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Author Topic: Identification of the Persons in the Ethiopian Trinity Icon  (Read 8877 times) Average Rating: 0
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Xaira
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« on: August 26, 2008, 03:29:54 PM »

Hey all,

I'm working on a presentation on the Trinity and am including images of the Trinity from all of Church history. I, of course, am including the classic Ethiopian icon of the Trinity and came across this image - http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/58s3aUNfsoxwICI7wBVt4g - here there are "tags" beside each of the Persons, which I'm guessing designates the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But I can't tell which is which (my ge'ez is rusty!). So I thought to come and ask you wise souls if you can give me a touch of help and identify the "tags" for me, I would appreciate it very much!
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2008, 04:17:28 PM »

I might be wrong, but the two entities over the figures might indicate that the Person on the right is the Holy Spirit (there's a dove over it!) and the one on the left might be the Son (also named in Isaiah "the Angel of the Great Council" as president among the angels). I don't speek ge'ez, though. Hope this could help.
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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2008, 04:21:44 PM »

Quote
(there's a dove over it!
Sorry for this terrible lapsus calami...

"there's a dove over Him" is of course better, huh? May God forgive me for my stupid mistake.
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« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2008, 04:41:39 PM »

The three are an expression of ONE GOD in three persons.

Thus we confess that there is only ONE GOD: Ab, Weld, Menfes'qiduse.

The other images are icons that are reflections out of Revelations which St. John describes Paradise as was shown to him.
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"ETHIOPIA shall soon stretch out her hands unto God".....Psalm 68:vs 31

"Are ye not as children of the ETHIOPIANS unto me, O children of Israel"?....Amos 9: vs 7
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2008, 05:39:19 PM »

The "dove" motif has nothing to do with the figure of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is an eagle. The other three figures in the corners are of an ox, a lion, and an angel. These four symbols come from the Book of Revelation, and represent the four Evangelists.
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2008, 05:49:50 PM »

The three are an expression of ONE GOD in three persons.

Thus we confess that there is only ONE GOD: Ab, Weld, Menfes'qiduse.

The other images are icons that are reflections out of Revelations which St. John describes Paradise as was shown to him.

What does the different lettering above the Head of each Person mean?
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2008, 06:49:28 PM »

What does the different lettering above the Head of each Person mean?

Thanks, yes, that was I was asking. Sorry if it was unclear. I am guessing that the letters indicate Ab, Weld, Menfes'qiduse, but I want to make sure and it would be interesting to know which Person in which. If I was making this icon, for example, it would be understanding that the Father would be in the middle (taking from the Irenaeus' statement that the Son and Spirit are the "hands" of the Father). But I would be interested to know if this is how this icon is understood as well.

As this is the only Ethiopian trinity I have seen which includes the tags, I'm not sure if the idea that certain figures indicate certain Persons is an innovation. There is obviously a tendency to view this icon as the figures of the Persons being interchangeable.

Sarah
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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2008, 11:33:08 PM »

Thanks, yes, that was I was asking. Sorry if it was unclear. I am guessing that the letters indicate Ab, Weld, Menfes'qiduse, but I want to make sure and it would be interesting to know which Person in which. If I was making this icon, for example, it would be understanding that the Father would be in the middle (taking from the Irenaeus' statement that the Son and Spirit are the "hands" of the Father). But I would be interested to know if this is how this icon is understood as well.

As this is the only Ethiopian trinity I have seen which includes the tags, I'm not sure if the idea that certain figures indicate certain Persons is an innovation. There is obviously a tendency to view this icon as the figures of the Persons being interchangeable.

Sarah

The figures are in Ge'ez or Ancient Ethiopic.

There are six figures which must be read from left to right. The top three then the bottom three.

The top three says Se, Lew, Seh, Or the the word: 'Seluse' which means in Ge'ez 'Trinity'

The bottom three are hard for me I can make out the first 'Tih' and the last figure 'Seh'. The middle is unclear. It does not look like Ge'ez. maybe it was damaged or poorly duplicated and certain aspects of the shape is lost. I think it may be a 'Ha' sound but it has a "kick" to the left that none of the other "Ha" sounds have. It could be a special sound used only in the monastaries. Anyway The second word is not clear to me. Maybe 'Tihase'?. If this is a good guess I do not know the words meaning. I can guess that it means: 'Pitty'. I guessed 'Pitty' since we say it all the time in the Ge'ez Liturgy: "Oh Holy Trinity pitty us O Holy Trinity spare us, Oh Holy Trinity have mercy upon us". In Ge'ez this would be: O Seluse Qiduse mahereneh, Selue Qiduse mahakeneh, O Seluse Qiduse Tih'ase'haleneh (Pitty us).

