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Author Topic: Here's an Icon with Something for Everyone  (Read 19686 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #45 on: March 27, 2009, 12:47:53 AM »

Is Luther carrying a shotgun?

Maybe an arquebus/musket?

Did those exist in Luther's time...and did Luther really wear a cowboy hat?

That's just hilarious!  I can see Protestants being proud of their "guns and religion" when they see this.

lol!  Yup, the 16th century was the crossover period between the arquebus and musket.
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« Reply #46 on: March 27, 2009, 02:27:13 AM »

It's big enough to see, Alveus, but it's not the same one that's on the DS site.  That one has some other figures including Lenin and "New Age"

Oh, New Age is included in the ikon I posted.  It's the dragon-thing in the lower right part.
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« Reply #47 on: March 27, 2009, 04:51:26 PM »

Is Luther carrying a shotgun?

It doesn't look much like Luther to me

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« Reply #48 on: March 27, 2009, 08:38:21 PM »

No, that icon should not be venerated. It is simply a polemical propaganda piece, promoting a particular ecclesiopolitical ideology. Some food for thought:

Iconography is, above all else, concerned with the revelation of God in Trinity: of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God which has allowed the sanctification of fallen creation (matter), including humanity (made in the image of God)**; of the signs and wonders of the Divine revelation in both the Old and New Testament periods; and, in its portrayal of the saints, their transfiguration from mere men and women into those who have attained deification, a "oneness with God" and full participation of the heavenly life with God and in God, through the conduct of their earthly lives and their steadfast witness to the true faith. They have become true icons and reflections of the Divine. The word godly is most apt to describe them.

(** St John of Damascus sums this up beautifully: "Of old, the incorporeal and uncircumscribed God was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of God who can be seen. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, who through matter effected my salvation. I will not cease to venerate the matter through which my salvation has been effected.")

Secondly, in the same way that the saints have obliterated their passions to give themselves completely to God, icons must also reflect this dispassionate quality. Obvious displays of human emotions, even a “positive” one such as laughter, are considered to be manifestations of human passion, and therefore have no place in iconography. Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18: 36), therefore the portrayal of saints in their spiritually transformed state must be dispassionate. This also applies to church singing and reading; the singers and readers are there to glorify God and serve the church by their efforts, not to self-aggrandise. Even the display of sorrow in the face of a saint or the Mother of God should be kept subtle, with the emotion conveyed with the eyes, not through histrionics.

Thirdly, there must be complete agreement between scripture, liturgical content (which represents the distillation of the doctrinal, dogmatic and theological position of the Church), and the pictorial content of an icon for any icon to be deemed canonical.

Hence there is no place for ugliness, anger, enmity, and other negative emotions in iconography. The purpose of an icon is to draw us closer to God. Of course, there are specific examples of didactic icons, such as Last Judgement and Ladder of Divine Ascent which feature fearsome dragon-like creatures swallowing unrepentant evildoers. The Resurrection icon shows the personification of sin and death bound in chains in the abyss. It may be said, therefore, if there is room for such portrayals in these canonical icons, then why object to the presence of the figures in the Ark of Salvation image?

I offer this reply: An icon is a material, tangible expression of the incarnate God. The iconographic portrayal of the saints as icons of Christ, then, should reflect the sanctity, dispassion and boundless compassionate mercy of Christ to those who repent of their sins. Do we not pray to the saints and the Mother of God to intercede on our behalf? Are we not exhorted to pray for our enemies, to love them, and not to hate them? Of all scripture passages on this theme, Matt. 5: 43-48 is perhaps the most useful and succinct:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We are also assured that God is Love, and that His love and mercy are available to all who seek Him in true faith. There are petitions in various Orthodox litanies which ask for the repentance and return to the true faith of sinners, apostates, and, yes, enemies. One which immediately comes to mind is "Let us pray for those who love us, and those who hate us", a petition in the litany sung towards the end of the Great Compline services of Great Lent where the Canon of St Andrew of Crete is sung.

There is the question of the iconographic portrayal of prophets and saints who denounced kings and princes. Such scenes are found in the smaller panels of a "life" icon of a saint or prophet (an icon which has a large central panel of the saint or prophet, surrounded by a series of smaller panels showing scenes of his or her life). Keeping to the dispassionate nature of icons, these scenes of rebuke of kings and princes (such as in icons of Prophet Elijah, and any number of OT and NT saints and righteous ones) show the saint standing before the errant ruler with a hand raised in rebuke, but nothing more. It is also significant that such scenes, almost without exception, are never used as icons in their own right.

it is not surprising that certain schismatic groups have favoured this so-called Ark of Salvation image as it reflects their particular ideology. This image suggests that those who are not Orthodox are somehow beyond repentance and redemption. Can we really agree with this as Orthodox Christians? The persecuting Pharisee Saul openly boasted of his zeal and success in persecuting Christians, yet, by the grace of God, became one of the Princes of the Apostles, a pillar of Orthodoxy. There are also innumerable converts to the Orthodox faith who have come from every religious background imaginable, including atheism, paganism and communism; many who have become saints, in times of old, and in our present day. The grace of God knows no bounds.

