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Offline wolf

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questions
« on: December 19, 2010, 07:39:41 AM »
I couldn't see any introductions forum, so I will attempt an introduction in this post.
I was brought up an atheist, but since my early teenage years I have been searching for God. It seems that I have looked in every religion under the sun, but there has always been some reason that I have been left unsatisfied. I have come to Orthodox Christianity seeking answers, and I hope I can find them.
 
I have a few questions about Christianity that I am sure have been asked and answered a million times - but here they are:
 
Firstly, I cannot believe that a loving, good, and just god would send non-Christians to hell just because they have rejected Christianity. There are thousands of reasons why people do not come to Christianity or reject it, and I do not think that many people do so because they hate god, or want to rebel against him. I know I certainly didn't - I was completely open to god but did not believe he existed (in the Christian sense). I am sure that many atheists and non-Christians would be open to Christianity if they knew that it was something more than another religion - something that no evangelization effort can achieve because it is completely based on faith.
I have heard many times that non-believers send themselves to hell, but this answer does not completely make sense to me. I imagine that most are not consciously rejecting god simply because they do not know he exists. It saddens me that if Christianity really is gods plan for salvation, He has not made the gates to heaven more obvious. To many, christianity is just another religion that promises salvation, there is no reason to believe it over any other religion.
 
What is the Orthodox position of 3-D statues of Mary, Saints or Jesus? I have heard that the concept of "idol" only pertains to something lifelike and 3-d, which is why icons are used instead.
 
If anyone knows, when is the earliest reference to veneration of Mary or saints - is it something they apostles would have done?
 
Although I don't want to reveal my name, it is Anglo-Saxon and it is the name of a pre-schism English saint. Would I have to change it if I converted to orthodoxy?

Thanks.
 
« Last Edit: December 19, 2010, 07:40:40 AM by wolf »

Offline Irish Hermit

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Re: questions
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2010, 09:05:39 AM »
Firstly, I cannot believe that a loving, good, and just god would send non-Christians to hell just because they have rejected Christianity.


Please have a read of message 1207 here

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg424505.html#msg424505

Offline HandmaidenofGod

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Re: questions
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2010, 11:51:11 AM »
I couldn't see any introductions forum, so I will attempt an introduction in this post.

Welcome to the forum! Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable. :)

Firstly, I cannot believe that a loving, good, and just god would send non-Christians to hell just because they have rejected Christianity. There are thousands of reasons why people do not come to Christianity or reject it, and I do not think that many people do so because they hate god, or want to rebel against him. I know I certainly didn't - I was completely open to god but did not believe he existed (in the Christian sense). I am sure that many atheists and non-Christians would be open to Christianity if they knew that it was something more than another religion - something that no evangelization effort can achieve because it is completely based on faith.

I have heard many times that non-believers send themselves to hell, but this answer does not completely make sense to me. I imagine that most are not consciously rejecting god simply because they do not know he exists. It saddens me that if Christianity really is gods plan for salvation, He has not made the gates to heaven more obvious. To many, christianity is just another religion that promises salvation, there is no reason to believe it over any other religion.

The Orthodox Church is not in the business of condemning people to hell. That judgment is reserved for God and God alone. We don't know the state of our own souls; who are we to judge the state of others? We believe that while there are many paths to God, the surest way is through the Orthodox Church.

You and I may both know how to get to Denver from New York, however the route I take will get me there faster and easier. Does that make the path you take wrong if it still gets you to Denver?

In saying that someone condemns themselves to hell, we are referring to those who have explicitly stated that they hate God, they reject His mercy, and His love. They say "No, I want nothing to do with you!"

But we believe that even then, through our prayers God can reach them and extend His mercy to them. Why? Because God is a merciful, loving, and overall awesome God. We believe everything is possible through God.
 
What is the Orthodox position of 3-D statues of Mary, Saints or Jesus? I have heard that the concept of "idol" only pertains to something lifelike and 3-d, which is why icons are used instead.

The Orthodox Church rejects the use of 3-D imagry. Rather than use statues, we use icons.

The following was written by Greek Orthodox  Priest and Iconographer, Fr. Anthony Salzman:


Quote
Byzantine Iconography

Byzantine Iconography is the art of the early Church.  In fact St. Luke was the first Iconographer.  He painted icons of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus, some of which still exist today.  We call icons “the Bible of the Illiterate” because during the middle ages when not everyone could read, people were still able to understand the message of salvation through pictures.

