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Author Topic: Canonical Icons?  (Read 46171 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: September 16, 2008, 07:22:49 PM »

It appears that we answered samkim's original question days ago (image of buddha) and that the discussion that follows is really about something much more general and, therefore, sufficiently unrelated for me to give this topic its own separate discussion and a less confusing/more accurate title.  -PtA


This is only vaguely related...

My priest recently blessed this image for me:
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2008, 07:34:21 PM »

This image should never have been blessed as an icon, because it falls short in many ways in terms of its theological and doctrinal content. Where are the stars of perpetual virginity on the "Virgin's" robes? Why is her hair visible? Why does the "Christ-child" not have the distinctive halo of the nine-bar cross, and the letters O W N? I could go on.

This painting is very lovely, and well-executed from the artistic point of view. But it is not an icon, as it tells us little, if anything, about the revelation of God to us, nor of the mystery of the Incarnation.
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2008, 07:49:54 PM »

It says a lot to me. And it would have said a lot to my ancestors. And does say a lot in East Asian culture.

Our Lord wears the robes of Huang-Di, the Emperor. The Emperor is titled "Son of Tian (Heaven)." Our Lord is the true Son of Heaven. He wears the color yellow. Only the emperor and only divinity is allowed to wear yellow. Vassal kings were put to death if they wore yellow. the five toed imperial dragon is born on Our Lord's chest. Only gods and emperors may bear the dragon. He wears the divine cap.

Our Lord's Throne, Our Lady, wears red. Red is the color of Joy and auspiciousness. It was a most auspicious day our when our Lord became incarnate from our Holy Lady, the Empress Mother of heaven.

There are icons where the Theotokos and our Lord wear byzantine regalia. This is no different.
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2008, 07:53:02 PM »

Our Holy Lady's hair is visible because beautiful hair is a symbol of royalty. Queens always wore great and intricate ornamental headresses.

I am Orthodox. I am Asian. I worship the God of my fathers, Huang-Tian-Shang-Di. And I worship the Incarnate Dao, our Lord, Yesu Jidu, the holder of the Great Ultimate, the true Emperor, the true uniter of the warring state, the one who unites All-Under-Heaven to Heaven. He is the Ultimate Ancestor, the New Adam.
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2008, 07:54:13 PM »

It says a lot to me. And it would have said a lot to my ancestors. And does say a lot in East Asian culture.

Our Lord wears the robes of Huang-Di, the Emperor. The Emperor is titled "Son of Tian (Heaven)." Our Lord is the true Son of Heaven. He wears the color yellow. Only the emperor and only divinity is allowed to wear yellow. Vassal kings were put to death if they wore yellow. the five toed imperial dragon is born on Our Lord's chest. Only gods and emperors may bear the dragon. He wears the divine cap.

Our Lord's Throne, Our Lady, wears red. Red is the color of Joy and auspiciousness. It was a most auspicious day our when our Lord became incarnate from our Holy Lady, the Empress Mother of heaven.

There are icons where the Theotokos and our Lord wear byzantine regalia. This is no different.


Er..yeah it is.

The Theotokos was a Jewish Woman. She was not Chinese...

 Questions?
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2008, 07:54:56 PM »

It says a lot to me. And it would have said a lot to my ancestors. And does say a lot in East Asian culture.
....

I don't know much about blessings. Can a priest bless a non-icon, or can he only bless icons?
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2008, 07:56:11 PM »

Quote
Er..yeah it is.

The Theotokos was a Jewish Woman. She was not Chinese...

 Questions?

Our Lady was a Jewish woman. And Byzantines portray her as a Greek maiden. Copts as one of theirs. Ethiopians as an African. She certainly wasn't Russian in any case. But I don't mind if you portray her as such.
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2008, 07:58:15 PM »

The image carries meaning to people in their own culture and history.  I can follow what Samkim writes because of my studies in Chinese and Japanese history and culture.  Why wouldn't God find ways to reach people in their own culture?