Iconography, as I have said before, must never be used for political or ideological purposes. To portray the non-Orthodox as a whole as being irredeemable and in league with demonic and evil forces to destroy Orthodoxy is a shameful debasement of iconography. I am reminded of a reply to a convert to Orthodoxy as to how he came to the conclusion that the Orthodox faith was the true faith: "The Soviet Union was capable of destroying anything. Yet, despite its immense power and resources, it could not destroy the Orthodox Church. So that was good enough for me." The gates of hell cannot prevail, indeed ...


I think this is an excellent, fair, well thought out, and loving perspective.  PoM nominee!

I was going to add to what you said, but really, I think you said it all.  Thank you for the beautiful reflection.

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« Reply #49 on: March 28, 2009, 01:20:17 PM »

This blown-up image of the icon is apparently missing Leo the iconoclast (probably replaced by Julian the Apostate), Lenin the Communist (another dude with a gun), and "Eftyches" the heiresiarch (who lived a ripe old age).
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« Reply #50 on: March 29, 2009, 06:53:13 PM »

minasoliman, there are several versions of this "icon", each with slight variations in its composition. I have at least three versions on file, with inscriptions in Greek, Slavonic and English. The compositional variations seem to reflect the particular ideology of the respective schismatic group which promotes the particular variant of this image.

The saddest aspect of the matter is that certain extremist groups have hijacked the perfectly acceptable motif of the "Ship of the Church" (Η Ναύς τής Εκκλησίας), where Christ, the Mother of God, the Apostles and various saints are in a boat, steadily and surely sailing the waters of life, and modified it for ideological and ecclesiopolitical ends. It grieves me that such groups which proclaim themselves bastions of "true Orthodoxy", are quite happy to debase iconography in this way. After all, iconography is the pictorial equivalent of the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, the pictorial equivalent of the Church's consensus patrum. If it is accepted that liberties cannot be taken with the liturgical deposit of the Orthodox Church, then why should such images be seen as acceptable? The sacrifices of life and limb of the iconodules of past centuries to uphold the place of iconography as an integral and inseparable part of the Orthodox faith is surely mocked by such images as the so-called "Ark of Salvation". Are such images truly in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" which we commemorated a few weeks ago?
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« Reply #51 on: March 29, 2009, 08:13:00 PM »

LBK,

I'm wondering if you could comment on something. I've noticed that Gregory who painted the icon in question maintains on his website that he based it off of prototypes from centuries ago.  Could you comment on what prototypes he may be using, and how they might differ from the product of his work?

Also, I noticed when looking at some photos of ancient manuscripts that there were images of Orthodox hierarchs stepping on heretics that are on the ground (I believe it was from the time after iconoclasm).  Are illuminated manuscripts subject to differing rules?

Thanks for helping to clear up these questions I have.

Fr Anastasios
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« Reply #52 on: March 29, 2009, 08:22:53 PM »

Are such images truly in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" which we commemorated a few weeks ago?
IMO, not so much in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" as in the spirit of the triumphalism of some Orthodox. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #53 on: March 29, 2009, 08:36:56 PM »

Are such images truly in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" which we commemorated a few weeks ago?
IMO, not so much in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" as in the spirit of the triumphalism of some Orthodox. Roll Eyes

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« Reply #54 on: March 29, 2009, 09:38:22 PM »

Are such images truly in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" which we commemorated a few weeks ago?
IMO, not so much in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" as in the spirit of the triumphalism of some Orthodox. Roll Eyes

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« Reply #55 on: March 29, 2009, 09:50:43 PM »

Are such images truly in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" which we commemorated a few weeks ago?
IMO, not so much in the spirit of the "triumph of Orthodoxy" as in the spirit of the triumphalism of some Orthodox. Roll Eyes

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« Reply #56 on: March 29, 2009, 10:39:29 PM »

LBK,

I'm wondering if you could comment on something. I've noticed that Gregory who painted the icon in question maintains on his website that he based it off of prototypes from centuries ago.  Could you comment on what prototypes he may be using, and how they might differ from the product of his work?

Also, I noticed when looking at some photos of ancient manuscripts that there were images of Orthodox hierarchs stepping on heretics that are on the ground (I believe it was from the time after iconoclasm).  Are illuminated manuscripts subject to differing rules?

Thanks for helping to clear up these questions I have.

Fr Anastasios
I have to say, although it would make sense, and isn't heterodox, I've never seen the Church portrayed as a ship with the Theotokos etc. inside.

I've seen icons of the Council of Chalcedon with devils whispering in Eutyches and Pope Dioscoros' ears.

And one of St. Nicholas giving Arius a firm right hook.
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« Reply #57 on: March 29, 2009, 11:32:33 PM »

And one of St. Nicholas giving Arius a firm right hook.