What the Bible reveals about God through the symbols of words, icons reveal in pictures.  Icons are not idols, they are windows to heaven.  They reveal the reality of God’s kingdom on earth.  They make visible the invisible.  God is spirit and we could not paint a picture of Him until the second person of the Trinity came to us as a man.  Now that we could see Him, we were obligated to depict Him.  We could no longer use the symbol of the lamb, or the good shepherd;  He was a person with a face and a body. 

Our faith is “Incarnational”, God came down to earth, He did not remain a distant landlord, but came to us as a vulnerable baby.  The honor and reverence we pay to the image on the icon, passes on to the prototype.  When we show a photograph of a loved one to a friend, we may even kiss it out of love.  It is not the paper and chemicals that we are kissing but the person that they represent, so too with icons. 

We also represent the saints, because they have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit in both their body and soul.  They are the heroes of the faith that point us to Christ.  They show us the road to follow by the good example of their life.  They teach us by their experience how to avoid the traps of the devil.  They are with Christ in His kingdom.  God is the God of the living not of the dead.  We see that when Christ appears with Moses and Elijah.  For Christians death is just a door that we pass through, it is not the end.  The Saints have passed through perfected in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit, and so we honor them.  And just as we ask one another to pray for us because of our many burdens, so too do we ask the saints to intercede on our behalf, because they are in Gods presence praising and glorifying Him who is the creator of all things. 

We do not worship the saints, for worship is due to God alone.  We honor them as we honor living saints, for their achievements in the spiritual realm.  With this in mind we decorate our churches.  They are the Kingdom of God on earth, sanctified and holy ground, dedicated to God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 

When we enter the Church, the Kingdom of God, we are leaving time and space and entering eternity.  Architecturally, this is represented by the church building.  The building is facing the east because that is where light comes from.  The sun rises in the East and sets in the west.  Therefore, Christians are buried facing east in anticipation of the Second Coming, as Christ will return from the east. 

The church is divided into three parts, the narthex, the nave and the holy of holies, the altar area.  In the narthex you make the transition from this world to another world.  This is where you hang your coats, and light a candle, and venerate the icons. 

As you enter the church, you look up and see the dome.  This physically represents the heavens, Christ the all powerful is there looking down on His creation.  If you consider it the beginning of time, we find there Christ the pre-eternal word, the logos, the second person of the Trinity. 

As you come down into the dome you find the first order of created beings: the Angels, the archangels, the cherubim and seraphim.  Below that we have the next order of creation, human kind.  Here we find the Patriarchs, Prophets and Forefathers of the Old Testament. 

The dome itself is supported by four pendentives in which we put the four pillars of the Church, the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 

In the Apse behind the altar we have the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child.  We call her in Greek, more expansive than the heavens, because she contained within herself, the creator of the universe. 

Below her typically we have the scene of Holy Communion.  Christ giving His body and blood to the Apostles, as He did at the Last Supper, or “Mystical Supper” as we say in Greek.  It was not a symbol that He gave them, but Himself mystically.  Just as He did not send us a representative but He Himself came.  Does it not make sense that He would then also gives us Himself to be members of His body. 

Below the icon of Holy Communion we have the Concelebrants, the Bishops of the church, who wrote the Liturgies of the Church, and who are the overseers and guides of the church. 

We even use Old Testament scenes in the altar area.  For example, the icon of the hospitality of Abraham foretells the offering God would make of His only Son.  Instead of Isaac, God provides a ram.  The rest of the Church is painted with the life of Christ, His miracles, the parables, and the history of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. 

We depict the saints, the men and women who have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, the martyrs, the ascetics, the monastics, the soldier saints, the emperors and empresses, in short salvation History.  So when we the “living saints” enter the church, we are surrounded by the “triumphant saints” and when we celebrate the Eucharist we are in paradise, a foretaste of what is to come. 

Icons are not works of art per se.  They always are used within a context of worship, whether at home or in the church. We call it “Hagiograhia” or “Saint writing.”  “Graphos” means to write, photography is “light writing”  So we are writing the gospel with a brush. 