I feel it is good guess.

So: both lines should read: "Seluse Tih'aseh" = Pitty of the Trinity (literally) or simply: "The mercy of the Trinity"

Even for Ethiopians Ge'ez is not easy. So the figures must be made very clearly.

That is my best.

Hope this helped!
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"ETHIOPIA shall soon stretch out her hands unto God".....Psalm 68:vs 31

"Are ye not as children of the ETHIOPIANS unto me, O children of Israel"?....Amos 9: vs 7
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2008, 07:28:07 AM »

Sorry for my lack of knowledge, that was just a trial...

In Christ,   Alex
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2008, 11:17:14 AM »

The figures are in Ge'ez or Ancient Ethiopic.

There are six figures which must be read from left to right. The top three then the bottom three.

The top three says Se, Lew, Seh, Or the the word: 'Seluse' which means in Ge'ez 'Trinity'

The bottom three are hard for me I can make out the first 'Tih' and the last figure 'Seh'. The middle is unclear. It does not look like Ge'ez. maybe it was damaged or poorly duplicated and certain aspects of the shape is lost. I think it may be a 'Ha' sound but it has a "kick" to the left that none of the other "Ha" sounds have. It could be a special sound used only in the monastaries. Anyway The second word is not clear to me. Maybe 'Tihase'?. If this is a good guess I do not know the words meaning. I can guess that it means: 'Pitty'. I guessed 'Pitty' since we say it all the time in the Ge'ez Liturgy: "Oh Holy Trinity pitty us O Holy Trinity spare us, Oh Holy Trinity have mercy upon us". In Ge'ez this would be: O Seluse Qiduse mahereneh, Selue Qiduse mahakeneh, O Seluse Qiduse Tih'ase'haleneh (Pitty us).

I feel it is good guess.

So: both lines should read: "Seluse Tih'aseh" = Pitty of the Trinity (literally) or simply: "The mercy of the Trinity"

Even for Ethiopians Ge'ez is not easy. So the figures must be made very clearly.

That is my best.

Hope this helped!

Thank you very much. That is very helpful. I see my guess that the letters are identification tags was completely wrong, that's good to know! Just shows the dangers of trying to understand a certain type of iconography by means of another type - they may have nothing to do with each other.

Since these aren't identification tags, may I ask whether it is correct to assume that in this icon it is understood that the figures are interchangeable? I.e. the person in the center may be validly seen as either the Father or the Son or the Spirit?
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2008, 11:55:27 AM »

Thank you very much. That is very helpful. I see my guess that the letters are identification tags was completely wrong, that's good to know! Just shows the dangers of trying to understand a certain type of iconography by means of another type - they may have nothing to do with each other.

Since these aren't identification tags, may I ask whether it is correct to assume that in this icon it is understood that the figures are interchangeable? I.e. the person in the center may be validly seen as either the Father or the Son or the Spirit?

That is correct.
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"ETHIOPIA shall soon stretch out her hands unto God".....Psalm 68:vs 31

"Are ye not as children of the ETHIOPIANS unto me, O children of Israel"?....Amos 9: vs 7
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« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2008, 11:11:09 AM »

Ozgeorge and Xaira

The letters on the first row read "SELUS", meaning Three or Trinity;
The letters on the second row read "QIDUS" meaning Holy;
Together they read "Holy Trinity"

Hiywot.
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« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2008, 11:53:55 PM »

Ozgeorge and Xaira

The letters on the first row read "SELUS", meaning Three or Trinity;
The letters on the second row read "QIDUS" meaning Holy;
Together they read "Holy Trinity"

Hiywot.


Hiywot: Indiet'nachoew?

Thanks for your response.

It is interesting since you seem to be correct with "QIDUS" if we consider the fact that the "qi" sound is not written in correct feedel. It is written with the "arms" out as in "ha" and not with the arms positioned so that it looks as if we are drawing a person doing 'esqusta' (hands at the waiste) which is the "qi" sound. Also the "du" sound is not right either it is written with the "head" open. I thought this was a bad copy and as such maybe the "head" was only open due to a bad copy.

You looked at it with more mercy that errors in the feedel were apparent. I looked at it trusting that the Iconographer was right.