I've heard that this one was a true story, not necessarily or merely a symbolism of Orthodox triumph.
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« Reply #58 on: March 29, 2009, 11:53:06 PM »


Also, I noticed when looking at some photos of ancient manuscripts that there were images of Orthodox hierarchs stepping on heretics that are on the ground (I believe it was from the time after iconoclasm).  Are illuminated manuscripts subject to differing rules?


This sort of thing exists in OO tradition, although I haven't seen the boat icon in our iconography. 

I've seen Coptic icons of St. Athanasius stepping on Arius.  Also, there is this Armenian icon of St. Hripsime stepping on King Drtad:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,15818.msg225937.html#msg225937

The odd thing about that icon though, is that King Drtad himself is also a saint in the Armenian Church, since after he martyred St. Hripsime he converted to Christianity.  So the above icon is really of a saint stepping on a saint.   Shocked  I think what Hovnadanian was trying to depict, though, was St. Hripsime successfully resisting King Drtad's advances and the temptation to sin with him. 
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« Reply #59 on: March 30, 2009, 12:01:55 AM »

"Stepping on heretics" icons were discussed a little at the beginning of this old thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,7204.0.html

EA apparently attached an icon like this, concerning the Council of Ephesus, in reply 4, but it was deleted for some reason.  It would be nice to get another link to it.
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« Reply #60 on: March 31, 2009, 10:07:43 AM »

LBK,

I'm wondering if you could comment on something. I've noticed that Gregory who painted the icon in question maintains on his website that he based it off of prototypes from centuries ago.  Could you comment on what prototypes he may be using, and how they might differ from the product of his work?

Also, I noticed when looking at some photos of ancient manuscripts that there were images of Orthodox hierarchs stepping on heretics that are on the ground (I believe it was from the time after iconoclasm).  Are illuminated manuscripts subject to differing rules?

Thanks for helping to clear up these questions I have.

Fr Anastasios

The prototype said to be used by the Gregory of which you speak is most likely the model for this drawing, by the Greek iconographer Rallis Kopsidis, who studied under Photios Kontoglou:



In this drawing, only Christ and the apostles are present. No sign at all of the "enemies" on the shore. If this drawing is indeed a faithful copy of the prototype at Stavronikita, then the additions of the figures on the shore speak volumes about the artist, and his attempt to legitimise his work of angry propaganda. The original meaning of "the good ship Orthodoxy", skippered by Christ, steadily sailing the turbulent waters of life has been distorted into a polemical ecclesiopolitical statement by his additions to the composition.

Regarding saints trampling on heretics, in keeping with the proper dispassionate nature of icons, it would be better if such portrayals are not done, as it invites a sense of triumphalism and passion. The "icon" of St Joseph of Petrograd on the thread linked to earlier is almost comic in its histrionic portrayal of Patriarch Sergius struggling under St Joseph's feet. Ungainly, unnecessary, and quite lacking in dignity and gravitas, not to mention theologically suspect.

There arem of course, acceptable ways of portraying heretics in icons. Here is an icon of the Third Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon:



The two figures in the foreground with little black demons on their shoulders are Eutyches and Dioscorus, who were condemned at this council; Eutyches for his heretical stance on the nature(s) of Christ, and Dioscorus for his presiding over the non-canonical second council at Ephesus (which later became known as the "Robber Council"), and other serious infractions.

It is interesting to note that Dioscorus's clothing resembles bishop's vestments (on the death of St Cyril of Alexandria, Dioscorus succeeded him as Patriarch). A closer look shows that his omophorion (the strip of vestment draped over his shoulders and over his left arm) is plain, with no crosses on it, unlike those of the seated hierarchs. Likewise, Dioscorus's blue phelonion and stole (epitracheilion) are also devoid of the usual crosses and other motifs normally on these vestments. Eutyches, a priest and abbot, likewise, wears a plain stole.

This portrayal vividly illustrates the stripping of authority, the repudiation and the excommunication of Dioscorus and Eutyches, therefore, the little black demons could be regarded as an unnecessary embellishment. (But that's me being picky ...)


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« Reply #61 on: April 01, 2009, 02:02:50 PM »

Dear LBK,

Thank you for your response and help in this matter.

Would the illuminated manuscripts I saw then be considered to be a non-standard strand? I can scan and post if it will aid in the discussion to know exactly what I am talking about.

Yours in Christ,

Fr Anastasios
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« Reply #62 on: April 01, 2009, 02:07:35 PM »

Would the illuminated manuscripts I saw then be considered to be a non-standard strand? I can scan and post if it will aid in the discussion to know exactly what I am talking about.

Yes, please do.
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« Reply #63 on: April 01, 2009, 07:40:00 PM »

For no particular reason, this morning I was thinking about St. Nicholas and his role in the first Ecumenical Council.  Suddenly, I found myself wondering if there are any icons of him slapping Arius.  After searching online I was only able to find one, but it is still nice to know there’s at least one in existence.

