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Author Topic: Re: Use of icons in the Oriental Orthodox Church  (Read 8828 times) Average Rating: 0
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deusveritasest
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« on: May 24, 2009, 09:14:44 PM »

(This topic was split off from the following thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21421.0.html#top

Salpy)
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... and what of the Quinisext and Seventh Councils? What of their decrees on iconography? Does the OO church have the same degree of doctrinal, theological and liturgical rigor in its approach to iconography?

The veneration of icons is recognized as appropriate, though not necessary, given that some of the OO churches do not use explicit depictions of the saints at all.
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2009, 09:24:58 PM »


some of the OO churches do not use explicit depictions of the saints at all.

I'm not sure which OO Churches you are talking about.  We all, that I know of, use icons of saints.  The Armenian and Syriac Churches may not use them as much as the Coptic Church does, but we do use them. 
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2009, 09:30:15 PM »

Just for everyone's reference, there is a thread about icons in the OO Church:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,5475.0.html#top

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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2009, 09:39:58 PM »


... and what of the Quinisext and Seventh Councils? What of their decrees on iconography? Does the OO church have the same degree of doctrinal, theological and liturgical rigor in its approach to iconography?

The veneration of icons is recognized as appropriate, though not necessary, given that some of the OO churches do not use explicit depictions of the saints at all.

I think this is a faulty presumption and I think it subtly rests on an argument of silence viz. that such follows from the absence of strict rules pertaining to the need to venerate icons.

We could apply the same sort of logic to Holy Relics, to seeking the intercessions of Saints and similar practices which the Church does not have strict rulings on. The absence of such rulings is easily explained--these things have become such an ingrained and universal facet of the life of the Church, that it is simply not necessary to even consider an appropriate-vs-mandatory distinction. We enter the Church, walk down the isle, bow before the altar, kiss the altar curtain and the image depicted on it, kiss the icons on the iconstasis that are within reach, and then proceed to the relics of the Saints and bow to and kiss them as well. This is simply "what we do" and what we have done since time immemorial. The Holy Spirit has written rules in the hearts of the faithful, and that suffices.
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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2009, 03:17:34 PM »


some of the OO churches do not use explicit depictions of the saints at all.

I'm not sure which OO Churches you are talking about.  We all, that I know of, use icons of saints.  The Armenian and Syriac Churches may not use them as much as the Coptic Church does, but we do use them.

I know that the Armenian churches generally use some icons even if it not be that much. But my understanding was that the Syriac churches were even less iconodulic and sometimes their churches do not even have explicit images at all, besides crosses and the patterns on the vestments.
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2009, 03:25:17 PM »

Here is a perfect example:

http://www.soc-dc.org/coppermine/index.php?cat=2

There's a Syriac Orthodox church in Washington D.C. that has no explicit icons of Jesus, Mary, or any of the saints anywhere.
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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2009, 03:31:50 PM »

The only Syriac church I have been to is St. Ephrem Cathedral in Burbank.  When I first visited there some years ago, the only icons were in the narthex.  However, they eventually had some beautiful icons put inside the church itself.  I always get the terminology mixed up.  I think the word is nave.  It's where the congregation stands.  All the Armenian churches I have ever been to have icons.  It's just that you won't see as many as you would see inside a Coptic, Ethiopian, or Greek church.

For some reason the churches that come from the Syriac tradition (Syriac, Indian, Armenian) tend to emphasize icons less.  That doesn't mean, however, that we don't use them or consider them important.  In fact, it is my understanding the Armenians were writing apologetics (against iconoclastic gnostics) defending the use of icons even before the Greeks were.  Another Church that comes from the Syriac tradition of course would be the Assyrian Church of the East.  They don't use icons inside their churches at all.  However, I have read that they technically don't have an objection to them.  They just don't use them.
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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2009, 03:39:06 PM »

Here is a perfect example:

http://www.soc-dc.org/coppermine/index.php?cat=2

There's a Syriac Orthodox church in Washington D.C. that has no explicit icons of Jesus, Mary, or any of the saints anywhere.

I don't know much about that particular church.  However, just looking at a few of the pictures, I notice that they have chairs set up, rather than pews.  I wonder if it is a new church, and they haven't really set things up yet.  It may even be they are temporarily using a social hall while they are building their church building.  That is what the Armenians in Burbank are doing as they build their cathedral there.  (Yes, Burbank will be home to two OO cathedrals.   Smiley )  While the church building is being built, they have set up the social hall as a temporary church.  That's kind of what the pictures of the DC church remind me of.  I could be wrong, though.
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2009, 03:45:05 PM »

I don't know much about that particular church.  However, just looking at a few of the pictures, I notice that they have chairs set up, rather than pews.  I wonder if it is a new church, and they haven't really set things up yet.  It may even be they are temporarily using a social hall while they are building their church building.  That is what the Armenians in Burbank are doing as they build their cathedral there.  (Yes, Burbank will be home to two OO cathedrals.   Smiley )  While the church building is being built, they have set up the social hall as a temporary church.  That's kind of what the pictures of the DC church remind me of.  I could be wrong, though.

I don't think so. I have seen quite a few Syriac churches that look similar to this one.
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2009, 03:58:39 PM »

I see what you mean.  I started looking around and I found another Syriac Orthodox church with chairs instead of pews:

http://www.stsyriacchurch.com/Easter%202006/13480001.jpg.html

What surprised me about this one, however, is that they have an iconostasis, like the Copts or Greeks do. 

Maybe if one of our Syriac Orthodox brothers sees this, he can comment on the issue.

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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2009, 05:34:21 PM »

Quote from: Salpy
The only Syriac church I have been to is St. Ephrem Cathedral in Burbank.  When I first visited there some years ago, the only icons were in the narthex.  However, they eventually had some beautiful icons put inside the church itself.  I always get the terminology mixed up.  I think the word is nave.  It's where the congregation stands.  All the Armenian churches I have ever been to have icons.  It's just that you won't see as many as you would see inside a Coptic, Ethiopian, or Greek church.