Ameseg'naleow::
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« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2008, 07:43:51 AM »

DAT: Yimesgenew.

In your reply #7, you have correctly said that 'it may be damaged or poorly duplicated'. Otherwise the iconographer made no mistake. FYI the iconographer is the late Aleqa Mezmur Zedawit who was one of the famous writers of icons of church walls in Ethiopia. Whenever the icon of the Trinity is written the captions we see are either "Silus Kidus" or "Aga'izte-alem Silasse".

Regards,

Hiywot.
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« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2008, 09:58:23 AM »

I might be wrong, but the two entities over the figures might indicate that the Person on the right is the Holy Spirit (there's a dove over it!) and the one on the left might be the Son (also named in Isaiah "the Angel of the Great Council" as president among the angels). I don't speek ge'ez, though. Hope this could help.

Peace be with you,

I believe the figure is not a dove but rather one of the four living creatures- specifically, the one with the face of the eagle.
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« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2008, 10:42:38 PM »

DAT: Yimesgenew.

In your reply #7, you have correctly said that 'it may be damaged or poorly duplicated'. Otherwise the iconographer made no mistake. FYI the iconographer is the late Aleqa Mezmur Zedawit who was one of the famous writers of icons of church walls in Ethiopia. Whenever the icon of the Trinity is written the captions we see are either "Silus Kidus" or "Aga'izte-alem Silasse".

Regards,

Hiywot.


Thanks.

How did you come up with "DAT"?

Is that to refer to me?

I assumed you are referring to me because you used the Amharic after DAT.

I am referred to as Amdetsion or Dcn Amdetsion on this Forum. I allow "Fr.Deacon Amdetsion" from my EO brothers since this is their traditon of respect for 'full' Deacons. I have never instigated or promoted its use. When I did use it myself in response to EO posters a few times I had a huge complaint from certain OO posters. One in particular from the Ethiopian Church. So I stopped my own use of the phrase but allow EO's to use it if they wish.

Thus if it is OK with you please refrain from "DAT" in the future if you intend this to mean me. Not for anything but I do not want my forum idenity to be further confused. I am a Diaqone. You may use Amdetsion or Dcn Amdetsion. I appreciate it!

In America their is at lease two other Dcn Amdetsions that I am aware of. One spells his name Amde Tsion. 'Two words' which is proper. Their is also a Kes Amde Tsion.

Egzi'abher yibarqew::

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"ETHIOPIA shall soon stretch out her hands unto God".....Psalm 68:vs 31

"Are ye not as children of the ETHIOPIANS unto me, O children of Israel"?....Amos 9: vs 7
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« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2008, 10:22:03 AM »

Dcn Amdetsion,

I am sorry. I did not mean to confuse your identity. I thought that I have seen highlighted DAT in some of your posts. I may be mistaken. Therfore, I will not use it any more.

Hiywot.
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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2008, 08:09:26 PM »

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Again, I am sorry for such a delayed response to this post.  I'm typically tardy most of the times!  Did you figure out that under 'S' 'Lu' 'Se', it reads, 'Q' 'Du' 'S(e)': literally, 'Trinity Holy'.

Xiara, usually in the Holy Trinity icons that are written by Ehiopian iconographers, one can see that the beards on the three Persons are long [the Father], longer [the Son] and longest [the Paraklete].  Of course, this represents not age, but the 'functions' of the Persons.  The Father is the Begetter and causes Procession, but is not begotten nor does He proceed.  The Son is the only-Begotten, but does not cause procession nor does He beget or proceed.  The Paraklete is not Begotten, does not beget, does not cause procession, but Proceeds only.  This 'style' is fashioned to express the Persons as individuals, although they are one in Essence.

They are sitting on the 'meseret' of Menbere Mengist, which is just an icon of the Lord's Kingdom.  It is not a literal 'glass throne' that sits on the 'sea' as most people think, due to the misinterpretation of St. John's words.  Hence, the Cherubim [and the teaching of some traditional Ethiopian scholars who say that there are Seven Heavens] who bare that so-called 'transparent' throne and dwell in se'ma'y we'du'd [the Kingdom of God that rests on the back of the Cherubim].

I hope that this helps.  Take care and peace to you...