After seeing this thread today, I figured this icon would be a relevant contribution:




Nicholas striking Arius
Fresco: Soumela Monastery, Turkey


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« Reply #64 on: April 01, 2009, 10:15:06 PM »

I think it would help my faith life if I had an icon depicting most everybody I don't like going to Hell.  It would be reassuring.
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« Reply #65 on: April 01, 2009, 11:30:29 PM »

I think it would help my faith life if I had an icon depicting most everybody I don't like going to Hell.  It would be reassuring.

Even better, it would have a blank spot where I could attach a photo of whomever was annoying me at the moment.
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« Reply #66 on: April 02, 2009, 12:12:25 AM »

I think it would help my faith life if I had an icon depicting most everybody I don't like going to Hell.  It would be reassuring.

That's mean!
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« Reply #67 on: April 02, 2009, 12:19:44 AM »

For no particular reason, this morning I was thinking about St. Nicholas and his role in the first Ecumenical Council.  Suddenly, I found myself wondering if there are any icons of him slapping Arius.  After searching online I was only able to find one, but it is still nice to know there’s at least one in existence.

After seeing this thread today, I figured this icon would be a relevant contribution:




Nicholas striking Arius
Fresco: Soumela Monastery, Turkey




What century was this from?

It's interesting that here too, Arius also wears plain garments with no crosses.

I think there are many different traditions and customs of iconographies, i.e. different rules of what was allowed to be drawn, what was not allowed, different purposes of the drawings (like one tradition draws to help illiterate people and another tradition for purely symbolic theological purposes).

This is just my hypothesis, since I'm sensing a bit of inconsistency in iconography if we were to assume one major tradition of rules and regulations and purposes.

Dear LBK,

Concerning the icon of the 4th Council at Chalcedon, I'm assuming the central figure is Leo?  Who are the ones behind him?
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« Reply #68 on: April 02, 2009, 01:14:24 AM »

I feel bad for Arius.  Even though he recanted of his position, wasn't he still stabbed to death by Roman thugs seeking his deposition?
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« Reply #69 on: April 02, 2009, 03:06:20 AM »

For no particular reason, this morning I was thinking about St. Nicholas and his role in the first Ecumenical Council.  Suddenly, I found myself wondering if there are any icons of him slapping Arius.  After searching online I was only able to find one, but it is still nice to know there’s at least one in existence.

After seeing this thread today, I figured this icon would be a relevant contribution:

Nicholas striking Arius
Fresco: Soumela Monastery, Turkey




What century was this from?

It's interesting that here too, Arius also wears plain garments with no crosses.

I think there are many different traditions and customs of iconographies, i.e. different rules of what was allowed to be drawn, what was not allowed, different purposes of the drawings (like one tradition draws to help illiterate people and another tradition for purely symbolic theological purposes).

This is just my hypothesis, since I'm sensing a bit of inconsistency in iconography if we were to assume one major tradition of rules and regulations and purposes.

Dear LBK,

Concerning the icon of the 4th Council at Chalcedon, I'm assuming the central figure is Leo?  Who are the ones behind him?

The fresco at Soumela is probably no older than 18th century, and possibly 19th, going by the artistic style which is quite fluid and animated (a little too animated for an icon, IMO).

In the Chalcedon icon, Emperor Marcianus is shown enthroned, not Leo; above his head is a (barely legible) inscrption (The) King Marcianus. Three of the mitred bishops seated in the foreground have their names written in their haloes, but they are too indistinct to read. Some of the fathers present at this council include Anatolius, Archbishop of Constantinople; Maximus, Archbishop of Antioch; Juvenal, Archbishop of Jerusalem; Thalassius, Bishop of Cappadocia; and Bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius from Rome.

Regarding the idea that "there are many different traditions and customs of iconographies, i.e. different rules of what was allowed to be drawn, what was not allowed, different purposes of the drawings (like one tradition draws to help illiterate people and another tradition for purely symbolic theological purposes)", this is not at all true. Sure, there are geographic variations in the "artistic" styles of icons (a knowledge of which is very useful in determining age and place of origin of old icons, as, strictly speaking, icons should not be signed by the iconographer). There are generally distinct differences between Greek, Russian, Serbian, and Romanian icons, for instance. Also, within a country, there are further stylistic variations, in terms of how the figures and details are painted, which region or province the icon came from, and even the range of colours used, depending on the availability of pigments and oxides.

What is allowed or not allowed to be depicted must conform to the scriptural, doctrinal, theological and liturgical traditions of the Church, irrespective of country or region. Icons are the visual equivalent of scripture and liturgy (not just the Divine Liturgy, but the whole liturgical deposit of the Church, what is read, chanted and sung, which represents the life and mind of the Church). The teachings of the Church do not change according to geography or ethnicity, therefore there cannot be "different rules" in the content of icons for different parts of the world.