Icons are painted the way they are on purpose.  Their flatness and expressiveness make them alive and engaging asking the viewer to participate and interact with them.  They do not create an illusion of space, but use reverse perspective to come out to the viewer.  They do not use foreshortening, but draw people in profile or frontally, thus maintaining the integrity of the two dimensional surface. 

Two elements constitute and icon, line and form.  We draw exactly what we will paint before we pick up a brush.  Once we have the entire image drawn out, and the expression resolved, then we begin to paint.  We call it process painting, because we follow step by step building up layer upon layer to get the final image. Each icon is meticulously modeled with thousand of strokes using the tip of the brush.  Line gives life to the form, and the modeling of the form through color, brings it to life, making it real and relational for us. 

There are no shadows in an icon, because the light emanates from the icon itself. 

They are not sentimental but expressive.  They do not show the human being as fallen, but they transcend physical reality to reveal a deeper reality, a transformed reality.  That is why not every icon looks exactly the same, we are not copying physical reality, but trying to capture something deeper. 

An Iconographer is not a Picasso or Matisse, trying to express themselves, they are a servant trying to make the invisible visible for the faithful of the church.  If an icon moves you in your spirit to glorify God, then it has done its work.  If it brings you to repentance then you have become sensitive to its reality.  For some people, they will go speak to the icons upon entering a room, before greeting those present, because they truly understand and experience the meaning of icons. 

They are windows into heaven that make physically present the spiritual reality.  The western world has lost the gift of icons.  They are unfamiliar and strange at first, but with time they become a powerful force in the experience of our faith.  After a while they make sense, they lead us to God, and they bring God to us. 

We are psychosomatic beings.  Faith is not just something that happens in your intellect or your brain, but the entire person is involved in the salvation process.  We are not Platonists, regarding the body as inferior and the soul as superior.  We are an integrated reality, body and soul.  Christ still had a body after the Resurrection.  But it was a transfigured body.  One that still ate food, but one that could also walk through walls.  Therefore we embrace God’s creation and bless it and use it for good. 

That is why we must care for the environment and not exploit it.  It is here to sustain life and bring health and happiness to people through proper use and good management.  Not to be excessively used for profit, and have it destroyed in the process.  Life is a gift from God to be lived as a sacrament.  Icons are a means to help us live that way.

 
If anyone knows, when is the earliest reference to veneration of Mary or saints - is it something they apostles would have done?

I would argue that the veneration of Mary begins with the Annunciation from the Archangel Gabrial.

Luke 1:26-28 reads, "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (emphasis mine.)

Now, call me crazy, but if an Angel of the Lord God himself is coming down and calling someone "highly favored one", me thinks they must be pretty special and worthy of some kind of honor. In verse 48, Mary states, "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."

Did the Apostles honor her? Well, even prior to the Apostles honoring her, John the Baptist honored her before he was even born!

Luke 1:41, "When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

The Book of Acts tells us that she was in the upper room with the Apostles, "When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." (Acts 1:13-14)

As mentioned before, Church Tradition holds that Luke was the first Iconographer, and that he painted an icon of the Theotokos (Birthgiver of God.)

In the Gospel of James, Chapter 5, verse 16 we are told that "The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." As Orthodox Christians believe that the soul lives forever we ask the saints to pray for us, as these "righteous men" have already run the race before us. Just as a friend in need would ask another friend to pray for him, we ask the saints to pray for us. We do not worship the saints, but rather we recognize them for leading a holy Christian life. In particular we ask the Theotokos to pray for us, for as demonstrated at the Wedding at Cana, the Son will honor the requests of His mother. (John 2:1-12)
 
Although I don't want to reveal my name, it is Anglo-Saxon and it is the name of a pre-schism English saint. Would I have to change it if I converted to orthodoxy?

This is something that would be discussed between you and your Spiritual Father. In order to be baptized in the Orthodox Church, you must take on the name of a Saint. For some, their Spiritual father assigns a saint to them. For others, their Spiritual Father will let them choose.

If you have a saint's name, like "John", you may choose to keep that, and would just pick which Saint John you wanted to be your patron. (There are many!) For others, they will pick someone with a different name, and it is then up to the individual whether they want people to continue to call them their birth name, or their baptismal name. Some people only use their baptismal name when receiving the sacraments, while others want everyone to call them by their new name.

It varies by the individual.