And not all Icons of St. Mary the Virgin have the hair covered.  The one that is held to be helpful for women who want a child shows Her as a young maiden with her hair about her shoulders such as a young girl would wear.  And the ROCOR cathedral St. John the Baptist in DC the last time I looked at their website accepted it as a real icon.  

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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2008, 08:04:02 PM »


The Theotokos was a Jewish Woman. She was not Chinese...


Chinese who happen to be religiously Jewish, do exist, you know.
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2008, 08:05:47 PM »

She was not Chinese...

Neither am I. If you were wondering.
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2008, 08:09:32 PM »

It says a lot to me. And it would have said a lot to my ancestors. And does say a lot in East Asian culture.

Our Lord wears the robes of Huang-Di, the Emperor. The Emperor is titled "Son of Tian (Heaven)." Our Lord is the true Son of Heaven. He wears the color yellow. Only the emperor and only divinity is allowed to wear yellow. Vassal kings were put to death if they wore yellow. the five toed imperial dragon is born on Our Lord's chest. Only gods and emperors may bear the dragon. He wears the divine cap.

Our Lord's Throne, Our Lady, wears red. Red is the color of Joy and auspiciousness. It was a most auspicious day our when our Lord became incarnate from our Holy Lady, the Empress Mother of heaven.

There are icons where the Theotokos and our Lord wear byzantine regalia. This is no different.

Grace and Peace,

What about the painting in the background? What does that mean?

BTW: really interesting! Thanks for sharing...
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« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2008, 08:12:20 PM »



Kaifeng Jews.
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« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2008, 08:17:01 PM »



Grace and Peace,

What about the painting in the background? What does that mean?

The king's throne is usually always before a painted screen with nature depicted on it. Usually, the moon and the sun are depicted on opposite sides of the painting, symbolizing the king's authority to govern even nature. The royal throne is the point of cosmic balance (yin and yang). This is ultimately fulfilled by Our Lord.

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« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2008, 08:19:25 PM »



Grace and Peace,

What about the painting in the background? What does that mean?

The king's throne is usually always before a painted screen with nature depicted on it. Usually, the moon and the sun are depicted on opposite sides of the painting, symbolizing the king's authority to govern even nature.

So this is really an Icon for anyone in China... Very neat! And the little black hat the infant Jesus is wearing symbolizes divinity?

Do you have any other Chinese Icons? If so could you share some more?
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2008, 08:25:09 PM »

So this is really an Icon for anyone in China... Very neat! And the little black hat the infant Jesus is wearing symbolizes divinity?
Do you have any other Chinese Icons? If so could you share some more?

And Korea and Vietnam. These general themes and concepts are shared throughout East Asia.

The cap is a Ming dynasty era imperial cap. Different types of imperial caps are worn often by gods. Here are some pagan idols depicting it:



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« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2008, 08:25:39 PM »

Grace and Peace samkim,

If you could tell me are the White Tara modeled on the Holy Theotokos? I had heard that this was cross pollination from Christianity to Buddhism? Just curious if you knew anything about that?
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« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2008, 08:31:40 PM »

Grace and Peace samkim,

If you could tell me are the White Tara modeled on the Holy Theotokos? I had heard that this was cross pollination from Christianity to Buddhism? Just curious if you knew anything about that?

I highly doubt this. In modern times though, there are certainly instances of syncreticism.
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« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2008, 08:36:13 PM »

Grace and Peace samkim,

If you could tell me are the White Tara modeled on the Holy Theotokos? I had heard that this was cross pollination from Christianity to Buddhism? Just curious if you knew anything about that?

I highly doubt this. In modern times though, there are certainly instances of syncreticism.