Many people are understandably confused when trying to work out which images are acceptable, and which are not. This confusion is not helped when iconographers themselves, including some quite prominent ones, continue to paint images such as the so-called NT Trinity, Angel of Blessed Silence, or the Mother of God surrounded by a mandorla of Uncreated Light (as seen in the image Multiplier of Wheat). Over the years of studying and writing about icons, perhaps the most valuable source of knowledge for me comes from within the life of the Church. A knowledge of scripture, of patristic writings, lives of saints, and, above all, the liturgical deposit of the Church have filled in many, many gaps in my knowledge, and I'm always learning more. It takes a lot of time to develop the experience and discernment needed to distinguish between a true icon and a false one. My comments on the "ark of salvation" image are a case in point.
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« Reply #70 on: April 02, 2009, 08:43:35 AM »

I think it would help my faith life if I had an icon depicting most everybody I don't like going to Hell.  It would be reassuring.

Even better, it would have a blank spot where I could attach a photo of whomever was annoying me at the moment.

yes!  Like a rotating icon of whose pissing me off at the moment.  I like it.  Why restrict my venom to historical personages.  There's plenty of people around now who we can hope are going to hell.

Quote
Did those exist in Luther's time...and did Luther really wear a cowboy hat?

You didn't know that?  He was able to get his writings out while holed up via Pony Express.
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« Reply #71 on: April 02, 2009, 08:05:48 PM »

I found the icon of St. Athanasius I was thinking of.  It's not that clear in this picture of it, as the bottom is cut off a bit, but you can make out a small Arius under the saint's feet:

http://www.coptic.net/pictures/Icon.StAthanasius-1.gif


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« Reply #72 on: April 02, 2009, 09:01:55 PM »

Arius recanted?
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« Reply #73 on: April 03, 2009, 12:29:50 AM »

Quote
What is allowed or not allowed to be depicted must conform to the scriptural, doctrinal, theological and liturgical traditions of the Church, irrespective of country or region. Icons are the visual equivalent of scripture and liturgy (not just the Divine Liturgy, but the whole liturgical deposit of the Church, what is read, chanted and sung, which represents the life and mind of the Church). The teachings of the Church do not change according to geography or ethnicity, therefore there cannot be "different rules" in the content of icons for different parts of the world.

But LBK, don't you think every culture carries a different interpretation of an icon?  For instance, Greek culture may not be pleased with the Theotokos being alone, but Latins find the icon of the Theotokos being alone as no different than any other saint being alone.

Radiant light coming from the Theotokos does not necessarily mean she's the source of divine energy.  It's the general experience of many of those who may have seen the Virgin Theotokos appear, in radiant light.

Many icons that were drawn in the past may not have even carried any symbolism, but rather were simply rewriting the stories of the Bible in pictoral format for those who can't read.

Scripturally, doctrinally, theologically, and liturgically, both types of icons may not contradict those traditions.  You also mentioned how you lived the life of the Church in order to understand the significance and symbolism behind what is allowed and what is not allowed in Orthodoxy?  Have you lived the life of Western Orthodoxy?  Have you lived the life of Oriental Orthodoxy?  How do you know you're not simply culturally bound by your beliefs, rather than "doctrinally."  God forbid, we will have to study a new list of heresies based on wrong iconography:

Trampling on heretics-ism
Statue-ism
Lone Theotokos-ism
Radiant Light from saints-ism
Emotionalism
Realistic-ism
etc. etc. etc.

I mean, my gosh.  If this is what you mean by doctrinally, woe to many of them who practice these?

In the Coptic Church for instance, we are taught that there's a certain way not to sing certain hymns.  Does that make one a heretic for singing it incorrectly?  Or are we simply putting a cultural significance and symbolism to the way something is supposed to be sung?

In Coptic New Year, the date is considered a symbolic fruit that commemorates the martyrs (red fruit) with hard core faith (seed).  Nevertheless, those who do not possess the date does not mean they don't commemorate their own martyrs.  This was a cultural significance, and we are told, it is encourage we eat the red dates if made available.  Yet, no one is yelling foul play for those who eat yellow, even though it is not traditionally what should be eaten.
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« Reply #74 on: April 03, 2009, 08:50:18 AM »

Quote
What is allowed or not allowed to be depicted must conform to the scriptural, doctrinal, theological and liturgical traditions of the Church, irrespective of country or region. Icons are the visual equivalent of scripture and liturgy (not just the Divine Liturgy, but the whole liturgical deposit of the Church, what is read, chanted and sung, which represents the life and mind of the Church). The teachings of the Church do not change according to geography or ethnicity, therefore there cannot be "different rules" in the content of icons for different parts of the world.

But LBK, don't you think every culture carries a different interpretation of an icon?  For instance, Greek culture may not be pleased with the Theotokos being alone, but Latins find the icon of the Theotokos being alone as no different than any other saint being alone.

