When Nadia Olson created her illustrations for the book St.Rosaline, the Carthusian: The Saint with the Shining Eyes, she often adopted the pictorial language of the Byzantine icons surrounding her whenever she worships at her Byzantine Catholic church.
Icons are the ancient art form of the Church which today only remains in the Eastern liturgical traditions. Iconography has developed its own picture language to express spiritual realities. There are icons of Our Lord and of Our Lady, of the Saints, of liturgical feasts and of stories from scripture.
When Nadia was wondering how to draw the death of St. Rosaline, one of the icons in her church provided the perfect model: The Dormition of the Theotokos. Theotokos is the Greek name for the Mother of God. The Latin word dormition means falling asleep. When someone passes away, Eastern Christians say that the person falls asleep in the Lord.
The most striking feature of the Dormition Icon is Our Lord holding a baby or small child in His arms. This is the soul of the deceased person lying on the bier. What a beautiful way of showing how He gently takes a soul to Heaven and how wonderful to think that in the case of Our Lady He is actually 'assuming' her body to Heaven. In Nadia’s drawing, Our Lord takes St. Rosaline’s soul to Heaven while she is looking at Him with her eyes wide open. Her eyes remained shining even in death. Read about the story of St.Rosaline’s eyes in the book:
If you would like to study the Dormition Icon in more depth, read this article from the excellent Icon Reader blog: