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Author Topic: The image of Christ.. veneration or worship ?  (Read 1046 times) Average Rating: 0
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Arnaud
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« on: June 17, 2011, 05:23:01 PM »

Greetings everyone, in the Name of the Holy Trinity, the one true God, amen.

First of all, I would like to know what 'adoration/worship' means to you. How do you define it ? And How do you understand the difference between veneration and adoration ? I myself have my thought about it, but I would like to know yours.

Secondly, if you are in front of an icon which represents Christ or the Holy Trinity together, Do you kiss this icon and touch it with your foreheads more than the others ? Do you prostrate yourselves more before them ? In short, What changes in your manners, when you approach an icon of Christ or the Trinity ?

Thirdly, let me quote you some words of St. John of Damascus : "...the proskinesis given by a Christian to an image of Christ is ontologically the same as the reverence he ought to give his fellow Christians, who are also images of Christ, but ontologically different from the latreia that is due God alone." I have some difficulty to understand that. This gives me the feeling that 'Christ the Incarnate Word' is splitted in two. As if two different honors could be given to Christ, I mean veneration to His human nature, and adoration to His divine nature. When I want to give glory to Christ, I give Him one glory as one Person, Do you agree with me ? But maybe I do not understand correctly what St. John of Damascus is saying, and if it is the case, please correct me. Do my Oriental Orthodox brothers and sisters agree with these words of St. John of Damascus ? 

Thanks.


PS : Feel free to answer to only one point, or only two, or the three.

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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2011, 05:47:45 PM »


On your last question, I believe St John is referring specifically to an image (icon) of Christ. The image is revered because it is an image of Christ, but it is not actually Jesus Christ, and so should not be worshiped as though it is.

There is no distinction between Christ's natures, as all icons show both natures of Jesus Christ: the human nature is obvious, but the halo containing "I AM" in Greek and even the colour of His robes also testify to the fact that the image shows forth Jesus' divine nature too. The distinction being made by St John is solely between images of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself. That is why he says there is no ontological difference between showing reverence to an icon and reverence to a faithful Christian: both are images of Jesus Christ without actually being Jesus Christ.
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2011, 07:28:31 PM »

But I thought the whole point of icons was to assist in worship? What's the point of bowing to wood and paint when it isn't even a holy relic?

Sounds like pointlessly complicating things.
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2011, 07:53:02 PM »

But I thought the whole point of icons was to assist in worship? What's the point of bowing to wood and paint when it isn't even a holy relic?

Sounds like pointlessly complicating things.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21473.msg324380.html#msg324380

Quote
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?”

And also:

Quote
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.

The above is from an Armenian vartabed named Vertanes, who lived in the late 500's and early 600's, about a century before John of Damascus.  He is a witness to the fact that venerating icons of Christ is an early practice, as he speaks of others before his time who did this.  He is also a witness to the fact that in the early Christian centuries, the only people who objected to icons were Gnostic heretics (Manicheans and Marcianists) who believed Christ's flesh was not real.  By venerating icons of Christ, we show with our actions what we confess with our mouths:  The Word of God truly took on flesh.
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2011, 08:22:23 PM »

My only problem with that is what, then were the persecutions all about? Couldn't a Christian just offer the incense to Ceasar's statue and say, "I'm not worshipping, only venerating my leader."
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2011, 08:52:09 PM »

It is my understanding that in the pagan context, offering incense in front of a statue of Ceasar was specifically understood to be an offering of worship to Ceasar.

I think it was Fr. George who, in another thread, pointed out that in the Christian context an offering of incense is always an offering to God.  I'll try to find the thread.
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2011, 09:00:05 PM »

This is the thread on offering incense to emperors:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21753.0.html

Here is the post by Fr. George of which I was thinking:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21753.msg331593.html#msg331593

and two others:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21753.msg331653.html#msg331653

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21753.msg331675.html#msg331675
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« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2011, 09:13:03 PM »

If I understand correctly, the point he makes is that in the Christian context, there is a distinction between offering incense and something being censed.  In the Christian context, incense is always offered exclusively to God.  A person, such as a member of the congregation, may be censed; an item, such as an icon, may be censed; however, the incense in all these situations is offered to God.

In the pagan context, burning incense in front of the emperor was understood to be an offering of worship to the emperor.
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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2011, 10:44:08 PM »

Thanks. I think you understand him right, yes. However, in light of this thread. http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,17726.0.html
I'm not sure I buy his reasoning. I'd have to look into that canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council which Samkim posted in your link.

I like Entscheidungsproblem's response for now:

Quote
I would say it is multi-fold, and most have already been touched upon.