I suppose there should be a bit of wiggle room, but Icons are a unique category of Orthodox worship-aid.  They fulfill a few roles that other things, like what kind of food you eat, or numerology, don't fulfill: (a) being a window to heaven (which means they've got to be the right types of windows - they shouldn't depict heavenly reality); (b) being a teacher of the faith (icons have for quite a long time been succinct didactic aids, especially to those who learn visually or who can't read, and even for those who can they are intended to be summaries of events or people in a way that leads to greater knowledge and faith); (c) being another focus of the worshiping environment (our worship environment engages the senses - the sight of icons, the smell of incense, the sound of chant/music, the taste of the Body of Christ).  Considering these three, it is only natural that there would be a great emphasis on doctrinally correct icons, and a thorough field of iconographic study which maintains this doctrinal purity.  Yes, we are allowed icons because of Christ's incarnation; but we want icons for the reasons listed above - and they're important enough reasons to necessitate a fairly conservative (read: comparing to traditional models and theology) school of iconography.
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« Reply #75 on: April 03, 2009, 09:59:36 AM »

Dear LBK,

I found the manuscript I was talking about earlier. Looking forward to continuing our discussion.

It's from Judith Herrin, Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. London: Penguin Books, 2008, in the inserts before page 73.

In Christ,

Fr Anastasios
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« Reply #76 on: April 03, 2009, 10:38:54 AM »

I feel bad for Arius.  Even though he recanted of his position, wasn't he still stabbed to death by Roman thugs seeking his deposition?

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Arius was ordered to appear before the emperor, and asked whether he was willing to sign the Nicene decrees. He replied, without hesitation, that he was ready to do so. And yet, the very day before he was to be readmitted to communion, Arius died suddenly, and in a most remarkable manner: his guts basically exploded.  This was considered a sign that Arius’ heart hadn’t really changed, but rather he was simply giving lip service.
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« Reply #77 on: April 03, 2009, 07:34:17 PM »

I suppose there should be a bit of wiggle room, but Icons are a unique category of Orthodox worship-aid.  They fulfill a few roles that other things, like what kind of food you eat, or numerology, don't fulfill: (a) being a window to heaven (which means they've got to be the right types of windows - they shouldn't depict heavenly reality);

I'm going to pick on the icon with the Theotokos alone to address your well thought-out points.  The icon of the Theotokos alone can also be a window to heaven.  For once, the light she radiates have been very similar to the light she radiates upon appearing to people in history.  This light is what we also seek to achieve.  It carries the Biblical teaching of "let your light so shine before men" and the theological teaching behind theosis.

If there was a window where I can see heaven, I would probably contemplate that not just the Theotokos, but all the saints radiate this divine light.

Quote
(b) being a teacher of the faith (icons have for quite a long time been succinct didactic aids, especially to those who learn visually or who can't read, and even for those who can they are intended to be summaries of events or people in a way that leads to greater knowledge and faith);

I think it's one thing to teach faith through stories and another to teach faith through symbolism.  We have had both in the past.  I think the light that radiates from the Theotokos can symbolize theosis, as well as her arms raised and her compassionate facial expression can teach us the intercessory and loving power of this particular saint, among other saints.

Quote
(c) being another focus of the worshiping environment (our worship environment engages the senses - the sight of icons, the smell of incense, the sound of chant/music, the taste of the Body of Christ).

Absolutely.  Perhaps, this should be the first point before any others.  In fact, this is perhaps, in my opinion, the primary reason of iconography in the Church, i.e. a way to engage the senses in worship.

Quote
Considering these three, it is only natural that there would be a great emphasis on doctrinally correct icons, and a thorough field of iconographic study which maintains this doctrinal purity.  Yes, we are allowed icons because of Christ's incarnation; but we want icons for the reasons listed above - and they're important enough reasons to necessitate a fairly conservative (read: comparing to traditional models and theology) school of iconography.

Considering the three points made above, it seems that anything extraneous such as "the Theotokos should never be alone" would be quite absurd to make as a doctrinal point, and that such an icon passes the above three points depending on how you interpret it, whether by cultural or personal reasons.

Another point I'd like to make is the consistency behind such icons.  We know that both the Theotokos and the Forerunner above all angelic authorities and saints.  Thus, there are icons that show the Forerunner baptizing Christ while witnessing the Theophany.  Yet there are other icons of the Forerunner, alone, with wings of an angel and holding his own head on silver plate.  Why should the Forerunner be excluded from the rules?