For some reason the churches that come from the Syriac tradition (Syriac, Indian, Armenian) tend to emphasize icons less.  That doesn't mean, however, that we don't use them or consider them important.  In fact, it is my understanding the Armenians were writing apologetics (against iconoclastic gnostics) defending the use of icons even before the Greeks were.  Another Church that comes from the Syriac tradition of course would be the Assyrian Church of the East.  They don't use icons inside their churches at all.  However, I have read that they technically don't have an objection to them.  They just don't use them.

What you are saying here is not all that distinct from what I said in the first place that we are currently discussing. I said that the use of icons is regarded as acceptable by all OO and that most OO adopt the practice as their own, but that the use of icons is not regarded as a necessity as in the EO tradition, to the extent that some OO churches don't really use icons. I have a feeling that this was generally the case with the Antiochene/Asian church as a whole at one point. The more extensive use of icons in the Armenian tradition can probably be accounted for the Byzantine and Latin influence that has been present in the Armenian tradition within its history, especially given that most icons in Armenian churches are found in the form of stained glass, and that the one icon that is usually on the altar looks as if it probably wasn't part of the original form of the altar. I never said anything to the effect that any OO reject the use of icons, just that they do not view it as fundamental and that some do not individually make use of them. I think this is largely the case with the Syrian traditions, both East (ACE) and West (SOC).
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2009, 05:36:53 PM »

Here is a perfect example:

http://www.soc-dc.org/coppermine/index.php?cat=2

There's a Syriac Orthodox church in Washington D.C. that has no explicit icons of Jesus, Mary, or any of the saints anywhere.

I don't know much about that particular church.  However, just looking at a few of the pictures, I notice that they have chairs set up, rather than pews.  I wonder if it is a new church, and they haven't really set things up yet.  It may even be they are temporarily using a social hall while they are building their church building.  That is what the Armenians in Burbank are doing as they build their cathedral there.  (Yes, Burbank will be home to two OO cathedrals.   Smiley )  While the church building is being built, they have set up the social hall as a temporary church.  That's kind of what the pictures of the DC church remind me of.  I could be wrong, though.

Heh. Funny. This is actually, I think, a difference between certain churches within the OOC. It seems to me that Coptic and Syriac churches almost always have churches rather than pews, at least of the ones I have visited in the Bay Area, whereas all of the Armenian churches I have been to have pews. That may be why you would be expecting to see pews. Also, I think the altars at this particular church rather well developed and finished as well does the rest of the building itself.
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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2009, 05:39:06 PM »

I see what you mean.  I started looking around and I found another Syriac Orthodox church with chairs instead of pews:

http://www.stsyriacchurch.com/Easter%202006/13480001.jpg.html

What surprised me about this one, however, is that they have an iconostasis, like the Copts or Greeks do. 

Maybe if one of our Syriac Orthodox brothers sees this, he can comment on the issue.

The building is in use primarily by a congregation of the Jerusalem Patriarchate rather than the SOC. That definitely accounts for why there is an iconostasis and plenty of icons seemingly of a Byzantine style.
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2009, 06:03:06 PM »

You mean the SOC congregation pictured is using an EO church?  That would explain a lot including the fact that the altar is flat. 
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« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2009, 06:09:59 PM »

It seems to me that Coptic and Syriac churches almost always have churches rather than pews, at least of the ones I have visited in the Bay Area, whereas all of the Armenian churches I have been to have pews. That may be why you would be expecting to see pews. Also, I think the altars at this particular church rather well developed and finished as well does the rest of the building itself.

St. Ephrem's has pews, but then that is the only Syriac church I've been to.  I've also been to Coptic churches with pews.  The only pewless Coptic churches I've been to are at the monastery near Barstow.  There's a Coptic church in Northridge with chairs, but they, like the Armenian cathedral in Burbank, are using a social hall until they build their church building. 

The OO tradition, like the EO tradition, of course, is to not have pews, as we are not supposed to be sitting during worship.  However, during the twentieth century they crept in.   Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2009, 06:21:59 PM »

The more extensive use of icons in the Armenian tradition can probably be accounted for the Byzantine and Latin influence that has been present in the Armenian tradition within its history, especially given that most icons in Armenian churches are found in the form of stained glass, and that the one icon that is usually on the altar looks as if it probably wasn't part of the original form of the altar.

We have our own traditions, apart from any Latin or Byzantine influence that may come along.  One of them is the tradition of having an icon of Christ being held by His mother attached to the back of our altars.  That tradition is quite ancient, from what I understand.  Stained glass windows are relatively new to the Armenians.  In the old days, icons were often in the form of bas relief carvings in the stone the churches were made out of, or they were painted directly on the walls.  Some evidence of this still exists in the ruins of churches in Eastern Turkey.  The practice of painting icons on pieces of wood and hanging them on the walls, however, is not something the Armenians did, I think because the churches were made of stone. 

Of course the oldest examples of Armenian iconography to be found today are in the illuminated manuscripts that have survived over the centuries.
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« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2009, 06:32:27 PM »

Quote from: Salpy

You mean the SOC congregation pictured is using an EO church?  That would explain a lot including the fact that the altar is flat.

Yeah, Saint Thomas in Milpitas uses the building of Saint James: http://www.sjorthodox.org/
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« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2009, 06:40:12 PM »

I am copying here the early seventh century apologetic, written by an Armenian Church Father against an early iconoclastic group.  Note how the text references icons inside the churches, including icons of the saints, and of the Holy Mother holding Christ.

This was obtained from our brother Ghazar's website:

http://www.geocities.com/derghazar/essays.html

   Some accuse the Armenian Church of having been (or being) Iconoclastic.  This is far from the truth.  The truth is that the Armenian Church battled the Iconoclasts, producing some of the earliest works in defense of the veneration of Icons.  The following text is just such an example, which is why I have thought it worthwhile to transcribe.
-Sb. Dn. Ghazaros DerGhazarian

A Seventh Century Apology for Images
by Vartabed Sharsalar Vertanes Kertogh

From Byzantion- Volume XVIII, 1944-1945, Paris
French translation by Sirarpie Der Nersessian
English translation by Father Garabed Kochakian

An Armenian treatise against the early iconoclasts is saved by the name of a monk and ordained cleric also known as Vartabed Sharsalar Vertanes Kertogh (the Grammarian).  He played a pivotal role in the ecclesiastical history of Armenia at the end of the 6th and at the beginning of the 7th century.  Vertanes had been the aide of Catholicos Moses, named Locum Tenens upon the death of the latter; he directed patriarchal affairs from 604 to 607.

