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Author Topic: God the Father in Iconography  (Read 30813 times) Average Rating: 0
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scamandrius
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« on: November 07, 2006, 07:57:07 PM »

A student of mine recently returned from Sophia, Bulgaria.  While there she had the chance to visit the Patriarchal Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky.  She brought a book with illustrations and I noticed in the main dome was Christ (obvious from the tri-radiant nimbus) and holding Him was an old bearded figure.  I recoiled because I immediately came to the conclusion that that which was depicted could only be God the Father.  Am I wrong?  Is it someone else (honestly, who else could it be?)? I was always taught that since only Christ assumed flesh, he can be portrayed on icons, but never God the Father.  I know the Roman Catholics portray God the Father (e.g.sistine chapel, Church of the Annunciation in Florence), but how can this possibly square with Orthodox theology?  Is this not innovation?

Thanks.

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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2006, 08:05:33 PM »

Icons of God the Father are all over the place.  I don't particularly like them but they're there. Explanations of what the icon actually is vary--from "oh this is actually the Ancient of Days" to "just deal with it."  This book may answer your questions but I have not read it myself:

http://www.amazon.com/Image-Father-Orthodox-Theology-Iconography/dp/1879038153/sr=8-1/qid=1162944028/ref=sr_1_1/104-3214348-1361536?ie=UTF8&s=books
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2006, 08:15:34 PM »

Icons of God the Father are all over the place.  I don't particularly like them but they're there. Explanations of what the icon actually is vary--from "oh this is actually the Ancient of Days" to "just deal with it."  This book may answer your questions but I have not read it myself:

http://www.amazon.com/Image-Father-Orthodox-Theology-Iconography/dp/1879038153/sr=8-1/qid=1162944028/ref=sr_1_1/104-3214348-1361536?ie=UTF8&s=books

So, what is the "Ancient of Days" supposed to be?  I never understood that.
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2006, 08:16:59 PM »

Scamnandrius,
That sort of icons are very common in Romania as well.
I our church there is an icon at the top of the iconostas depicting God the Father as an old bearded man, the Son, holding the Cross in His left hand and, between the two, the Holy Ghost, in the form a dove.
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2006, 08:37:01 PM »

This seems like a much more contentious issue than the issue of a "Coptic flashing Icon" which is not even an Icon, to me.

Does anyone have any idea when and where we get the first mention of a "God the Father Icon"?

Edited to remove unecessary comments.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2006, 08:50:41 PM by EkhristosAnesti » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2006, 08:40:14 PM »

So, what is the "Ancient of Days" supposed to be?  I never understood that.
"9 As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was Ancient of Days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11 I looked then because of the sound of the great words which the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."  (Daniel 7:9-14)
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2006, 08:51:53 PM »

From Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow...
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s01/f003.htm
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2006, 10:48:27 PM »

There was a thread about this here:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9406.0.html
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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2006, 10:19:00 AM »

We have one painted on the wall of our GOC church in America. I don't see what the big deal is. OZGeorge makes some very good points in the other thread.
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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2006, 11:45:50 AM »

Trying to decide whether to become Orthodox, I was reading George Gabriel's "Mary: the Untrodden Portal of God" to learn about Mary.  In this book, the author included a lengthy argument against these icons of the Father.

Is this a major debate in Orthodoxy?  Is this issue something a potential convert needs to be concerned about?
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2006, 12:41:40 PM »

My VERY basic understanding of all of this is that we need to understand the Incarnation as the central piece to Iconography. 

At the 7th Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) the main backing for Icons WAS the Incarnation.  If Christ came in the flesh and Incarnated, then we can depict Him in Icons. 

We know Christ because God the Father is in Him and He is in God the Father.  Yet, God the Father did not hypstasize in the flesh, he sends his energies through the Spirit.  (I may have botched up the words here and order...i'm not reading it from a textbook, just from what I remember...I apologize if I said something wrong). 

According to my OT professor the Ancient of Days cannot be contained by one single representation.  In all reality the ancient of days could represent himself as ANYTHING, and the example that was given was that he could even be a toothpick. 

Our humanistic and "enlightenement" ideals have transformed this into the representation of the ancient of days as an old man, typifying a father figure.  Yet we only know the father through the son, so how can we represent the father other than Christ Himself? 