God bless.
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« Reply #78 on: April 03, 2009, 09:03:36 PM »

Mina,

In your example of an icon of the Theotokos standing alone with the mandora of Uncreated Light - the only other times when that mandora appears in iconography, it is shown around Christ Himself in scenes when He, for one reason or another, is depicted performing an action not seen by human eyes: the trampling of Hades (the most famous example), the Transfiguration on Tabor (He was so bright they couldn't see/look at Him), holding the soul of the Theotokos at her Dormition, and sitting enthroned in the womb of the Theotokos Platytera (more spacious than the heavens).  Thus, depicting it around the Theotokos does indeed cause confusion, and the didactic message is lost - it doesn't matter if a coherent justification can be wrought or not, the message sent by traditional iconography is that the full-body halo (mandora, etc.) is depicting the incarnate Son of God in His Glory in a scene not seen by human eyes.
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« Reply #79 on: April 03, 2009, 09:21:08 PM »

Thank you, cleveland, this is exactly what I was getting at. I also have more to say with regard to minasoliman's post #73. I shall return ....  Cheesy
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« Reply #80 on: April 03, 2009, 09:48:43 PM »

Mina,

In your example of an icon of the Theotokos standing alone with the mandora of Uncreated Light - the only other times when that mandora appears in iconography, it is shown around Christ Himself in scenes when He, for one reason or another, is depicted performing an action not seen by human eyes: the trampling of Hades (the most famous example), the Transfiguration on Tabor (He was so bright they couldn't see/look at Him), holding the soul of the Theotokos at her Dormition, and sitting enthroned in the womb of the Theotokos Platytera (more spacious than the heavens).  Thus, depicting it around the Theotokos does indeed cause confusion, and the didactic message is lost - it doesn't matter if a coherent justification can be wrought or not, the message sent by traditional iconography is that the full-body halo (mandora, etc.) is depicting the incarnate Son of God in His Glory in a scene not seen by human eyes.

Again, my point was culture.  What you may consider as "tradition" can be seen simply as cultural.  In the eyes of Greeks, it would be confusing as this has never been considered before.  But I must say, in experiences like the miracle of the Virgin Theotokos at Zeitoun, it does not seem that far-fetched.  The culture of the Latins also have experienced, true or not, saints appearing in light.  Culturally speaking, they have also shared the life of their own Church through their iconography.

And let's not forget, why do we single out the Theotokos so many times in the Liturgy?  For one thing, we also ask her to "save us."  In the Coptic Church, we say a lot more than that, and I'm sure the EO's also say things in liturgical worship that Protestants can find culturally "confusing."  If you must get rid of the inconsistency in this particular icon, what makes us stop at just images?  Why not the words we use in liturgy?
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« Reply #81 on: April 03, 2009, 10:46:11 PM »

I also wanted to add another cultural difference due to different interpretations.  In the Coptic Church, it is considered wrong to put the Theotokos as the central iconic figure in the altar, but rather the icon of Christ the Pantocrator, because it is to Him we look towards the east, to Him all our eyes should be centered upon, and to Him we worship, and later will partake of in the Eucharist.

In other churches, even our own sister churches, it is not considered wrong for the Theotokos to be the central iconic figure because she was a chosen altar for the flesh of the Logos to be taken from and born from.

This is what I mean by a difference of interpretations.  Nevertheless, if you ask the Coptic Church, nay even read her Theotokias (hymnography to the Theotokos) we literally do think of her as the altar to which God took flesh from her.  And I'm sure our own sister churches and the EO's don't put the Theotokos there to worship her or think that it is her second coming from the East we look forward to.  Nevertheless, if a Copt sees this, he will be "confused" and rather appalled, thinking what matter of tradition this must be!  But what may be tradition to one can really be underneath it all cultural.
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« Reply #82 on: April 03, 2009, 11:46:26 PM »

Um, last I checked "it's culture not tradition" isn't a rebuttal to "you shouldn't depict the mandora around the Theotokos," at least not from the EO perspective (since most of us who have studies iconography here have done so in the EO, not OO, context).  If your argument is that the tradition should change, fine, but say that openly, and then be prepared to withstand the initial resistance to the idea... if it will survive and thrive, then so be it - people will come to the defense of the depiction and it will gain theological acceptance.  If it isn't good for our tradition, then it will be expelled.
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« Reply #83 on: April 04, 2009, 04:59:28 AM »

Um, last I checked "it's culture not tradition" isn't a rebuttal to "you shouldn't depict the mandora around the Theotokos," at least not from the EO perspective (since most of us who have studies iconography here have done so in the EO, not OO, context).  If your argument is that the tradition should change, fine, but say that openly, and then be prepared to withstand the initial resistance to the idea... if it will survive and thrive, then so be it - people will come to the defense of the depiction and it will gain theological acceptance.  If it isn't good for our tradition, then it will be expelled.

Why do I feel I'm sensing resistance already?  Yes, I understand there will be resistance.  There's resistance in my church too.  But that doesn't make the argument I made less plausible.  What you're simply saying if it passes resistance, then it's acceptable.  That to me is a weak argument.  You can say the same about dogma, that heresies can pass a certain resistance, and people will be inevitable divide the church because of it.

