What is my concern is the lack of a personal statement by Robert Lentz . Perhaps I missed it. It would be nice to learn what he considers to be outreach illustrations vs iconograohy.
Opus, here's an excerpt of Robert Lent's own publicity material in italics, with bold sections my emphasis. These italicized statements are completely proper and correct. Following each paragraph are examples in color
of his own words on images he has painted which contradict these principles:The constancy of the Christian faith is reflected in its art. The icon is steeped in tradition. We all can imagine the ancient scribe carefully copying letter by letter the ancient religious texts. In a similar way the iconographer follows that which was before him. The artist’s creativity comes in to play not through creating the “novel”, but in the freedom to manipulate line, color, and form for a directed purpose: the expression of the truth and vision of the Church.In the sacred history of Meso-America, a Christ-like figure dominates the spiritual horizon. His name is Quetzalcoatl, which means the Plumed Serpent. Quetzalcoatl is one of the most ancient concepts of God in this region. He reconciles in himself heaven and earth. He is the creator of humankind and the giver of agriculture and the fine arts.
In the tenth century, a Toltec priest named Quetzalcoatl acquired a large following in the Valley of Mexico. He opposed both human sacrifice and warfare, promoting instead the arts and self-discipline as a means for coming closer to God. This made him many enemies among the ruling classes. They brought about his downfall, but he confounded them by rising from the dead, after being consumed in a sacred fire. His heart became the morning star, and he himself became young once again. He promised to return one day to his people.
The stories of Quetzalcoatl and Christ are so similar that it is easy to see one in the other. In this icon, both Quetzalcoatl and Christ are depicted in the same guise. It is a resurrection icon, with their heart ascending from the flames of death and rebirth. Around the edge, in gold leaf, is an ancient Aztec depiction of the Plumed Serpent. Red and black are the colors the Aztecs associated with the morning star.
Quetzalcoatl and Christ bring us the same timeless message: God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. In both their lives, our human condition has been joined inseparably to the divine. Each proclaims to us a simple gospel of compassion, and invites us to dance with God in the divine fire burning in each of our hearts.In declaring and preserving the Christian faith, personal expression does not play a role. In the Byzantine Church, references to Wisdom are considered references to Christ. Churches like Hagia Sophia in Istanbul are dedicated to Christ. From the Middle Ages on, icons depicting Christ as an androgynous figure, flanked by Mary and John the Baptist, have been painted in Russia & elsewhere. It is important now to take the next step and depict Wisdom -- Sophia -- as the woman Sacred Scriptures describe.
Looking honestly at our ancient tradition, it is clear that the mystery of Christ cannot be described in masculine terms alone. Because of historical and cultural circumstances, the Second Person of the Trinity became a male human being. Before the Incarnation, however, that person was described as "she." As the Incarnation continues to unfold after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, it is again the feminine Sophia who expresses the mystery -- as pointed out by the Russian theologian Soloviev.
By what authority does Lentz presume to paint Christ as a woman? He also ignores the fact that Sophianism, as promoted by Soloviev and Bulgakov, is a declared heresy in the Orthodox Church.
The term Father
is symbolic, and it is also the term used by Christ Himself to refer to the first Person of the Holy Trinity during His life on earth. While the word wisdom is of the feminine gender in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Slavonic (as well as a number of modern languages), it is purely a grammatical
gender, and any notion that this somehow denotes “the divine feminine” is mistaken. The second Person of the Holy Trinity before the Incarnation was also described as the Word, in Greek Logos
. What then would these “progressives” make of Logos, which is masculine
in the Greek language? And is of various grammatical genders in other languages, ancient and modern?What is most important is being faithful to the truths of the Christian faith.