After the election of Catholicos Abraham, he continued to take an active part in the discussions provoked by the schism between the Armenian Church and the Georgian Church.  The treatise against iconoclasts was published in 1852, but it passed almost unnoticed.  A new publication made in 1927, based on a manuscript from Jerusalem, likewise did not attract the attention of the scholarly community.  Therefore, it seems useful to us to render the translation and make it available to all those who are interested in the beginnings of iconoclasm.  Because, if indeed this text is attributed to Vertanes, it would be the oldest treatise against the iconoclasts that would have been preserved in any language.

Apology for the Holy Images (7th C.)

   All creatures are illuminated by the life-giving light.  And illumined by these beams, heaven and earth rejoice, for the light of truth has flooded the entire universe with its brightness.  The obscure fog which covered the darkened hearts and hardened them has faded and the world is filled with the teaching which leads to the knowledge of God.  But participants in unclear studies (those occupied with obscurities), who wander in vain in dark shadows, tremble from their belief.  They deceitfully make the hearts of the innocent err, and they introduce heresies into the church.  “It is not proper,” they say, to have pictures and images in churches.  They then use, to support their position, words from the Old Testament which were used by the prophets themselves to denounce idolatry.  But our images do not resemble those idols, for ours speak of Christ and His elect; and this is not only the truth but it is attested to by the Scriptures.  Therefore, let us declare what the historians or the commandments have taught to us.

   For Moses by the divine command first made the model of images for the altar:  two-winged cherubim, in human form, made of hammered gold and, above it, the Mercy Seat from which the Lord of Lords spoke.  The apostle confirms this by testifying as he says:  “The cherubim of glory were overshadowing the Mercy Seat,” which is itself the image of the great mystery.  In the same way the curtain that the Lord said to make with multi-colored silks and images, and to embellish, in diverse manners, this veil which was of fine purple, red and azure; the turned linen of the veil was colored and were not these cherubim on the veil holy images?

   Using this same example from cypress (wood), Solomon made the cherubim of the temple and covered them with gold; and he not only made the cherubim, (but also) palm trees and open flowers.  And God did not disapprove of this, rather he called it the Temple of His Name.  The inspired prophet Ezekiel, in the vision which he had, unlike the other prophets or oracles, but speaking with the divine revelation, declared, “The Lord placed me on a high mountain as in a city and made me enter it.  There I saw an altar and an awesome and marvelous man.  Lightning flashed as bronze.  He hovered above the door, holding a line of flax in his hand and a measuring reed, and he said to me:  ‘Son of man behold and remember all that is here , for I came to show them to you.  And I saw the Temple painted with images all around, on the inside and on the outside, with cherubim and palms, from the floor to the ceiling.  And not only was the Temple painted with images, but also the halls, the doors and the altar; and there were cherubim in the forms of humans two by two and palms in pairs which is the model of great wonders.’”

   Thus, you who are ill in thought, what will you say about this?  For I have spoken of the cherubim that Moses and Solomon had made by human hands; what do you consider these things that God showed them?  Behold, it is clear that from the beginning, images were made for the honor and veneration of the divine glory.  This is what the Old Testament has said.

   In the New Testament Paul says to the Athenians, “While passing by and looking at your gods, I found an altar on which was written:  to the Unknown God.  That which you honor without knowing is that which I proclaim to you.”  Was God the altar?  But Paul attests that they dedicated it to the name of God.  We do not say that the images and painted icons are the true God, but we paint them in the name of and the glory of God... such as appeared, for Isaiah said, He was born and Jeremiah said, He would go among men, and David told of His Passion and Burial, Ezekiel and Hosea spoke of His Resurrection, Daniel and Zechariah foretold the Second Coming and Nahum and Malachi, the Last Judgment.

   For they have told us through symbols that which was and that which must come to pass.  And the images which we paint are from the Holy Scriptures; and the written text is of pigment and serves as the subject of the images.

   The fathers of the church recall (and speak about) images.  For example, John, Bishop of Constantinople, in his speech addressed to the enlightened ones (baptized) says:  “For example, the bronze statues of the kings are inanimate and have no feelings; those who take refuge near them are as inanimate and without feeling, not because (the image) is bronze but because it is of the king.”  And you, O heretics, be so informed on this matter.  Again in this discourse, where he says that one must not suppress the titles (teachings) of the Holy Scriptures, he adds, “Have you  not seen on the images of the kings that the portrait of the king is placed on top and bears his name, and beneath on the base, are inscribed the acts of the king, his victories and his acts of justice?  The same thing appears on parchments:  a portrait of the king is traced above, and below are his virtues and all his victories.”

   Hence what would you say of the icon of Our Lord that the God-fearing and pious King Abgar had painted and which is now found in the great church of Edessa?

   And the bishop, Severian says:  “When the king is absent and his portrait occupies the place of the king, the princes prostrate before it and celebrate feasts; and if commoners see it, the also prostrate, not focusing on the wood but on the image of the king; they do not venerate the substance but that which has been imprinted on it by the pen.  And if the portrait of a mortal king has such a power, how much more so would the form and image of the immortal king have?”  Therefore, listen closely to what I say, for these are the teachings of the doctors of the church, and if you wish to study their works, you will see that they say the same thing.  In the same manner, Saint Gregory the Illuminator says in his prayer.

In place of wooden idols, He raised His cross in the middle of the universe and because men are accustomed to prostrating themselves before inanimate images of the dead, He Himself became a dead image.  He died and gave up His Spirit on the cross so that they might learn to prostrate themselves before the wood of the cross and the image of the human figure which is on it; in order to make obedient to the image of His divinity those who make, love and venerate images.
   
   Now if you do not believe my words, then you must examine the Scriptures and understand them, but you are as far from the Scriptures as the sky is from the earth.  One finds countless other testimonies in the Scriptures, for all is discernible to those who wish to understand, for the ears hear and the spirit understands, and without the eyes of the spirit, the eyes of the body become blind.