I don't mean to attack a tradition.  I'm simply trying to engage in a discussion that hopefully I may learn from.  If this is going to offend you, I apologize.  All I was arguing is that everyone has a beautiful tradition, and everyone has their own interpretation that might clash with other's.  I gave an example on that too that just came to mind.  I was hoping I would get something fruitful out the discussion.
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« Reply #84 on: April 04, 2009, 06:47:16 AM »

Why do I feel I'm sensing resistance already?  Yes, I understand there will be resistance.  There's resistance in my church too.  But that doesn't make the argument I made less plausible. 

You're getting resistance because your idea, especially manifest in the example of the Theotokos with the mandora, is against the prevailing tradition of the Church, and indeed has serious consequences when it comes to the depiction on the most amazing and significant events of Christ's life.  I don't think I'm arguing plausibility, I'm arguing benefit or harm to the Church and its people.

What you're simply saying if it passes resistance, then it's acceptable.  That to me is a weak argument.  You can say the same about dogma, that heresies can pass a certain resistance, and people will be inevitable divide the church because of it.

I'm not saying "if it passes resistance, then it's acceptable."  I'm saying "it will meet resistance, and then people will test it - test it against the writings of the Fathers, test it against the iconographic record from the catacombs to the cathedrals, test it against the wisdom of the iconographers who hold a living tradition - and if it passes these tests, then it will gain acceptance, and if it does not pass even one of these tests, it will be cast out."

I don't mean to attack a tradition.  I'm simply trying to engage in a discussion that hopefully I may learn from.  If this is going to offend you, I apologize.  All I was arguing is that everyone has a beautiful tradition, and everyone has their own interpretation that might clash with other's.  I gave an example on that too that just came to mind.  I was hoping I would get something fruitful out the discussion.

I'm not offended - people question tradition all the time on here; one has to have thick skin for it.  I'm giving you the fruit you are looking for: a cross-cultural analysis, at least from the EO perspective, as to why the mandora is used in icons of Christ and, therefore, why it's actually inappropriate for icons of the Theotokos from our EO POV.  You're being given the fruit - don't be disappointed if you get an apple but were expecting a papaya.
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« Reply #85 on: April 04, 2009, 01:22:20 PM »

It seems to me if icons are not a depiction of a real event, but somehow a imaginative depiction of something that might have been, we're not taking about faith but a world of make believe.
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« Reply #86 on: April 04, 2009, 02:35:27 PM »

Why do I feel I'm sensing resistance already?  Yes, I understand there will be resistance.  There's resistance in my church too.  But that doesn't make the argument I made less plausible. 

You're getting resistance because your idea, especially manifest in the example of the Theotokos with the mandora, is against the prevailing tradition of the Church, and indeed has serious consequences when it comes to the depiction on the most amazing and significant events of Christ's life.  I don't think I'm arguing plausibility, I'm arguing benefit or harm to the Church and its people.

What you're simply saying if it passes resistance, then it's acceptable.  That to me is a weak argument.  You can say the same about dogma, that heresies can pass a certain resistance, and people will be inevitable divide the church because of it.

I'm not saying "if it passes resistance, then it's acceptable."  I'm saying "it will meet resistance, and then people will test it - test it against the writings of the Fathers, test it against the iconographic record from the catacombs to the cathedrals, test it against the wisdom of the iconographers who hold a living tradition - and if it passes these tests, then it will gain acceptance, and if it does not pass even one of these tests, it will be cast out."

I don't mean to attack a tradition.  I'm simply trying to engage in a discussion that hopefully I may learn from.  If this is going to offend you, I apologize.  All I was arguing is that everyone has a beautiful tradition, and everyone has their own interpretation that might clash with other's.  I gave an example on that too that just came to mind.  I was hoping I would get something fruitful out the discussion.

I'm not offended - people question tradition all the time on here; one has to have thick skin for it.  I'm giving you the fruit you are looking for: a cross-cultural analysis, at least from the EO perspective, as to why the mandora is used in icons of Christ and, therefore, why it's actually inappropriate for icons of the Theotokos from our EO POV.  You're being given the fruit - don't be disappointed if you get an apple but were expecting a papaya.

Well, I'm still confused about something because I don't feel like I even got an apple from you.  I wish.  You're repeating the same argument as you mentioned before, you didn't give me anything new, and you're ignoring the arguments I made.

Are you saying it's heretical to have that particular icon even if it can be interpreted differently?
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« Reply #87 on: April 04, 2009, 02:59:31 PM »

It seems to me if icons are not a depiction of a real event, but somehow a imaginative depiction of something that might have been, we're not taking about faith but a world of make believe.

How does that relate to mina's and cleveland's discussion?  Huh
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« Reply #88 on: April 04, 2009, 03:21:03 PM »

It doesn't.
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« Reply #89 on: April 04, 2009, 04:05:45 PM »

Oh yes it does. Icons depict what has been revealed about God and the Holy Trinity, not what springs from the imagination of the painter. Icons, at their very core, are representative of the Incarnation of God, the most potent act of Divine revelation.
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