Just some thoughts...
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« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2006, 01:32:01 PM »

Is this a major debate in Orthodoxy?  Is this issue something a potential convert needs to be concerned about?

Absolutely not! Too much has been made of this already.
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2006, 01:41:09 PM »

We have one painted on the wall of our GOC church in America. I don't see what the big deal is. OZGeorge makes some very good points in the other thread.

Whether or not the Church has clearly ruled on this question is a moot point.  The fact is, the Church does not make pronouncements on issues until it finds it necessary to do so.  God the Father did not take on human flesh.  So clearly, making explicit icons of God the Father is wrong.  I don't consider it such a big deal.  But then again, I would be pretty upset if my parish priest commisioned an icon of God the Father for the parish church.
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« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2006, 05:02:39 PM »

Absolutely not! Too much has been made of this already.

Thanks!
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2006, 05:45:13 PM »

Scamnandrius,
That sort of icons are very common in Romania as well.
I our church there is an icon at the top of the iconostas depicting God the Father as an old bearded man, the Son, holding the Cross in His left hand and, between the two, the Holy Ghost, in the form a dove.

This is probably the most typical Western image of the Trinity.
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« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2006, 12:39:39 AM »

Ancient of Day icons show Christ as alpha and omega - at the same time a man on earth of about the age of his earthly ministry and at the same time the ever existing one - the ancient of days. Both images in the icon are of Christ, not God the Father and the Son.

Icons are not like Western art and thus the same person (Christ) can appear in the same icon represented symbolically two differnt ways (not that his manhood is symbolic; for the second person of the Trinity, his humanity, his being a man is real and actual, not merely symbolic; what IS symbolic is the depicting of the same person two different ways).

This is sort of like the Christ-child held by Mary looks like a small young man (not that he literally looked like a little man as a child) - to remind us that he grew into manhood and carried on his earthly ministry (rather than a cute little baby in manger - although for sentimental reasons I still set up the Christmas creche that was in my parents' house growing up)

I think Fr.Gabriel goes a little far in that he even opposes the three holy visitors icon being stripped of its historical trappings to become an icon of the Trinity (like Rublev's), so you just have the three figures rather than some of the other details of the account from Genesis. I personally think it is pretty apparent that the 3 figures are symbolic, not literal and are not depicting the Father and Holy Spirit as men.

On the other hand I believe (correct me if I am wrong) that is is permissible to depict the Holy Spirit as a dove because we understand that He is NOT a dove, just symbolically depicted that way because of the account of Jesus' baptism. Thus in like fashion, I would say that we understand that the Father and Holy Spirit are NOT men and so the Three Holy Visitors icon is an acceptable symbolic depiction of the Trinity (since the account has been historically interpreted as a fore-shadowing of the revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament).
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« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2006, 01:35:01 AM »

From Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow...
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s01/f003.htm

There is no contradiction with the Moscow's Christ the Savior Church Icon of God the Father to the Incarnation of The Son as the Pantocrator. Everything to the Alpha to the Omega and the Virgin Mary are right there included in that icon regardless if it's not depicting the expansion of the Womb to the Christ Child acting upon his own Judgement even though as Christ Child he wouldn't have had a clue what he was to do at a young age. Yet he would have regarded to be in his right mind to be equate himself to the Father and yet the early Christian presuppose the Jewish structure on how to limit the worship on the priorites of the Holy Trinity to the Christ regardless of the imagination running wild.

On the other hand anyone can participate in idolatry of an icon if someone ignores the iconographer spiritual life who wrote it.
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« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2006, 09:08:51 AM »

The icon in the link that CR gave is certainly a VERY western influenced icon!

Would that have been from the Peter the Great era?

I definitely prefer the traditonal iconographic style.

In Western PA, some of the iconostases in Russian Orthodox churches in the old mill towns look like pictures in the Protestant Sunday school books I grew up with. They are turn-of-the (last) century or early 1900's churches.