   But what is surprising is that you accept the commandments and you persecute the Lord; you venerate the cross and insult the crucified.  Thus was the perception of the Manicheans and the Marcianists who believed the Lord who had really taken flesh was merely an apparition.  And, when they saw images of Him, they became mad, furious and insulting towards them.  Having studied and examined the prophets, is it not clear that they spoke out against idolatry because the idols of the pagans were demons?  But nowhere is it written that the images of the Christians and in the churches were considered as demons; rather, it was the idols themselves that were condemned.  In the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, in the 7th Book and the 17th Chapter [actually the 18th], there is discussion of the great wonders performed by Our Lord in the city of Paneada.

“Seeing that I have mentioned this city,” he says, “it would not be proper to pass over its history, for it has value for those of future generations.  Regarding the young woman whose flow of blood was stopped, as we learned in the holy gospel, and was cured of her illness by Our Saviour (she was from this city, and her house can be seen in this city, and the grace of the charity accorded to this woman by our Saviour); this wondrous miracle of God can still be seen to this day.  In fact, on a stone raised at the door of her house, there is a bronze image of a kneeling woman, her hands outstretched in the manner of a supplicant.  And opposite her there is another bronze image of a man who is standing up draped in a mantle and holding his hand out to the woman.  And at his feet, growing higher than this tunic is a plant which, form its appearance, is different from all other plants, which, from its appearance, is different from all other plants, and it reaches the hem of his garment; and this is a medication against all illnesses.  This statue, it is said, is the image of Our Lord and Saviour.  It has remained down to our days and we have seen it with our own eyes when we were in this city.  Nothing greater than this had led pagans to believe in Jesus Christ.  Even they painted colored images of Paul, Peter and Christ Himself, which to this day can still be seen.”

   Dear friend, have you not read these texts which you say are contrary to the commandments of God?  I call you friend, not because of your Orthodox Faith, but because of what we heard from Our Lord; for my friend, He came for your sake.  But even though you have read and do not know, nonetheless the word of the apostle is confirmed in you:  “to the unbelievers whose hearts the God of this age has blinded, so that they might not be illumined by the glorious gospel of Christ.”  But if you have read, you will have to search and study to know the good and the evil, to distinguish what comes from God and what comes form the demon.

   Why is it that you don’t know that in the temples of idols, are found the sculpture depicting Ormizd, who is Aramazd, his fornication’s and sorceries?  But in the churches of God, we see paintings of the Holy Virgin holding Christ on her knees, who is at the same time her Creator, the Son and the Creator of all.  In the temples of idols one sees Anahit, her impurities and her seductions; whereas in the churches of the Christians, and in the places of the martyrs of God, we see painted St. Gregory, his sufferings acceptable to God and his holy virtues; the protomartyr Stephen in the midst of those stoning him; the blessed and glorious Saint Gayane and Saint Hripsime with all their companions and the glorious martyrs; as well as other virtuous and honorable people, of angelic piety, too numerous to name.  In the temples one sees Astghik and Aphrodite, whom all the pagans call mother of desires, their numerous drunkenness and debaucheries.  IN the churches of God one sees the divine cross, the company of apostles carrying the cross, and the prophets, who rid the world of impiety and spread the adoration of God throughout the universe, confounding Satan and his legions.  For in the churches of God, we see painted all the miracles of Christ, such as they are accounted to us in the Scriptures, and which, as we mentioned above, were predicted by the prophets; that is to say His Birth, Baptism, Passion, Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven.  All that the Holy Scriptures tell is portrayed in the churches.  Are not books written with pigment?  The same things are painted with pigment.  In church, only the ears hear the Scriptures, but one sees the images with one’s eyes and one hears them with the ears, and one understands them with the heart and believes.

   Here it is evident that it is not contrary to the Scriptures to venerate and honor images.  And whoever carefully examines the Scriptures discovers the truth, and understands that the heretics who argue and say:  “we consider them vile because they (images) are without word or understanding” are in error.  Now, I ask you, did the Ark of God speak when it repelled Dagon and Azot and the city of Ascalon by the attacks of strangers to such a point that the inhabitants of Ascalon protested and said:  “Why has the Ark of the God of Israel turned against us to forsake our people?”  Did the cross of Christ speak when it raised the dead in the holy city and performed miracles until our days, the cross which is the pride of angels, the salvation of men and the dread of the demons?  And now the new commandments, united with the old, by the grace of Christ, bring us proof.  Fro we see the book of gospels painted with gold and silver, and moreover, bound in ivory and violet parchment and when we prostrate ourselves before the holy gospel, or when we kiss it, we do not bow down to ivory and lacquer, brought in trade from the countries of the barbarians, but before the word of the Saviour written on parchment.  IN the same manner when the Lord of Glory, seated on the ass, approached the city, the aged and children went before Him, bearing olive and palm branches; and they exalted, praised and bowed down before Him.  They did not bow down before the ass, but before Christ, the Son of God, who was seated on the ass.

   Thus, it is not because of colors that one bows down before images but because of Christ, in whose name they were painted.  What difference is there between the pagans who have sinned (against) the divine commandments, (the unbelievers) whose improprieties slandered (the church) and introduced heresies that lead them to damnation, and those who listen to them (the pagans)?  How will they be atoned from their eternal torments in hell for what they believe?  The blessed prophet, Hosea, spoke truly against them:  “Their scandal is in their ways, for they have planted folly in the house of God.”  Or another prophet, who says:  “Woe to him who gives his companions to drink form dim pleasures.”  In fact, it is by deception that they lead into sin all who are far away from the Orthodox Faith and who have strayed away from the true Mysteries.  But I will continue and will not keep quiet.  For example, if someone asks at the library:  Give me the apostles, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah; does he mean Jeremiah or the prophet himself, or rather the divine commandments and their words which are therein written?  And for us, it is they that we recall in painting their images (badger, Arm.) and He who sent them; and we do not say that it is God Himself, but rather a reminder of God and His servants.