Haile Amanuel
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2010, 06:36:07 PM »

Xiara, usually in the Holy Trinity icons that are written by Ehiopian iconographers, one can see that the beards on the three Persons are long [the Father], longer [the Son] and longest [the Paraklete].  Of course, this represents not age, but the 'functions' of the Persons.  The Father is the Begetter and causes Procession, but is not begotten nor does He proceed.  The Son is the only-Begotten, but does not cause procession nor does He beget or proceed.  The Paraklete is not Begotten, does not beget, does not cause procession, but Proceeds only.  This 'style' is fashioned to express the Persons as individuals, although they are one in Essence.

Frankly speaking, on all Ethiopian icons of the Holy Trinity which I have seen, there was no difference in the length of the beards (or at least it was not visible to my eyes). The EO way of presenting the Holy Trinity is based on the scene of the hospitality of Abraham. The RC way - on images from the Book of Daniel (the Father as an old man) and the Gospels (the Son as a young man and the Spirit as a dove). What is the Ethiopian Orthodox way based on and what does it signify? It looks like the old man from the Western tradition, but tripled - why?
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2010, 10:54:28 PM »

Occasionally you will find in Eastern Orthodox churches icons of the Trinity with the father as an old man and the holy spirit as a dove. These images however are deemed improper by the Church as a whole.
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« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2010, 02:10:26 AM »

Occasionally you will find in Eastern Orthodox churches icons of the Trinity with the father as an old man and the holy spirit as a dove. These images however are deemed improper by the Church as a whole.

If you click on the Ancient of Days tag, below, you'll find some past threads on the icon you just described.
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« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2010, 02:20:04 AM »

Occasionally you will find in Eastern Orthodox churches icons of the Trinity with the father as an old man and the holy spirit as a dove. These images however are deemed improper by the Church as a whole.

Depends on who you are talking to.  I think St. John of Damascus would agree with you, and I think his opinion in worth a lot on this matter.
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« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2010, 05:00:43 AM »

Occasionally you will find in Eastern Orthodox churches icons of the Trinity with the father as an old man and the holy spirit as a dove.

Right, e.g. my own church. Smiley But generally speaking, it can be said that three angels are EO and an old man, a young man and a dove are RC. Now, what about Ethiopian Orthodoxy - why three old man? Anyone?
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« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2010, 05:06:40 AM »

In my experience, the old man, young man, and dove hasn't been that uncommon in EO images.
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« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2010, 04:02:06 PM »

In my experience, the old man, young man, and dove hasn't been that uncommon in EO images.

Well, it may not be uncommon but it is uncanonical. The only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.
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« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2010, 08:16:55 PM »

In my experience, the old man, young man, and dove hasn't been that uncommon in EO images.

Well, it may not be uncommon but it is uncanonical. The only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.

I know.
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« Reply #26 on: January 14, 2010, 10:10:11 AM »

Occasionally you will find in Eastern Orthodox churches icons of the Trinity with the father as an old man and the holy spirit as a dove.

Right, e.g. my own church. Smiley But generally speaking, it can be said that three angels are EO and an old man, a young man and a dove are RC. Now, what about Ethiopian Orthodoxy - why three old man? Anyone?


Because they are equal
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« Reply #27 on: January 14, 2010, 06:27:25 PM »

Occasionally you will find in Eastern Orthodox churches icons of the Trinity with the father as an old man and the holy spirit as a dove.

Right, e.g. my own church. Smiley But generally speaking, it can be said that three angels are EO and an old man, a young man and a dove are RC. Now, what about Ethiopian Orthodoxy - why three old man? Anyone?


Because they are equal

So it's a symbolic expression of homoousios?
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« Reply #28 on: January 15, 2010, 04:19:58 AM »

Yes. And if God the Father is refered to us "ancient of days", this reference automatically works for God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as depicted by the icon.

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« Reply #29 on: January 15, 2010, 04:36:28 AM »

he only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.

So says a local Russian synod.
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« Reply #30 on: January 15, 2010, 04:53:29 AM »


Yes. And if God the Father is refered to us "ancient of days", this reference automatically works for God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as depicted by the icon.

Hiywot

Oh, so it's a Triune depiction of the Ancient of Days. That explains a lot. Thanks.
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« Reply #31 on: January 15, 2010, 11:37:41 PM »

he only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.

So says a local Russian synod.

Really?  Then why does the MP's Moscow Cathedral have this:

http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s02/f007.htm
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/recon/s10/f001.htm
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« Reply #32 on: January 31, 2010, 03:25:57 PM »

he only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.

So says a local Russian synod.