I've grwon to appreciate them, but I am glad that there has been a return to the tradional style.
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« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2006, 09:39:17 AM »

Ancient of Day icons show Christ as alpha and omega - at the same time a man on earth of about the age of his earthly ministry and at the same time the ever existing one - the ancient of days. Both images in the icon are of Christ, not God the Father and the Son.
That would be an heretical Icon.
Icons depict hypostasis, and Christ is One Hypostasis.
The only time an Icon can depict more than one hypostasis of the same person is the rare occassion when it depicts the person undertaking different actions through time, for example, in some Icons of the Transfiguration, Christ and the disciples are depicted ascending Mount Tabor, then the Transfiguration followed by the descent from Mount Tabor (see below)

Clearly, this is meant to be understood as a series of events in the life of the One Hypostasis of Christ, and the one hypostasis of each of His disciples. But if the Ancient of Days is the Second Hypostasis of the Trinity, and Christ is the Second Hypostasis of the Trinity, to depict Them sitting next to each other and sharing a Throne means that the Icon is depicting Christ as having two Hypostases. Therefore, I put it to you that The Ancient of Days in the Icon is not Christ, but The Father.

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« Reply #19 on: November 09, 2006, 10:04:56 AM »

Interesting that OzGeorge and I have been going over this very thing via PMs just before this thread came up (we were discussing it in the old thread before the forum went down).  Personally, he's made a great case for the legitimacy of the icon.  I'm still not comfortable with it--as in, I'm not going to go out and buy any for myself--because it takes the dove, the Incarnate Christ, and the Ancient of Days Father and puts them all together in one icon.  Nice, and if you put two and two together you can come up with that, but the Holy Trinity has never revealed itself specifically and wholly in this manner to the Church.  The Ancient of Days appeared in Daniel's vision, so we can depict Daniel's vision.  The dove appeared in the Theophany icon (actually, George, didn't you say the Greek said the Holy Spirit descended "as a dove would descend" instead of "in the FORM of a dove"?).  Regardless, it seems that these manifestations of the other members of the Trinity are to be left in icons of those actual manifestations.
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« Reply #20 on: November 09, 2006, 10:30:36 AM »

Personally, he's made a great case for the legitimacy of the icon.
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« Reply #21 on: November 09, 2006, 11:27:29 AM »

On the other hand anyone can participate in idolatry of an icon if someone ignores the iconographer spiritual life who wrote it.

Um...would you care to explain this?  So if the iconographer has a bad spiritual life (which we judge, and not God) and if he/she writes and icon underneath that "bad" spiritual life (which again we judge, and not God) then we are idolaters for venerating it? 

What about the Incarnation?  What about the 7th Ecumenical Council"  What about the validity of the presence of the Holy Spirit even though we are imperfect (ie. in the case of priests)?? 

This doesn't resonate well with me. 
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« Reply #22 on: November 09, 2006, 02:17:41 PM »

Most  prototypes of this Trinity icon evolve from the Western Church and can almost point for point be seen in Roman Catholic Holy Cards  that were printed in the 17th and 18th Century. The greatest impact for this can be seen in Russia with an occassional  icon found in Greece and the Middle East (many more in the US where itinerrant iconographers offered it as an icon of the Holy Trinity, oddly enough often using Roman Catholic  labeling at times even in Latin, indicating their true prototype source.

This Icon of the Holy Trinity (Not the Rublev one) but having the figure of an Elderly  personage (Father) a Young One (Jesus-son) and holy spirit as a dove is indeed a western Religious painting that got the icon Treatment  where ever the Roman catholic Holy Trinity prayer cards got shipped when it was difficult for budding Orthodox Artists to get the  Icon Painting Manuals or access to Orthodox prototype icons.

This style of icon was definitely condemned by a Russia Synod Council (100 Chapters) that established St Anton Rublev as the model for Russian Iconography.  This icon is still very popular with the Russian Old Believers and was also frequently found in the Royal Church buildings and given as gifts to new Russian Orthodox Churches in the mission regions by the Romanoff Royal family due to the influence of the French upon the Russian Royal Family, arts etc.

A true icon of the Ancient of days, by the way, never has the Son or the Holy Spirit in the icon.

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« Reply #23 on: November 09, 2006, 06:13:13 PM »

The Kursk Root Icon depicts the Ancient of Days above the head of the Theotokos with a Dove Proceeding from Him.
This Icon dates to the 13th century.

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« Reply #24 on: November 10, 2006, 03:20:38 PM »

OzGeorge,

The Kursk Root icon is a multiple prototype images icon rather than a sole prototypical icon.  The icons it incorporates are:1) the primary central or focal icon of the Icon of the Sign 2) surmounted by the Ancient of days 3) then surrounded left right and botton by other individual icons of Saints.  This is typical of many Russian Icons of this period. It does show the Latin or Western influence in the one depicted very well.