   It is written that “Pap introduced images into the churches.”  Now everyone knows that you lie.  For still to this day not one amongst the Armenians now how to make images, but they were brought from the Greeks (Horomots, Arm.), whence comes also our culture, and they (the images) were not lost.  And before Pap there were other kings, and they had images and icons painted in churches in the name of Christ.  Again after Pap there were other kings in Armenia, and prelates such as the blessed Saints Sahak, Mesrop, Eznk, Ardzan, Gorium and their companions, through whom God, our Lord, provided literary works to the Armenians.  Not one of them did anything against images and icon painted in churches, but only the impious and misled, Thaddaeus and Isaiah and their companions who brought a large number of people into their following, such as yourself (being iconoclasts).  Although the position of the heretics may strongly shine for awhile, it will soon fade, for even the first sinners, such as Adam, were born from lies.  Know therefore, these words do not come from me, but from the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments.  If you wish to serve Christ God and love His teachings, study the books of those whose names are herein written, and when you find them, they will show you the true road to God.  This is enough concerning images, for it is sufficient evidence for everyone who wishes to understand (our teaching).

   As for those who say that the pigments of color are vile, they accuse themselves from their own words, for the pigments used for the writing are vitriol, gall and gum, which one cannot eat; whereas the materials used for the images are milk, eggs, arsenic, azure (green or gray), lime and other such materials, some of which serve as food, others as medicine.  But we do not call vile that which God gave to adorn the earth, and we do not misjudge them as bad things.  You say that an odor comes from the pigments, but if, at this point, you are so pure and pious, (in order to remain pure) then you will be required to open your stomach at the hour of prayer, and wash your intestines with boiling water before you enter church.  Oh, evil men, [you who are] endlessly wicked, you find unacceptable the pigment, now become the images and paintings, by saying that they are made by human hands and are thus not worthy of us.  However, the churches are also built by human hands and they are nevertheless called the temples of God, as Paul said to Timothy:  “So that you might know, he says, how it is necessary to behave in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”  What will you say about this since the church is made by human hands?  For we know the invisible by that which is visible, and the pigments of color and the icons are reminders of the living God and of His servants.

   But due to your devilish pride, you call yourselves holy and pure.  He who wrote the Book of Proverbs spoke the truth.  He says:  “Do not be right to excess, nor wise, so that you might not become perverted” (Ecclesiastes 7:17).  And again:  “A bad race considers itself good” (Proverbs 30:12).  Thus, you are proud and, with your mouth, you utter lies.  As for us, we make haste to enter the Church of Christ, day and night; praying early every day, in order to complete the time of our exile and to be worthy of seeing God with a smiling face on the day of Final Judgment.  For we aspire to His eternal goodness, for in Him is the glory for all eternity.  Amen.

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« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2009, 07:56:23 PM »

I'm wondering if what I was saying before was understood? I never suggested that any of the OO churches were ever iconoclast. And I recognize that most of them are explicitly iconodulist. The point I was trying to make is that the OO are not as strictly iconodulic as the EO who believe that it is a necessary fundamental of the faith to depict Jesus Christ in iconography. Thus the OO are able to tolerate the reality that the Syrian churches often do not have explicit iconography as in the Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopian traditions, and the Syrians in return have a deep respect for the explicitly iconodulic OO traditions. This same situation could not exist today in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the Second Council of Nicaea declared that it is necessary that iconography be used in worship.
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« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2009, 09:53:00 PM »

Here is a perfect example:

http://www.soc-dc.org/coppermine/index.php?cat=2

There's a Syriac Orthodox church in Washington D.C. that has no explicit icons of Jesus, Mary, or any of the saints anywhere.

Your cited example is incorrect:



Icon at the back of the room, and look at the Bible they are carrying: covered in iconography, which they probably kiss.
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« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2009, 11:53:47 AM »


What you are saying here is not all that distinct from what I said in the first place that we are currently discussing. I said that the use of icons is regarded as acceptable by all OO and that most OO adopt the practice as their own, but that the use of icons is not regarded as a necessity as in the EO tradition, to the extent that some OO churches don't really use icons.

Well, the way it's always been explained to me by OO, is quite different than how you're looking at it. As it has been explained to me, iconography IS a necessary practice/devotion whatever within the Church, however since they're was never an OO Council needed to defend the issue, and they weren't all that close to the debate within the Empire, they just kept with the practice as it always had been. Remember Dogmas are not defined (according to Orthodoxy) until a severe challenge to a belief or practice is raised by someone. The Trinity wasn't defined until Arius began teaching Jesus was a created being, (and he gained a mass following doing so) thus forcing the Church to define something that probably should have never been defined in the first place. But it was nessecary to safe guard the Truth of who/what God is and isn't.

It's the same with Icons.....it's a necessary part of the Christian faith, because of what it declares about Christ's Incarnation. This is how the EO understand it. Yet it would have never been defined at all had the iconoclastic controversy never arisen in the Byzantine Empire. The OO weren't really a part of the debate (on a large scale) and so they just kept doing things as they had always done them. I'm sure if tomorrow an iconclastic heresy arose within OO (which is unlikely) and the OO were forced to define the issue separate from the EO, they would come to the same conclusions the EO did, and from that point in history and onward, Iconography would take on a much more prominent role within some of the OO Churches where it doesn't play that big a role now.

Even though I'm EO, I greatly appreciate and PREFER this diversity in practice that takes place in the OO Communion, and I think Salpy gave you a fine explanation in the other thread about how OO tend to look more at the underlying faith than definitions. In that sense, the OO are holding to the most ancient form of Christian thought. I don't know or have talked to many Syriac Christians, but I have a feeling they'd probably say for the Church universal Icons are a necessary practice, but it simply isn't prominent in their tradition. And I really appreciate that. But I'm sure if the Syriac Church was ever seriously challenged on the issue, they'd come to the same conclusions the Byzantine Church did, that iconography is not merely "ok" but needed in some sense. Again, dogmas aren't defined until they're challenged within the Orthodox world. (The Western Church didn't see a real need for the 7th Council at that time either, because iconoclasm wasn't a big issue for them either, but they did accept) I'm not a fortune teller or carnak the magnificent (wasn't that the name of Johnny Carson's character?) but I'm pretty sure if there was a HUGE iconoclastic controversy in the Syriac Church, they'd immediately in response begin to use more icons. I know you're not saying OO disagrees with iconography, but I've talked to enough OO Christians to know, that it's a much bigger part of their spirituality than you might think.