Really?  Then why does the MP's Moscow Cathedral have this:

http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s02/f007.htm
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/recon/s10/f001.htm

Just because the canons are in place doesn't mean everyone will obey them. You will find such images in many Orthodox churches but that doesn't meant they're legitimate.

It's really pretty simple- the Father never appeared in the flesh, so we have no business portraying him as a man.
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« Reply #33 on: January 31, 2010, 03:29:06 PM »

he only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.

So says a local Russian synod.

Really?  Then why does the MP's Moscow Cathedral have this:

http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s02/f007.htm
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/recon/s10/f001.htm

That's quite a haircut God the Father has...
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« Reply #34 on: January 31, 2010, 05:28:14 PM »

That's quite a haircut God the Father has...

And how strange that he's ethnically Slavic!
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« Reply #35 on: January 31, 2010, 06:25:23 PM »

And how strange that he's ethnically Slavic!

Hey, there are Slavs and Slavs. They're no more homogeneous than Greeks or Celts or any other group which claims "ethnic purity". Bunkum. We're all mongrels in this world, and the sooner we come to terms with it, the better.  laugh
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« Reply #36 on: January 31, 2010, 06:28:29 PM »

And how strange that he's ethnically Slavic!

Hey, there are Slavs and Slavs. They're no more homogeneous than Greeks or Celts or any other group which claims "ethnic purity". Bunkum. We're all mongrels in this world, and the sooner we come to terms with it, the better.  laugh

Someone gave me a copy of Fr. Stanley Harakas' The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers. In it, he advises against interracial marriage on the basis that God created the "races"!  Shocked
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« Reply #37 on: January 31, 2010, 07:12:07 PM »

Quote from: Iconodule link=topic=17227.msg404694#msg404694 Someone gave me a copy of Fr. Stanley Harakas' [i
The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers[/i]. In it, he advises against interracial marriage on the basis that God created the "races"!  Shocked

1: I would be greatly surprised, if not alarmed, if Fr Stanley's (Stylianos's) document has the weight of a formal catechism.

2. There is neither Jew, nor Greek .... for we are one in Christ Jesus. We are all converts, even those who are "cradles".
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« Reply #38 on: January 31, 2010, 09:29:44 PM »

There is neither Jew, nor Greek .... for we are one in Christ Jesus.

Except that in Orthodoxy there very clearly are Greeks, and they have supplanted the Jews as the New Israel.  Didn't you know that the New Testament is written in Greek, and that since the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the Hebrew version is obsolete?  God has turned the righteous Jews into Greeks, and those that remain on the other side are Christ-killing dogs.

In Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Greek, only Greek.  Outside of Christ there are Jews and barbarians.  Jesus Christ: born a Jew, died a Greek.  Didn't you know he established the Greek Orthodox Church in 33 AD?
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« Reply #39 on: January 31, 2010, 09:39:24 PM »

There is neither Jew, nor Greek .... for we are one in Christ Jesus.

Except that in Orthodoxy there very clearly are Greeks, and they have supplanted the Jews as the New Israel.  Didn't you know that the New Testament is written in Greek, and that since the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the Hebrew version is obsolete?  God has turned the righteous Jews into Greeks, and those that remain on the other side are Christ-killing dogs.

In Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Greek, only Greek.  Outside of Christ there are Jews and barbarians.  Jesus Christ: born a Jew, died a Greek.  Didn't you know he established the Greek Orthodox Church in 33 AD?

I sincerely hope you're speaking with tongue firmly in cheek, Alveus.  Tongue laugh As Fr Vasiliy would say: "IS OUTRAGE! Everybody knows Jesus was Russian!! Look at how Andrei Rublyev painted him! Good enough for me!": laugh: laugh
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« Reply #40 on: February 01, 2010, 12:47:44 PM »

he only canonical image of the Trinity is the one written by St. Andrei Rublev.

So says a local Russian synod.

Really?  Then why does the MP's Moscow Cathedral have this:

http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/inside/s02/f007.htm
http://www.xxc.ru/english/foto/recon/s10/f001.htm

Just because the canons are in place doesn't mean everyone will obey them. You will find such images in many Orthodox churches but that doesn't meant they're legitimate.

It's really pretty simple- the Father never appeared in the flesh, so we have no business portraying him as a man.

True, but I can understand if it's merely symbolic.  The icon is not saying the Father appeared as flesh.  It is depicting a "Father" with greatness, almost like the face of a Pantocrator.  Christ never appeared as a lamb and Revelations paints such a picture.