The profusion of images this man has painted which violate Christian truths shows his hypocrisy in high relief. Painting Christ in pagan form, painting saints as homosexual lovers (Sts Sergius and Bacchus), painting non-Christians as saints (Gandhi, Einstein, Rumi the founder of the Sufi sect of Islam), mythological figures as saints (Merlin) ..... And then there's "Saint" Harvey Milk, "keeping vigil for himself and for all oppressed homosexuals"
(Harvey Milk was murdered because of his homosexuality and advocacy for gays, not because he was defending the Christian faith. Big difference)
His spiel on the Sergius and Bacchus image:Sts. Sergius and Bacchus are ancient Christian martyrs who were tortured to death in Syria because they refused to attend sacrifices in honor of Jupiter. Recent attention to early Greek manuscripts has also revealed that they were openly gay men and that they were erastai or lovers. These manuscripts are found in various libraries in Europe and indicate an earlier Christian acceptance of homosexuality.
After their arrest, the two saints were paraded through city streets in women’s clothing, treatment that was meant to humiliate them as officers in the Roman army. They were then separated and each was tortured. Bacchus died first and appeared that night to Sergius who was beginning to lose heart. According to the early manuscripts, Bacchus told Sergius to persevere, that the delights of heaven were greater than any suffering, and that part of their reward would be to be reunited in heaven as lovers.
The bolded words contradict Mark 12:25, on marriage and heaven: For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as angels in heaven.
Homosexual activity has always been, and remains, sinful in the eyes of both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.The Christian message and vision of life and hope does not change with each new era and fad, nor does the vision of the icon.
Celtic Trinity (which also bears the Greek inscription I Aghia Trias
(Holy Trinity) in the upper corners): From ancient times human beings have responded to experiences with the divine with works of art. They have used metaphor and image to describe what they have "seen." Individual expressions of personal experiences of the divine have often challenged rigid religious traditions.
The spiritual genius of many ethnic groups through the centuries has been responsible for profound images of faith. Drawings on walls of prehistoric caves are powerful witnesses to highly developed spiritual sentiments of peoples who lived before the traditional religions of the East and West.
The civilizations of the Americas which flourished prior to the arrival of Columbus and missionaries from Europe were routinely destroyed. Images of faith were often condemned before any attempt was made to understand the experience which gave birth to these images of the spirit. Religious authorities, urged by patriarchal bias, were especially fearful of the role of feminine images in these primitive yet often highly evolved cultures. Male clerics and theologians were careful to exercise control over the images to be used in worship and devotions.
Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and early Europeans saw their religious traditions and images cast aside in favor of the Christian images current at the time. Treasures of faith were lost as cultures were systematically destroyed by colonists and conquerors.
A beautiful image from ancient Celtic religious experience was God as a trinity of women. The Maiden gave birth to creation. The Mother nurtured and protected it, and the Crone brought it wisely to its end. A raven accompanied the Crone as a symbol of life and death: though it ate dead things, it flew high into the heavens. The three women are depicted from different races to extend the Celtic image to a more global perspective. The snake was another sacred feminine image. It represented life, fertility, and rejuvenation. Devouring its own tail, it represented immortality.
Feminine images have suffered greatly in the west. Women will continue to suffer oppression in religious society until their images have been reclaimed and honored. These feminine insights can help to present a new healing perspective on the problems that face our modern world.
So what is Lentz doing painting the Holy Trinity in syncretistic, politically-correct terms? The most restrained comment that can be made about this image is that it is cultural relativism gone mad. Are pagan, New Age ideas and feminist influences just as valid as proper theology? This is particularly intolerable when such a heretical image is put on an equal footing with the sublime and incomparable Holy Trinity
painted by St Andrei of Radonezh (Andrei Rublyev).
There's enough heretical and blasphemous material in Robert Lentz's portfolio to fill a book with analysis and critique. It is clear that he, through his works and words, repeatedly violates the very iconographic principles he supposedly espouses. It is impossible to conclude he is doing so in honest ignorance. So much of his work is tainted by his own agendas and causes, that all his work must be regarded as suspect, and avoided. He cannot serve two masters.