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« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2009, 01:59:13 PM »

^ Post of the month nomination.
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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2009, 04:24:05 PM »


What you are saying here is not all that distinct from what I said in the first place that we are currently discussing. I said that the use of icons is regarded as acceptable by all OO and that most OO adopt the practice as their own, but that the use of icons is not regarded as a necessity as in the EO tradition, to the extent that some OO churches don't really use icons.

Well, the way it's always been explained to me by OO, is quite different than how you're looking at it. As it has been explained to me, iconography IS a necessary practice/devotion whatever within the Church, however since they're was never an OO Council needed to defend the issue, and they weren't all that close to the debate within the Empire, they just kept with the practice as it always had been. Remember Dogmas are not defined (according to Orthodoxy) until a severe challenge to a belief or practice is raised by someone. The Trinity wasn't defined until Arius began teaching Jesus was a created being, (and he gained a mass following doing so) thus forcing the Church to define something that probably should have never been defined in the first place. But it was nessecary to safe guard the Truth of who/what God is and isn't.

It's the same with Icons.....it's a necessary part of the Christian faith, because of what it declares about Christ's Incarnation. This is how the EO understand it. Yet it would have never been defined at all had the iconoclastic controversy never arisen in the Byzantine Empire. The OO weren't really a part of the debate (on a large scale) and so they just kept doing things as they had always done them. I'm sure if tomorrow an iconclastic heresy arose within OO (which is unlikely) and the OO were forced to define the issue separate from the EO, they would come to the same conclusions the EO did, and from that point in history and onward, Iconography would take on a much more prominent role within some of the OO Churches where it doesn't play that big a role now.

Even though I'm EO, I greatly appreciate and PREFER this diversity in practice that takes place in the OO Communion, and I think Salpy gave you a fine explanation in the other thread about how OO tend to look more at the underlying faith than definitions. In that sense, the OO are holding to the most ancient form of Christian thought. I don't know or have talked to many Syriac Christians, but I have a feeling they'd probably say for the Church universal Icons are a necessary practice, but it simply isn't prominent in their tradition. And I really appreciate that. But I'm sure if the Syriac Church was ever seriously challenged on the issue, they'd come to the same conclusions the Byzantine Church did, that iconography is not merely "ok" but needed in some sense. Again, dogmas aren't defined until they're challenged within the Orthodox world. (The Western Church didn't see a real need for the 7th Council at that time either, because iconoclasm wasn't a big issue for them either, but they did accept) I'm not a fortune teller or carnak the magnificent (wasn't that the name of Johnny Carson's character?) but I'm pretty sure if there was a HUGE iconoclastic controversy in the Syriac Church, they'd immediately in response begin to use more icons. I know you're not saying OO disagrees with iconography, but I've talked to enough OO Christians to know, that it's a much bigger part of their spirituality than you might think.









The assyrians that iv spoken too ,,have religious images mostly in there Homes...Maybe a few in there churches,They told me they have nothing against religious images,Icons....
The cross seems to be most important icon,in there church though...I'm not sure about the crucifix though...
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« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2009, 01:57:45 PM »

To weigh in on this issue a little bit;
The use of iconography in the Syriac Orthodox Church for example is more of a western influence in contrast to what's used in churches still standing in the Syriac heartland.  If for example one visits churches in the Tur Abdin area of SE Turkey and visits Syriac churches there the use of iconography is almost non-existent.  The churches are very sparse, a basic altar with maybe an ornate Syriac bible in the middle and that's about it. 
I tried to find some pictures online...  Attached is a picture from Mor Gabriel Monastery in Tur Abdin and Dayro dMor Hananyo in Mardin.  These two are from the two most prominent monasteries in SE turkey, other churches\monasteries are even more sparse than this.  If one was to visit a Syriac church in a village surrounding this monastery, the inside looks almost like a cave.  Visiting Syriac churches in Europe and America, iconography is more used inside of the churches.  I would attribute this to 1)European Christian influence 2)Influence from other middle-eastern Christian churches.  We don't really have anything against the use of iconography in our church, it's just not that important though. 
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« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2009, 02:00:14 PM »

Found another picture to prove my point; here is another picture of a Syriac Church; Mor Philoxenos of Mabug.
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« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2009, 06:22:38 PM »

To weigh in on this issue a little bit;
The use of iconography in the Syriac Orthodox Church for example is more of a western influence in contrast to what's used in churches still standing in the Syriac heartland.  If for example one visits churches in the Tur Abdin area of SE Turkey and visits Syriac churches there the use of iconography is almost non-existent.  The churches are very sparse, a basic altar with maybe an ornate Syriac bible in the middle and that's about it. 
I tried to find some pictures online...  Attached is a picture from Mor Gabriel Monastery in Tur Abdin and Dayro dMor Hananyo in Mardin.  These two are from the two most prominent monasteries in SE turkey, other churches\monasteries are even more sparse than this.  If one was to visit a Syriac church in a village surrounding this monastery, the inside looks almost like a cave.

Would I be correct in assuming that the two particular places of worship you refer to are ancient places of worship? Because if so, it would make sense that there would be a tendency to preserve it in its traditional state.

There are many examples of modern and ancient Syrian Orthodox iconography in traditional Syrian Orthodox lands, however, which would seem to counter any suggestion of a general trend of non-use of icons. A Syrian Orthodox icon from about the 8th century is preserved on a pillar of Kastron al-Andarin (which today is a secular building) testifying to the early use of icons in the Syrian Church. Two ancient layers of Syrian Orthodox iconography (dating to the 12th century) are being uncovered in the Syrian Orthodox monastery of St Moses the Ethiopian near Nebek. Similar icons are to be found in the apses of the churches of Mar Tadros in Bahdeidat and Mar Mitri and Saqqiyat el-Hait.

The Monastery of the Syrians ("Deir El-Surian") in Egypt (as its name remains this day) is decked out with icons, many of which were largely the influence of Syrian Orthodox "artists."

Let us also not forget Scriptural manuscripts, church vessels, and non-liturgical objects of devotion, numerous examples of which are covered in images of Christ, the Saints, and Gospel scenes.

Quote
I would attribute this to 1)European Christian influence 2)Influence from other middle-eastern Christian churches.  We don't really have anything against the use of iconography in our church, it's just not that important though. 