Firstly, it was seen as a sign of loyalty and acceptance of an extremely anti-Christian government.  Secondly, ancestor worship was common amongst the Romans, so you would be seen as venerating not only the Emperor's familial forefathers, but past Emperors as well, for they were viewed as the Fathers of the Roman People.  Thirdly, the offering of incense would be viewed as also venerating specific Roman gods, those attached to the State (Vesta, Juno, Jupiter, & Minerva would be the main ones), and gods attached to the Emperor's familial clan (for example, the gens Julia's patroness was the goddess Venus). 

Though deification did occur in Rome, it was announced after the death of an Emperor (except in cases like Nero, Commodus, e al., but the Senate sorted those out later).
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,21753.msg329871.html#msg329871

And check out the two posts by NorthernPines on page two of that thread.
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2011, 01:04:58 PM »


On your last question, I believe St John is referring specifically to an image (icon) of Christ. The image is revered because it is an image of Christ, but it is not actually Jesus Christ, and so should not be worshiped as though it is.

There is no distinction between Christ's natures, as all icons show both natures of Jesus Christ: the human nature is obvious, but the halo containing "I AM" in Greek and even the colour of His robes also testify to the fact that the image shows forth Jesus' divine nature too. The distinction being made by St John is solely between images of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself. That is why he says there is no ontological difference between showing reverence to an icon and reverence to a faithful Christian: both are images of Jesus Christ without actually being Jesus Christ.

Thank you J.M.C. Indeed, I did not see it in this way. Thanks for the clarification..
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« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2011, 01:25:34 PM »

The short answer is that in Orthodox liturgical texts "veneration" and "worship" mean the SAME THING, regardless of that subtle distinction in Greek between "dulia", "hyperdulia" and "latria".  Just compare a couple different translations of the Prayer Before the Icon of Christ.  Some translations say "We venerate Thy most pure image" and others say "We worship Thine immaculate icon".  Both really mean the same thing.

Its a hard point for Protestants to understand. Personally, I don't think they'll ever get it and I wouldn't waste my time trying to explain it to them.

While I certainly expect someone here to scold me for this, this is how I answer their questions:

Protestant: Why you Orthodox worship icons!  (Boo! Hiss! Hiss!)

Me: yes, we do.  But we don't worship them as God.  Its a relative worship of degree. The supreme worship we reserve for God alone.

Protestant: Why you Orthodox worship Mary! (Boo! Hiss! Hiss!)

Me: yes, we do worship the Mother of God.  But not as we worship God.  We worship her, but it is worship of a lower degree than we give to the Almighty.
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« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2011, 01:49:33 PM »

There is no distinction between Christ's natures, as all icons show both natures of Jesus Christ: the human nature is obvious, but the halo containing "I AM" in Greek and even the colour of His robes also testify to the fact that the image shows forth Jesus' divine nature too.
Actually, no.
"It is not the nature, but the hypostasis of the person portrayed that is shown forth in the icon."
(St. John Damascene)
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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2011, 03:03:41 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

1) I adore my cat, I venerate my mother and I worship God as the source of all. Adoration is human love, veneration is a deeper sense of worship and gratitude and worship proper is where you direct such venerable gratitude. I venerate my mother because she was sent by God to bring me into the world and keep me in the world, in God's Grace.  I adore my cat because she is adorable, but I hardly have worshiping sentiments about the cat.  Adoration can lead to veneration, but they are not strictly synonymous, as its a matter of degrees.

2) Yes, I inherently find myself more venerable towards an Icon of Our Savior, as our Savior Himself through the Incarnation is an Image/Icon of the Infinite, Immaterial, and Immortal Godhead of the Father who we have no other was to see.  Just as incense smoke gives substance to the winds of the air, so to does the Incarnation of Christ give shape and form to the Formless Father.

3) Yes, I also venerate all human beings as Christ, but this takes a bit more effort and doesn't came as naturally or easily or instinctively as does veneration of an Icon of Christ, though in truth I was raised a Baptist, so it took me a while to learn to venerate Icons too, and in time I'm sure God will teach me to venerate all humans as His icons in Christ as well, but it takes time in the Spirit. Our interactions with other Human beings are like are interactions with God because this whole of creation is God's and under God's Will, and nothing happens outside of God's Will.  When we accept our realities, we accept God's Reality.  So when we learn to venerate all human beings with that Christ consciousness, then we learn to see how God is always in our midst.  Further, we learn to accept all of our lives as in God's hands, so its not just people we learn to accept, but all of reality as God's.  Anything else is quixotic..

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2011, 03:08:33 PM »

The short answer is that in Orthodox liturgical texts "veneration" and "worship" mean the SAME THING, regardless of that subtle distinction in Greek between "dulia", "hyperdulia" and "latria".  Just compare a couple different translations of the Prayer Before the Icon of Christ.  Some translations say "We venerate Thy most pure image" and others say "We worship Thine immaculate icon".  Both really mean the same thing.