Also, many Saints in the West, if they are pre-schism, are accepted in the East. So if your name happens to be Kevin, Brendan, Ælfheah, Charles, Cuthbert, Edward, Oswald, or Æthelwold, they would be perfectly acceptable names to be used in the Orthodox Church.

And for the record, I'm an American mutt that happens to be 1/8 Ukrainian with a very Irish first name, and was baptized in the Orthodox Church as an infant with my very Irish first name. So don't think that all of us are Demetrius's, Ionnes, Vladimir's, and Vera's. There are quite a few of us with Western names as well. ;)

Hope this helps,

Maureen
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11

Offline wolf

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Re: questions
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2010, 02:54:37 PM »
Thanks to everyone for the replies.

Please have a read of message 1207 here
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg424505.html#msg424505

I am glad that this is the case. Thank you.


The Orthodox Church rejects the use of 3-D imagry. Rather than use statues, we use icons.

Am I right in thinking that non-iconlike depictions of Jesus, Mary et al, are fine as art but should not be used within the context of worship because icons are not meant as lifelike depictions? How about western style icons? 


Also, many Saints in the West, if they are pre-schism, are accepted in the East. So if your name happens to be Kevin, Brendan, Ælfheah, Charles, Cuthbert, Edward, Oswald, or Æthelwold, they would be perfectly acceptable names to be used in the Orthodox Church.

Ah, this is good. I have always wanted to learn more about my namesake Saint - this now gives me an excuse to  ;D

Offline Ortho_cat

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Re: questions
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2010, 04:19:02 PM »
Welcome to the forums! You've come to the right place to ask your questions.  :)

Offline mike

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Re: questions
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2010, 04:25:54 PM »
Am I right in thinking that non-iconlike depictions of Jesus, Mary et al, are fine as art but should not be used within the context of worship because icons are not meant as lifelike depictions?

Exactly.

Quote
How about western style icons? 

They should not be worshiped but sometimes they are. Western art greatly influenced the iconography. 19th-century Russian icons are great example of this.
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Offline Alpo

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Re: questions
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2010, 05:29:58 PM »
Quote
How about western style icons? 
They should not be worshiped

Why not? I understand if you mean that they shouldn't be venerated in churches due to lack of symbolism. But what's wrong with private veneration of non-iconographic pictures?
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 19:34

Offline mike

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Re: questions
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2010, 05:34:45 PM »
For the same reason. Why one should differentiate his praying rules between home and Church?
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Offline stashko

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Re: questions
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2010, 05:35:38 PM »

I'v Venerated Icon's ,but Never Worshiped them........Hummm.... Am i missing Something..... ;D

Am I right in thinking that non-iconlike depictions of Jesus, Mary et al, are fine as art but should not be used within the context of worship because icons are not meant as lifelike depictions?

Exactly.

Quote
How about western style icons?  

They should not be worshiped but sometimes they are. Western art greatly influenced the iconography. 19th-century Russian icons are great example of this.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2010, 05:36:48 PM by stashko »
ГОСПОДЕ ГОСПОДЕ ,ПОГЛЕДАЈ СА НЕБА ,ДОЂИ И ПОСЕТИ ТВОЈ ВИНОГРАД ТВОЈА ДЕСНИЦА ПОСАДИЛА АМИН АМИН.

Offline mike

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Re: questions
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2010, 05:41:08 PM »

I'v Venerated Icon's ,but Never Worshiped them........Hummm.... Am i missing Something..... ;D


Yeah, you are right. I've messed this two terms.
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Offline Alpo

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Re: questions
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2010, 05:46:27 PM »
For the same reason. Why one should differentiate his praying rules between home and Church?

A point taken. I guess this is just a holdover from my Protestant past.

Maybe I should make an effort to buy a proper icon of my Patron Saint. All I have for the time being is this:

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 19:34

Offline genesisone

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Re: questions
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2010, 08:14:56 PM »
For the same reason. Why one should differentiate his praying rules between home and Church?
But there is a difference, is there not, between private prayers (i.e. at home) and at Church? For example, I can pray for my non-Orthodox departed parents at home, but cannot request a memorial service for them at Church.

We've also had discussion about such things as rosaries of departed relatives (or even one's own) that might find a place in a private icon corner, but not at Church.

Of course, I do agree with you that objects created merely for their artistic value are not intended for veneration.