I cringe when the faithful of our Church look at things with the eyes of the world; seeking/assuming natural, "reasonable" explanations for her patterns of belief, behaviour etc. I have a few points to make here:

1. European Christian influence? Even as a natural explanation, it's a bad one. If anything a "European Christian influence" would naturally have the opposite effect.

2. The driving force behind any general movement towards or away from something in the Church, is the Holy Spirit, not the world around us. The increasing use of icons in the Armenian and Syrian Churches is, in my humble opinion, an expression of the Holy Spirit's concern that, in this day and age especially where there is an increasing trend to dismiss as myth and superstition a spiritual worldview (a spiritual worldview which the presence of icons reinforces), it is imperative that these members of the Orthodox body conform to what is already a deep-seated and universal practice of the rest of the Church by paying an intensely more acute and heightened attention to such aspects which are nevertheless already part of these churches' praxis on some level. The Holy Spirit speaks on this matter, not only subtly, but at times quite loudly via the various miraculous phenomena associated with icons experienced in these churches--take for example the recent miracle of the weeping icon of the Theotokos officially investigated, approved and confirmed by H.H. the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Mar Ignatius Zakka I and H.E. Archbishop Clemis Eugene Kaplan of the Syrian Orthodox Achdiocese of the Western U.S. I believe many similar incidents have been experienced and reported back in the traditional lands of the Syrian Orthodox.

3. In light of the above, I think it is important to stress that the use of icons IS important. The question of its importance was in no dramatic need of being raised beforehand, because of the times and circumstances. In this age of globalisation and secularisation, the question of its importance is beginning to attract the spotlight, and the Holy Spirit is giving us an obvious "Yes, it is important!" answer through the manner in which He tactfully and definitively directs the universal Church's approach to the matter. The importance of the icon in this day and age, is not so much in its witness to the Incarnation--the emphasis lies moreso on the very corollary of that theological premise, viz., its being a "window to heaven" and hence a re-affirmation of the reality and accessibility of the spiritual world.
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« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2009, 06:47:03 PM »

Yes the two places are ancient places of worship.  In the cases of Mor Gabriel and Mor Hananyo they're both ancient and currently in use at the same time.
What I meant by European influence is mostly Catholic influence.  Syriac churches built in Europe are more ornate than what they were in their places of origin. 
I wasn't implying that there iconography isn't used in the Syriac church.  In the last picture I posted, that's what a typical church would look like in the Syriac heartland.  Churches built in this area even up to the last few centuries didn't really deviate from the spartan interior of the churches.  The iconography would be limited to the bible in the center and possibly some wall hangings. 
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« Reply #27 on: May 27, 2009, 06:59:53 PM »

Leb Aryo, what can you tell us of the below Syrian Orthodox church in Instanbul (assuming it is indeed Syrian Orthodox--I have the feeling it might not be)?



The architecture looks quite ancient.
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« Reply #28 on: May 27, 2009, 07:05:49 PM »

Leb Aryo, what can you tell us of the below Syrian Orthodox church in Instanbul (assuming it is indeed Syrian Orthodox--I have the feeling it might not be)?



The architecture looks quite ancient.



Hello ..A question  ,,is there a difference between Assyrian people and the Syrian people or are they the same people???
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« Reply #29 on: May 27, 2009, 07:39:25 PM »

Do you know from which church in Istanbul the picture is from?  The reason I'm asking is that in Istanbul we have churches that are shared with other denominations, specifically Greek Orthodox.  Also, since Syriac churches only started popping up in Istanbul in the last 40 years or so, they would have been bought from other denominations.
I saw a picture earlier of a Syriac church in Holland I believe it was that is basically along the lines of the pictures I posted.


Leb Aryo, what can you tell us of the below Syrian Orthodox church in Instanbul (assuming it is indeed Syrian Orthodox--I have the feeling it might not be)?



The architecture looks quite ancient.
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« Reply #30 on: May 27, 2009, 07:43:10 PM »

 
Quote

Hello ..A question  ,,is there a difference between Assyrian people and the Syrian people or are they the same people???

Hi same people. 
Etymologically the word Syrian is most likely derived from Assyrian.  In Syriac, Syrian is pronounced Suroyo or Suraya depending on the dialect. 

(Edited by Salpy to fix the quote tags.)
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« Reply #31 on: May 27, 2009, 07:46:48 PM »

Leb Aryo, what can you tell us of the below Syrian Orthodox church in Instanbul (assuming it is indeed Syrian Orthodox--I have the feeling it might not be)?



The architecture looks quite ancient.

No, the architecture is not ancient at all, I'm afraid. It's probably not much earlier than 1820s, and possibly up to a century later. The icons are very western-looking, and the decoration is a mixture of Arcadian neoclassical with a bit of baroque ornamentation.
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« Reply #32 on: May 27, 2009, 07:49:24 PM »

The architecture looks quite ancient.

Looks like a fairly modern Russian Orthodox church.
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« Reply #33 on: May 27, 2009, 07:57:17 PM »

Leb Aryo, what can you tell us of the below Syrian Orthodox church in Instanbul (assuming it is indeed Syrian Orthodox--I have the feeling it might not be)?



The architecture looks quite ancient.

No, the architecture is not ancient at all, I'm afraid. It's probably not much earlier than 1820s, and possibly up to a century later. The icons are very western-looking, and the decoration is a mixture of Arcadian neoclassical with a bit of baroque ornamentation.



It Looks To me like a new calendar Greek church...Just below the chandelier that sun burst thingy ,,doesn't the greek Patriarchal church have the same thingy....
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« Reply #34 on: May 29, 2009, 05:21:26 PM »

I think the following articles will help to understand about Syriac Orthodox Church and Icons.