However, at the same time, I'm not 100% sure, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.  Some church fathers believed that the three men appearing before Abraham was the Trinity.

The MP of all people should know the canons if you really think they're binding.  But if the MP has it, I don't see how you saying they're uncanonical is legitimate.
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« Reply #41 on: February 01, 2010, 05:44:42 PM »

Quote
The MP of all people should know the canons if you really think they're binding.  But if the MP has it, I don't see how you saying they're uncanonical is legitimate.

The original Cathedral of Christ the Savior was built during the 1820s-1850s, a period where, since the 17thC, traditional canonical iconography had all but disappeared all over the Orthodox world, not just in Russia, having been overtaken by naturalistic, Renaissance-type religious art. With the pervasiveness of this art came a loss of sense, by clergy and laity alike, of the deficiency of theological, liturgical and doctrinal integrity of the paintings which became known as icons. Therefore, it is not surprising that images of God the Father and other uncanonical images were commonplace. Just because they're there don't make them right.

It is not only a matter of "artistic style" (abstracted versus naturalistic) which gives an icon its authenticity,  but also its content. This is particularly evident when comparing western paintings and canonical icons of church feasts. Quite striking in their difference are those for the Resurrection, and the Nativity of the Lord, and, to a lesser extent, the Annunciation.
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« Reply #42 on: February 01, 2010, 06:00:57 PM »

The MP of all people should know the canons if you really think they're binding.  But if the MP has it, I don't see how you saying they're uncanonical is legitimate.

It would be a pretty big understatement to say that patriarchs make mistakes sometimes.

This isn't exactly a matter of dispute- the council of 1666 very explicitly ruled against this kind of "Icon of the Trinity." There are also patristic witnesses against a depiction of the Father. As for such depictions being "symbolic"- such an understanding would undermine the incarnational theology that supports icons, namely, that God became man and therefore becomes visible and depictable. Icons therefore are not "symbolic" in this way, insofar as they are depictions of God as he actually appeared, or as he is actually reflected in his Saints. 

The three men appearing to Abraham are considered to be a representation of the Trinity, but not actual incarnations of the Persons. That's why St. Andrei Rublev's Trinity icon are acceptable.
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« Reply #43 on: February 01, 2010, 06:35:59 PM »

^ Thank you, Iconodule.

St John of Damascus, who is rightly regarded, along with St Theodore of the Studion, as being foremost in influence in the defense not only of iconography's existence, but in what should and should not be portrayed in icons, railed at length about the folly of depicting God the Father as an old man in icons, over 800 years before the Great Council of Moscow in 1666. And this council is not the only one which has ruled against symbolic images of the Father and the Holy Spirit, as well as prefigurations or allegories of the Word; councils held in various parts of the Orthodox world as late as into the 20th century ruled, yet again, that such images were contrary to the doctrines of Orthodoxy. Plus ça change ....
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« Reply #44 on: February 01, 2010, 08:54:53 PM »

The MP of all people should know the canons if you really think they're binding.  But if the MP has it, I don't see how you saying they're uncanonical is legitimate.

It would be a pretty big understatement to say that patriarchs make mistakes sometimes.

This isn't exactly a matter of dispute- the council of 1666 very explicitly ruled against this kind of "Icon of the Trinity." There are also patristic witnesses against a depiction of the Father. As for such depictions being "symbolic"- such an understanding would undermine the incarnational theology that supports icons, namely, that God became man and therefore becomes visible and depictable. Icons therefore are not "symbolic" in this way, insofar as they are depictions of God as he actually appeared, or as he is actually reflected in his Saints.  

The three men appearing to Abraham are considered to be a representation of the Trinity, but not actual incarnations of the Persons. That's why St. Andrei Rublev's Trinity icon are acceptable.

In 1666, they condemned the use of the Father depicted like an old man, but Andrei Rublev's depiction of the Father as an angel is okay?  I don't think people who paint the Father as an old man are saying the Father was incarnate as an old man, just as people who depict the Father as angel are not saying that the Father was incarnate as an angel.

Perhaps, in 1666, people believed the Father to be an old man.  Maybe that's why they condemned it.  I would condemn even Andrei Rublev's icon if I find people believing that the Trinity are really three angels.  But when there's a few smart people who understand the allegory or the Scriptural reference, and not the literal understanding, I don't see the issue.
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