Isn't the White Tara... Quan Yin? I thought I read somewhere her story saving the children from a fire or something... her statues tend to depict her carrying a baby very similar to statues of the Virgin Mary with Child... ring any bells?

http://www.thaiexotictreasures.com/kuan_yin.html

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« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2008, 08:40:51 PM »

Guan Yin is a traditional Chinese deity. I understand the similarities, but these are probably coincidental. Mother goddess figures are pretty universal. Perhaps something in our collective human consciousness. Again, any syncretistic tendency btwn Guan Yin and Our Lady is purely modern. Who would have heard of the Virgin Mary in ancient India or China (except perhaps the Orthodox Christians in India and the Nestorians in China)?
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« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2008, 08:46:18 PM »

Guan Yin is a traditional Chinese deity. I understand the similarities, but these are probably coincidental. Mother goddess figures are pretty universal. Perhaps something in our collective human consciousness.

That is possible. I know that the original Bodhisattva was male until later this Bodhisattva of Compassion was morphed into a female Bodhisattva... when Buddhism entered into China this Bodhisattva was known as Guan Yin.

Much later when Christianity was persecuted in Japan Christian used to create statues of 'Maria Kannon' with a small cross hidden in the statues so they could venerate the Holy Theotokos. It's interesting...
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« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2008, 08:51:51 PM »



Maria Kannon of the Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians) of Japan, used in Christian worship.



Statue with cross hidden on back.
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« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2008, 09:51:40 PM »

Could you give more information on St. Ioasaph?  How is he actually the Buddha?
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« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2008, 10:14:04 PM »



This Icon is beautiful!
I've printed it off. Thanks!

Maria Kannon of the Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians) of Japan, used in Christian worship.
Last year, while in a large, local antique shop, I found a small brass plate with an image of the Theotokos. The information card said it had come from Nagasaki before WWII. I suspected that it might be a "fumi-e" ("step-on image") used to flush out Kakure Kirishitan in the 17th century. Entire villages would be lined up and forced to step on the image, and anyone who hesitated was executed as a Christian. When I informed the antique dealer, she arranged for an expert to examine the piece, and I recently heard from the antique shop that the fumi-e has been returned to Nagasaki.
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« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2008, 10:18:00 PM »

Could you give more information on St. Ioasaph?  How is he actually the Buddha?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barlaam_and_Josaphat
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Investigation by researchers at the Korean Seoul National University indicates that the name Buddha or Bodhisatta in Sanskrit changed to Bodisav in Persian texts in the sixth or seventh century, then to Budhasaf or Yudasaf in an eighth-century Arabic document (Arabic initial "b" ب could become initial "y" ي by duplication of a dot in handwriting), and Iodasaph in Georgia in the 10th century. That name was then adapted to Ioasaph in Greece in the 11th century, and Iosaphat or Josaphat in Latin since then.
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« Reply #24 on: September 16, 2008, 10:20:44 PM »

Could you give more information on St. Ioasaph?  How is he actually the Buddha?

According to http://ecumenicalbuddhism.blogspot.com/search?q=Barlaam this is fact and the Roman Catholic Church has admitted to as much. An Eastern Christian friend of mine in Singapore says it is accepted as fact by Christians in Southeast Asia.
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« Reply #25 on: September 16, 2008, 10:21:54 PM »

She was not Chinese...

Neither am I. If you were wondering.

Korean, right?
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« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2008, 10:26:11 PM »

She was not Chinese...

Neither am I. If you were wondering.

Korean, right?

Yessuh. Korean-American.



I like your profile image, though I do prefer pre-Qing era Hanfu.
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« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2008, 10:58:38 PM »

I quite like your icon.  It got me googling around for more like it and I came across this page:

http://mattstone.blogs.com/photos/asian_icons/index.html
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« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2008, 11:01:53 PM »

The only problem I can see with these historically inaccurate representations is that they seem to present Christ in a way that is divorced from the actual history of our salvation- in some kind of "cosmic" sense that does not rely on his having come from, or being expected by, the prepared people of Israel. For Christianity to make sense it need come from that particular history, no?
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« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2008, 11:22:42 PM »