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« Reply #25 on: November 10, 2006, 05:52:45 PM »

Thomas,
My point was that the image of the Ancient of Days on the Kursk Root Icon dates to the 13th century. This makes the "17th/18th century Western influence" theory a bit problematic.
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« Reply #26 on: November 10, 2006, 06:01:25 PM »

We have an icon of the Trinity on our iconostasis. I guess I realized something was up when I saw a triangle surrounding God the Father's head like Ive seen in many Western churches.
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« Reply #27 on: November 10, 2006, 07:15:41 PM »

The Kursk Root Icon depicts the Ancient of Days above the head of the Theotokos with a Dove Proceeding from Him.
This Icon dates to the 13th century.
I guess one of us mere mortals here on OC.net should inform the Theotokos that one of her wonder-working icons contains an Image of God the Father which is not allowed in Orthodox iconography (and which possibly was banned/condemned by several church councils).  Possibly, we could convince her to only use "correct" icons, painted written in the proper iconographic style, uninfluenced by the heretical west, by pious and sinless iconographers.
I'll pass on this task!

OzGeorge,
I've always had a special "devotion" to the Kursk Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign, since I was born on the day dedicated to its commemoration.
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« Reply #28 on: November 10, 2006, 07:39:31 PM »

I'll pass on this task!
I call dibs on it not being me either!
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« Reply #29 on: November 10, 2006, 08:22:03 PM »

I call dibs on it not being me either!

You guys shouldn't have to be burdened with it... I'm sure there are others more worthy of the task who would be willing to step up!

Honestly, we have 2 icons of the Trinity including the Ancient of Days up here in the Dorm (outside our chapel on the 3rd floor)... They make us uncomfortable, but it's not like we're gonna tear them up or burn them (i.e. they're still icons, even if the style isn't encouraged anymore).
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« Reply #30 on: November 10, 2006, 09:13:48 PM »

You guys shouldn't have to be burdened with it... I'm sure there are others more worthy of the task who would be willing to step up!

I nominate Darth GiC...
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« Reply #31 on: November 10, 2006, 09:14:53 PM »

I nominate Darth GiC...

Methinks he wouldn't... Unless the Theotokos went digital.
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« Reply #32 on: November 10, 2006, 09:17:43 PM »

In Western PA, some of the iconostases in Russian Orthodox churches in the old mill towns look like pictures in the Protestant Sunday school books I grew up with. They are turn-of-the (last) century or early 1900's churches.

Brother Aidan,
I understand your concern and I support it, but often these churches were poor all the time or at least at the time of their foundation. They proceeded with those icons that they could get. Now, of course, a brand new parish or a parish which goes through a renovation process, should find some ways to enhance their interiors with more attention on iconostasis. Even when the money is a big issue, at least for a temporary decision, some icons can be copied, printed from Internet and enlarged, etc.
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« Reply #33 on: November 11, 2006, 01:11:02 AM »

I find it rather telling that St. John's depiction of Christ in the Book of Revelations replicates that given by St. Daniel the Prophet of the Ancient of Days (i.e. white hair, fiery eyes etc.).

I'm not sure that a proper interpretation of the nature and implications of St. Daniel's "vision" would allow us to draw any Christological conclusions regarding the Personhood of Christ were we to conclude Christ to be the Ancient of Days. Since I have never seen an OO Icon depiciting the Ancient of Days (whether as The Father or The Son), however, I guess I have less to consider in my exegesis of the relevant passage.
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« Reply #34 on: November 11, 2006, 08:42:17 AM »

I find it rather telling that St. John's depiction of Christ in the Book of Revelations replicates that given by St. Daniel the Prophet of the Ancient of Days (i.e. white hair, fiery eyes etc.).
Except that in Daniel's account, the Son of Man is brought before the Ancient of Days and receives "dominion, glory and a kingdom". It is quite possible that the Ancient of Days is the Father in Daniel and Christ in the Apocalypse.
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« Reply #35 on: November 11, 2006, 01:05:12 PM »

Referring back to page 2, "that would be a heretical icon"

Ozgeorge you will have to take that up with Fr. Gabriel. I refer you to pp 129-142 of Mary the Untrodden Portal of God.

