhaps too when we become wholly integrated, the overlap is total and there appears to be only one circle (for awhile anyway).
The Mandorla, known in both East and West, expresses the standpoint of the mystic. It symbolises for us the tensions of life, the tension of complementary opposites:
|Tension of the Opposites|
|Heaven <——–> Earth|
|Natural <——–> Supernatural|
|Divine <——–> Human|
|Life <——–> Death|
|The Inner world <——–> the Outer world|
|Esotericism <——–> Exotericism|
|Apophatic spirituality <——–> Katophatic spirituality|
|The Self <——–> the Shadow|
|The rational “calculative” mind <——–> the contemplative mind|
The Mandorla depicts the union of apparent opposites, the same union of which the mystics speak. Our ego-consciousness divides reality into subject and object, whereas out true self experiences unity and harmony; Thomas Merton speaks frequently about this (eg. in his book The New Man). In the Mandorla both of these aspects coincide.
Nicholas of Cusa speaks of the coincidence of contradictories or coincidentia oppositorum:
- The coincidence of opposites is a certain kind of unity perceived as coincidence, a unity of contrarieties overcoming opposition by convergence without destroying or merely blending the constituent elements. Although in once sense not obliterated, in another the constituent elements shed their multiple, differentiated status. Examples would include the coincidence of rest and motion, past and future, diversity and identity, inequality and equality, and divisibility and simplicity.
… coincidence does not really describe God. Rather it sets forth the way God works, the order of things in relation to God and to each other, and the manner by which humans may approach and abide in God. God is beyond the realm of contradictories. God … preceded opposites, is undifferentiated, not other, incomparable, and without opposite, precedes distinctions, opposition, contrariety, and contradiction.
(Definition by H. Lawrence Bond in Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings, p. 366)
Nicholas of Cusa also writes:
“I have found the place where one can find Thee undisguised. It is surrounded by the coincidence of opposites. This is the wall of Paradise in which Thou dwellest. Its gate is guarded by the “highest spirit of reason”. Unless one overcomes it, the entrance will not open. On the other side of the wall of the coincidence of opposites one can see Thee, on this side never.” (Jager, p.77)
The early Christians would make themselves known to one another by scraping into walls two lines indicating a stylized fish (the Icthus). One would scratch a small circle in the wall, and another would come by and make another circle slightly overlapping, thus completing a Mandorla.
In Romanesque times, Jesus is represented by these two circles as is the Sakayama Buddha in Buddhist art. The Mandorla is now thought to be older than both religions. Jesus and the virgin Mary are often portrayed in the framework of the Mandorla. In the area where the two circles overlap sits the God-human, a place we too are called to be, where both aspects of reality coincide and become one. This reminds us that we too partake in the nature of heaven and earth; in Jesus becoming human, we can become divine.
Source ~ http://www.kyrie.com/symbols/mandorla.htm
The differentiation of “ shekhinah” and “ yekara” as the two main ele-ments of meaning of the term “kabowd ” is crucial for the proper investiga-tion of mandorlaas a visual device. “Shekhinah” refers to the abiding presenceof God’s majesty, while “ yekara” refers to the manifestation of God’s glory through light, luminosity, shiningness, radiance, beams,. Despite all different interpretations of “ shekinah” in Hebrew texts, it had been viewed as a spatial-temporal event, when God “sanctifies a place, an object, an individual, or a whole people – a revelation of the holy in the midst of profane”…
The rest of this can be read at http://www.academia.edu/1764058/NEW_RELIGION_NEW_SYMBOLISM_ADOPTION_OF_MANDORLA_IN_THE_CHRISTIAN_ICONOGRAPHY