The only problem I can see with these historically inaccurate representations is that they seem to present Christ in a way that is divorced from the actual history of our salvation- in some kind of "cosmic" sense that does not rely on his having come from, or being expected by, the prepared people of Israel. For Christianity to make sense it need come from that particular history, no?
Good point.  AISI, one of the most important functions of the icons of Christ is what they do to protect our faith in His incarnation.  Yes, Jesus Christ is the very Word and Wisdom, the very Logos of God, the very Truth of all creation.  Yet He made Himself incarnate.  He did so not as a generic human being who could be made to fit any particular cultural image of Him.  He made Himself incarnate as a Jew and appeared specifically to the Jewish people within a particular time in Jewish history.  Take this away from Him by painting Him as Chinese, European, African, etc., and you deny that which makes Him truly a human hypostasis in the fullest sense of what it means to be human.  You deny His history.
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« Reply #30 on: September 16, 2008, 11:27:25 PM »

The only problem I can see with these historically inaccurate representations is that they seem to present Christ in a way that is divorced from the actual history of our salvation- in some kind of "cosmic" sense that does not rely on his having come from, or being expected by, the prepared people of Israel. For Christianity to make sense it need come from that particular history, no?


Well, we actually do have Icons of the "Cosmic" Christ, and icons which are not "historically accurate". One example is the Icon of the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist depicted with wings, and another is the depiction of Christ as "The Angel of Good Counsel" or "Holy Hesychaia".
 
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« Reply #31 on: September 16, 2008, 11:30:16 PM »

The only problem I can see with these historically inaccurate representations is that they seem to present Christ in a way that is divorced from the actual history of our salvation- in some kind of "cosmic" sense that does not rely on his having come from, or being expected by, the prepared people of Israel. For Christianity to make sense it need come from that particular history, no?
Good point.  AISI, one of the most important functions of the icons of Christ is what they do to protect our faith in His incarnation.  Yes, Jesus Christ is the very Word and Wisdom, the very Logos of God, the very Truth of all creation.  Yet He made Himself incarnate.  He did so not as a generic human being who could be made to fit any particular cultural image of Him.  He made Himself incarnate as a Jew and appeared specifically to the Jewish people within a particular time in Jewish history.  Take this away from Him by painting Him as Chinese, European, African, etc., and you deny that which makes Him truly a human hypostasis in the fullest sense of what it means to be human.  You deny His history.

And Our Lord certainly was not a Roman in a blue toga... or a Byzantine emperor...

Then I suppose most (all) Byzantine icons "deny His history."

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« Reply #32 on: September 16, 2008, 11:48:43 PM »

And Our Lord certainly was not a Roman in a blue toga... or a Byzantine emperor...

But, in this case, the clothes really don't make the man.  Could He not be seen as a Jew wearing Roman garb?
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« Reply #33 on: September 16, 2008, 11:51:08 PM »

I suppose you get so used to seeing certain iconographic depictions that you begin to (stupidly, i suppose) associate them with actual history rather than cultural influence. Point taken, of course.  Smiley

Still, I think there should be limits. I also think that traditional Orthodox iconography is more than just pretty pictures or culturally influenced depictions. Many religious depiction in later western Christendom (post renaissance), for example, do not relay a sound theology. On the other hand, the "Greek" and "Russian" depictions do, since they have had centuries to perfect the theology contained in icons.
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« Reply #34 on: September 16, 2008, 11:57:19 PM »

And Our Lord certainly was not a Roman in a blue toga... or a Byzantine emperor...

But, in this case, the clothes really don't make the man.  Could He not be seen as a Jew wearing Roman garb?
Yes... I'm sure that's what the ikonographers were intending... Wink
That would make even less sense if our Lord was supposed resemble a Jew in that ikon. I guess skin color is what you meant by "history." There's white Jesus, and white Jesus with a slight tan (that could vaguely look semitic). Those two are the "Orthodox" Jesuses. Now I know.
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« Reply #35 on: September 17, 2008, 12:43:43 AM »

Still, I think there should be limits. I also think that traditional Orthodox iconography is more than just pretty pictures or culturally influenced depictions. Many religious depiction in later western Christendom (post renaissance), for example, do not relay a sound theology. On the other hand, the "Greek" and "Russian" depictions do, since they have had centuries to perfect the theology contained in icons.