I was reflecting, as best as I understand it, his explanation of some of these icons and how they do not depict God the Father, but rather the Son and are in keeping with Orthodox iconogrpahic traditon. Particularly see pp 136-137 where he explains how Christ can be portrayed as young and old in the same icon because of the mystery of the incarnation (he quotes St. Maximos the Confessor to support his explanation).

IMHO, I think people throw the term "heretical" around too easily on OC.net We ought to be more circumspect.

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« Reply #36 on: November 11, 2006, 01:17:32 PM »

IMHO, I think people throw the term "heretical" around too easily on OC.net We ought to be more circumspect.

Quote of the day!

Amen.
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« Reply #37 on: November 11, 2006, 05:24:16 PM »

Ozgeorge you will have to take that up with Fr. Gabriel. I refer you to pp 129-142 of Mary the Untrodden Portal of God.
No need to. Vladimir Moss already did   Wink:
http://www.romanitas.ru/eng/THE%20ICON%20OF%20THE%20HOLY%20TRINITY.htm
Just because a priest publishes something in a book does not make it unchallengable.

IMHO, I think people throw the term "heretical" around too easily on OC.net We ought to be more circumspect.
IMHO those who do not question something simply because an Orthodox Priest said it are in no way being circumspect. Wink
« Last Edit: November 11, 2006, 05:50:34 PM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #38 on: November 11, 2006, 06:39:22 PM »

ozgeorge
don't be so quick to take issue

also, I don't accept everything any priest writes; many write things that differ from one another and they all can't be equally correct. My point was that this is within the parameters of Orthodox debate on the subject and Fr. Gabriel is an especially respected writer by many, so we ought to take pause to hear what he has to say and not throw around the term heretical
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« Reply #39 on: November 12, 2006, 04:03:46 AM »

ozgeorge
don't be so quick to take issue
I haven't taken issue (hence the winking smilies).

also, I don't accept everything any priest writes; many write things that differ from one another and they all can't be equally correct. My point was that this is within the parameters of Orthodox debate on the subject and Fr. Gabriel is an especially respected writer by many, so we ought to take pause to hear what he has to say and not throw around the term heretical

I'm not throwing the term "heretical" around willy-nilly. Any Icon which depicts the Hypostatic Union of Christ as two distinct hypostases is heretical.

St. Theodore the Studite says:
"all portrait is, in any case, the portrait of a hypostasis, and not of a nature, . . . the image and the similitude with the prototype can only refer to one hypostasis and not to two."

Therefore, as far as I can see, to depict Christ as two distinct Hypostases (The Incarnate Christ sitting next to Christ as the Ancient of Days) is the iconographic representation of the Nestorian heresy. And it amazes me that this would be more acceptable to Fr. George S. Gabriel than to admit that the Ancient of Days in the New Testament Trinity Icon represents the Hypostasis of the Father.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2006, 07:49:59 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #40 on: April 30, 2008, 08:35:30 PM »

From Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow...
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s01/f003.htm


That looks just awefull ..it look so very western ugh..........Christ has risen.......SmileyCentral.com" border="0
« Last Edit: April 30, 2008, 09:20:32 PM by stashko » Logged

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« Reply #41 on: April 30, 2008, 09:12:22 PM »

Those Seraphim horrify me...
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« Reply #42 on: April 30, 2008, 09:57:55 PM »

Hope this mosaic with the Father depicted in it from the serbian orthodox cathederal  shows up................SmileyCentral.com" border="0Christ Has Risen.....




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« Reply #43 on: April 30, 2008, 10:39:43 PM »

Brother Aidan,
I understand your concern and I support it, but often these churches were poor all the time or at least at the time of their foundation. They proceeded with those icons that they could get. Now, of course, a brand new parish or a parish which goes through a renovation process, should find some ways to enhance their interiors with more attention on iconostasis. Even when the money is a big issue, at least for a temporary decision, some icons can be copied, printed from Internet and enlarged, etc.

Except that these iconostasis are very ornate, with lots of gold filegre and hand carved edges. So I don't think the cost was the issue. I just think in the old country alot of these eastern Europeans were more exposed to western influenced, late Russian iconography than to the byzantine style
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« Reply #44 on: May 01, 2008, 12:51:07 AM »

I just think in the old country alot of these eastern Europeans were more exposed to western influenced, late Russian iconography than to the byzantine style.
I think that this is more true than not. Are there any ancient icons that depict the Father, that are Orthodox?
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