Its a hard point for Protestants to understand. Personally, I don't think they'll ever get it and I wouldn't waste my time trying to explain it to them.

While I certainly expect someone here to scold me for this, this is how I answer their questions:

Protestant: Why you Orthodox worship icons!  (Boo! Hiss! Hiss!)

Me: yes, we do.  But we don't worship them as God.  Its a relative worship of degree. The supreme worship we reserve for God alone.

Protestant: Why you Orthodox worship Mary! (Boo! Hiss! Hiss!)

Me: yes, we do worship the Mother of God.  But not as we worship God.  We worship her, but it is worship of a lower degree than we give to the Almighty.


I have read somewhere a Father who said, that indeed, by worship veneration is included. He said we must say "adore" when speaking about this unique cult we give to God.
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« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2011, 03:32:55 PM »

Hi Bro. Habte, and thanks for your argumentation. In french, and in a religious context, "J'adore" is equivalent to say "I worship". Adoration and worship is the same to us. But you also have the common use of "adore" in familiar language, which means "to appreciate/like a lot." But in church, adorer means to worship. The sense is not the same according to the context.
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« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2011, 04:15:40 PM »

There is no distinction between Christ's natures, as all icons show both natures of Jesus Christ: the human nature is obvious, but the halo containing "I AM" in Greek and even the colour of His robes also testify to the fact that the image shows forth Jesus' divine nature too.
Actually, no.
"It is not the nature, but the hypostasis of the person portrayed that is shown forth in the icon."
(St. John Damascene)


The quote is not St Theodore Studite?

Regardless, the quote shows up my own looser use of the word "nature". St Theodore (or St John if he said it) would not have used the actual word "nature", but the Greek equivalent (ousia, i presume), but what your quote shows is that there is no equivalent word to translate the Greek word hypostasis, especially in the context of Jesus' divinity and humanity.

If I choose my words more carefully and say that an Icon of Christ uses certain devices to depict both His humanity AND Divinity, then this is okay? If so, then it is no more or less than I meant before.
 
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« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2011, 09:15:01 PM »

If I choose my words more carefully and say that an Icon of Christ uses certain devices to depict both His humanity AND Divinity, then this is okay? If so, then it is no more or less than I meant before.
 
I still think there's a problem wording it thus. Neither "Humanity" nor "Divinity" can exist outside of an Hypostasis, and thus they can't be depicted as separate to one. So it is not the divinity and humanity of Christ which are depicted, rather, it is the Hypostasis of the God-Man which is depicted. De-Personalized "Humanity" can't be depicted in a painting any more than De-Personalized "Divinity" can. So we are not so much depicting the divinity and humanity of Christ, as depicting the Person of Christ who is both Divine and Human.
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« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2011, 11:07:28 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

If I choose my words more carefully and say that an Icon of Christ uses certain devices to depict both His humanity AND Divinity, then this is okay? If so, then it is no more or less than I meant before.
 
I still think there's a problem wording it thus. Neither "Humanity" nor "Divinity" can exist outside of an Hypostasis, and thus they can't be depicted as separate to one. So it is not the divinity and humanity of Christ which are depicted, rather, it is the Hypostasis of the God-Man which is depicted. De-Personalized "Humanity" can't be depicted in a painting any more than De-Personalized "Divinity" can. So we are not so much depicting the divinity and humanity of Christ, as depicting the Person of Christ who is both Divine and Human.


I like this.  I think it can even be taken a bit deeper in a stylistic sense.  In paintings abstract concepts like "mood", "feel", or "emotion" can be used to describe something deeper then the mechanics of a painted image in the mind/heart of the viewer.  We "feel" paintings as much as we see them, and it has always seemed genuine to me that imaged depicting Jesus Christ of any variety are almost always universally recognized as such, even if distorted, altered, mocked, etc etc.

So in these images of our Lord, we are portraying the God-Man Incarnate, not merely the "humanity" of Jesus as it may be said by an art critic to describe the emotive expression of a Passion painting or such.  In these images we are not able see something like an "abstraction" of Jesus Christ's humanity as if were separate from the hypostatic Union.  While paintings can capture abstractions of real things like the "mood" of a sunset or the "quaintness" of a village scene, images of our Savior or not regular images, the depict the complete Person of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps this is then why His images are universally recognizable, as they convey a feeling in the viewer altogether different from the usual abstractions paintings produce, rather perhaps they feel the miracle of the Union.

Stay Blessed,
Habte Selassie
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« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2011, 02:32:14 PM »

If I choose my words more carefully and say that an Icon of Christ uses certain devices to depict both His humanity AND Divinity, then this is okay? If so, then it is no more or less than I meant before.
 
I still think there's a problem wording it thus.


Well as long as you're happy with your own wording, I have no reason to argue.
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