Old Man God. Holy Spirit Bird. White Jesus. Russian. Greek. Pretty. Perfect. Orthodox? Why not. (And I would give my life to protect these ikons)
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« Reply #36 on: September 17, 2008, 12:46:57 AM »

Do you have anymore images similar to the one you first posted? - The Asian Mary and Christ one, that is.

Thanks.


(edited for clarity)
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« Reply #37 on: September 17, 2008, 12:53:58 AM »

I have some I think. I'll post them later.
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« Reply #38 on: September 17, 2008, 12:59:44 AM »

The only problem I can see with these historically inaccurate representations is that they seem to present Christ in a way that is divorced from the actual history of our salvation- in some kind of "cosmic" sense that does not rely on his having come from, or being expected by, the prepared people of Israel. For Christianity to make sense it need come from that particular history, no?
Good point.  AISI, one of the most important functions of the icons of Christ is what they do to protect our faith in His incarnation.  Yes, Jesus Christ is the very Word and Wisdom, the very Logos of God, the very Truth of all creation.  Yet He made Himself incarnate.  He did so not as a generic human being who could be made to fit any particular cultural image of Him.  He made Himself incarnate as a Jew and appeared specifically to the Jewish people within a particular time in Jewish history.  Take this away from Him by painting Him as Chinese, European, African, etc., and you deny that which makes Him truly a human hypostasis in the fullest sense of what it means to be human.  You deny His history.

The accepted Orthodox ikon of our Holy Father Ioasaph (together with Barlaam) depicts him as a white dude. His hagiography states that he was an Indian Prince. Now, I have three Indian roommates. Not one of them looks like this:



Doesn't this deny St. Ioasaph's true history? I am perfectly willing to venerate this ikon,and I will, but this "denies his history."

...But he might have looked something like this:
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« Reply #39 on: September 17, 2008, 04:30:52 AM »

Quote
Well, we actually do have Icons of the "Cosmic" Christ, and icons which are not "historically accurate". One example is the Icon of the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist depicted with wings, and another is the depiction of Christ as "The Angel of Good Counsel" or "Holy Hesychaia".

Ozgeorge, the icon of the Forerunner with wings is a reference to his being called "Angel (Messenger) of the Desert", in that he led a life of asceticism and holiness, as well as being the herald of the Messiah. Monastic saints, such as the Desert Fathers, are also referred as having "lived the angelic life". Yet do we see icons of St Anthony the Great, St Pachomius the Great, or the pillar-dweller saints, with wings? We do not. Putting wings on St John the Baptist is an error which goes back a couple of centuries, but an error nonetheless. He was never a heavenly creature in origin, he was human "born of woman", and mortal as all human beings are. Wings are used to denote heavenly creatures such as angels, archangels, seraphim, etc.

The images known as Angel of Good Counsel, Holy Wisdom and Holy/Great Silence have long been condemned as heretical, by the Quinisext Ecumenical Council, and by several local Orthodox councils since. Simply put, it is incorrect and uncanonical to portray Christ in a symbolic form, be it a lamb, a winged androgynous youth, or any other form other than His revealed, incarnate form. St John of Damascus (what would we do without him?) summed it up beautifully:

Of old God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of the God who can be seen. I do not worship matter but I worship the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material and deigned to dwell in matter, who through matter effected my salvation. I will not cease from worshipping the matter through which my salvation has been effected.

Quote
Old Man God. Holy Spirit Bird. White Jesus. Russian. Greek. Pretty. Perfect. Orthodox? Why not. (And I would give my life to protect these ikons)

Samkim, I can tell you that the Trinity image in your post is completely unacceptable in terms of Orthodox doctrine and theology. Consider the following:

The possibility of representing the God-Man in the flesh which He borrowed from His mother is contrasted by the Seventh Ecumenical Council with the absolute impossibility of representing God the Father. The Fathers of the council repeat the authoritative argument of Pope St Gregory II, contained in his letter to the emperor Leo III the Isaurian: “Why do we neither describe nor represent the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? Because we do not know what He is ... And if we had seen and known Him as we have seen and known His Son, we would have tried to describe Him and to represent Him in art.”