Icons in the Syriac Church?
http://www.socdigest.org/articles/01oct06.html

A Syriac Manuscript Icon of the Three Wise Men
http://www.socdigest.org/articles/02dec04.html

Icon drawn on the monastery walls by nuns of the Coptic Orthodox Church
depicting the dedication of the monastery
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/DamascusMEphrem/

Akaparambu Mor Sabor Mor Aphroth Church:
examples of Syrian Orthodox wall murals in Kerala
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/Ankamaly/AkaparambuMSaborAphroth.html

Paintings and Relics at Ankamaly Syrian Orthodox Church, Kerala
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/Ankamaly/AnkamalyHVMary.html
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« Reply #35 on: May 30, 2009, 11:18:45 PM »

It Looks To me like a new calendar Greek church...Just below the chandelier that sun burst thingy ,,doesn't the greek Patriarchal church have the same thingy....
You know, now that you mention it, I do see the calendar hanging on the wall next to the Theotokos. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #36 on: June 01, 2009, 10:32:45 AM »

I think the following articles will help to understand about Syriac Orthodox Church and Icons.

Icons in the Syriac Church?
http://www.socdigest.org/articles/01oct06.html

A Syriac Manuscript Icon of the Three Wise Men
http://www.socdigest.org/articles/02dec04.html

Icon drawn on the monastery walls by nuns of the Coptic Orthodox Church
depicting the dedication of the monastery
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/DamascusMEphrem/

Akaparambu Mor Sabor Mor Aphroth Church:
examples of Syrian Orthodox wall murals in Kerala
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/Ankamaly/AkaparambuMSaborAphroth.html

Paintings and Relics at Ankamaly Syrian Orthodox Church, Kerala
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/Ankamaly/AnkamalyHVMary.html



Fantastic websites, and beautiful pictures. Thank you for posting. Smiley
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« Reply #37 on: June 03, 2009, 06:40:55 PM »

I stumbled on the following youtube clip of H.H. Pope Shenouda III consecrating the icons of a Coptic parish in the U.S.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpgtgplMCZA

As one can observe, the consecration of icons is undertaken in the presence of particular prayers. I admit my ignorance when it comes to official procedure for the consecration of icons of a newly consecrated church, but I note that after His Holiness anoints the icons with the holy myron he then blows upon them as if to signal the imparting of the Holy Spirit. This observation should suffice in demonstrating that the approach of the Copts towards icons is not merely reverential; it is also sacramental.
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« Reply #38 on: June 03, 2009, 08:38:08 PM »

I know in the Armenian Church that icons in the church are anointed with muron.  I've never seen the blowing though.  That's pretty awesome.   Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: June 05, 2009, 10:54:44 PM »

I think the following articles will help to understand about Syriac Orthodox Church and Icons.

Icons in the Syriac Church?
http://www.socdigest.org/articles/01oct06.htm

I just saw something that reminded me of one of the icons discussed in this article.

This is from the second half of the article:

Quote
Perhaps one of the purest and most distinct Syriac icons is of the Last Supper. It has no Byzantine parallel. It is a unique contribution in the world of sacred art. The first thing we notice about this work of art is that the table is round. In so many Syriac churches we find DaVinci’s Last Supper where we look across the long table at Christ and his disciples. While this image is not an icon, it is treated as an icon in many Syriac churches. This is sad when we have a supreme iconic images within our own tradition.

Let us look at this icon closely. Where is the cup which figures so prominently in the Last Supper? We are viewing it from above and looking into it. The table is the rim of the cup and the sacrifice sits in the heart of it. The circular form draws all of us to the center. If we have any doubt about where to look we see Christ pointing to it. In the other hand is a book held by the living word. In Orthodox faith, the Word of God is Christ himself. It can never be sola scriptura. Scripture is anchored in Christ not in our interpretation.

The focus of the Syriac icon is on the sacrifice. Christ is pointing to it rather than reaching out to earthly delights as evidenced in the hands of the disciples. This is interesting theology as it points to the act of Christ rather than the human form of Christ. In a way it suggests to us the way of Christ for our own lives. They are to be lives of sacrifice. As we look to the sacrifice, we look less to ourselves and more to the One who gives us the power to act.

As we go around the table we notice the dimensional aspect of the icon. In the extended dimension we can see around corners. It is a deep anthropological perspective often used by native cultures. Pacific Northwest natives created icons of various animals that played a large part of the inner mythology of their culture. The raven, the salmon, the bear, and other creatures are seen from all sides. We stand in several places at once. It is a divine perspective. In the Syriac icon we stand inside the icon and in several places at once.

At first it may look like a two dimensional image. But it is not. If we look closer we see that it is curved space. We are inside the cup. We are the sacrifice. It is a profound image full of significant theology.

This is the image he was talking about:



I was looking through a website and I noticed an image of the Last Supper from a 14th century Armenian manuscript from Artsakh (Karabagh.)  It is not the same image, but it depicts the scene from up above, like in the Syriac icon.  I wonder if it was influenced by the Syriac tradition:



http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/arts_of_armenia/miniatures.htm
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« Reply #40 on: November 22, 2012, 09:01:34 AM »

There are several reasons why the Syriac Orthodox icon development is behind other Orthodox Churches...

1. Islamic image prohibition.
2. Our neighbors the Church of the East also prohibit icons/images.
3. Mor Severus of Antioch and Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug were against the use of icons. It wasn't a main issue at all to them and they only mentioned it as short comments in their texts.
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« Reply #41 on: November 22, 2012, 09:11:57 AM »

3. Mor Severus of Antioch and Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug were against the use of icons. It wasn't a main issue at all to them and they only mentioned it as short comments in their texts.

So OOs have Iconoclast Saints?
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« Reply #42 on: November 22, 2012, 09:21:49 AM »

That sounds like a serious word=P

But I was told they were against their usage (it was just something they wrote "in passing", it wasn't a main issue at all in their writings). I haven't read it myself. They were probably worried that it might become idolatry but of course time has shown that isn't the case.
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The Tur Abdin Timeline - A timeline of Tur Abdin (Syriac for "the Mountain of the Servants [of God]"), the heartland of the Syriac Orthodox Christians, a hilly region located in upper Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates.
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« Reply #43 on: November 22, 2012, 09:23:42 AM »

That sounds like a serious word=P

That's why I asked whether I understood your message correctly instead of blaming you for venerating heretics. Smiley
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« Reply #44 on: November 22, 2012, 09:25:29 AM »

An iconoclast saint = a saint who destroyed icons?
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The Tur Abdin Timeline - A timeline of Tur Abdin (Syriac for "the Mountain of the Servants [of God]"), the heartland of the Syriac Orthodox Christians, a hilly region located in upper Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates.
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