Just as human thought has not always measured up to real theology, so artistic creation has not always measured up to authentic iconography. Among other errors, we often find the image of God the Father. This image has been particularly widespread in the Orthodox Church since the seventeenth century, though it appeared as early as the 15th century. Obviously anything can be represented, since the human imagination has no limit. But the fact is that everything is not representable. Many things concerning God are not only not representable by an image and not describable by words, but are even positively inconceivable to man. It is precisely because of this inconceivable, unknowable character of God the Father that the council proclaims the impossibility of making His image.

We have only one way of knowing the Holy Trinity. We know the Father by the Son (“He who sees Me, sees Him who sent Me” as we read in John 12:45, and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” in John 14:9) and the Son by the Holy Spirit (“No man can say ‘Jesus is the Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit”, I Cor. 12:3). Consequently, we only represent what has been revealed to us: the incarnate person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is represented as It manifested Itself: in the shape of a dove at the baptism of Christ, in the form of tongues of fire at Pentecost, and so on. As for God the Father, His presence is only indicated symbolically in icons: usually a blessing hand is represented coming from heaven, this in general indicating the divine presence.
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« Reply #40 on: September 17, 2008, 04:55:21 AM »

Still, I think there should be limits. I also think that traditional Orthodox iconography is more than just pretty pictures or culturally influenced depictions. Many religious depiction in later western Christendom (post renaissance), for example, do not relay a sound theology. On the other hand, the "Greek" and "Russian" depictions do, since they have had centuries to perfect the theology contained in icons.




Old Man God. Holy Spirit Bird. White Jesus. Russian. Greek. Pretty. Perfect. Orthodox? Why not. (And I would give my life to protect these ikons)

The Asian icon is very beautiful, samkin. I'd be happy with that hanging on my wall, next to my Aboriginal Madona and Child. Smiley But as an aside, the lower icon here is probably the most Semetic representation of Christ I have seen - and one I would truly love to own!! It's Russian?
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« Reply #41 on: September 17, 2008, 07:43:45 AM »

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Er..yeah it is.

The Theotokos was a Jewish Woman. She was not Chinese...

 Questions?

Our Lady was a Jewish woman. And Byzantines portray her as a Greek maiden. Copts as one of theirs. Ethiopians as an African. She certainly wasn't Russian in any case. But I don't mind if you portray her as such.

And Mormons portray Jesus as a strapping, tall, blond haired gentile man............ Errors all. When you fictionalize the Lord or his Mother you play into the hands of those who don't believe they lived as real people. I certainly understanding how changing things to suit personal preferences can make folks  more comfortable but I think it's a big error.

Look what it can lead to. Do you recall the preaching of Obama's crazy Pastor Wright? "Jesus was a black man" etc etc. From there it was a short jump to his antisemitism. Jesus was a Jew. His mother was a Jew.  Try to acclimate Smiley 
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« Reply #42 on: September 17, 2008, 07:56:16 AM »

Samkim,

I do not know the answer to your question. To me, a non-specialist, answers from both sides seem to make sense. In any case, your icon of an "Asian St. Iosaph" is very beautiful! Thank you!

G.
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« Reply #43 on: September 17, 2008, 08:46:06 AM »

This is only vaguely related...

My priest recently blessed this image for me:

May more people in the east venerate this blessed icon while worshipping God in spirit and truth.
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« Reply #44 on: September 17, 2008, 09:06:30 AM »

Folks, answer me this: Is it acceptable to paint icons of, say, St Peter the Aleut, or St Metrophanes of Peking, and his fellow Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion, with western features, so as to make such icons more "relevant" and "accessible" to white westerners?

If the answer is no, then why is it "acceptable" that Christ and the Mother of God be painted as Oriental potentates? Or Australian Aborigines? Or Native Americans? Or black Africans? What theological, canonical or historical justification is there for allowing such portrayals?
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