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Author Topic: Pentecost icon - which one is "correct"?  (Read 1526 times) Average Rating: 0
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LizaSymonenko
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« on: June 11, 2012, 06:14:59 PM »


As all Orthodox icons, the icon of Pentecost is chuck-full of symbolism.

I understand and appreciate each one of the icons below, for what they depict, and am not claiming either one is "wrong".

The background for my inquiry stems from a long and convoluted email "discussion" going on between two jurisdictions of Orthodox Churches.  The discussion has finally degenerated to picking at each other's preference of iconography.

I've seen all the below versions, and never had an "issue" with either one.

I was taught that the "correct" version depicts the 12 Apostles with the tongues of fire, and King Cosmos sitting in the dark, representing sinful humanity (sitting in the dark), who sits displaying 12 scrolls - the wisdom bestowed upon and shared by the 12 Apostles.  They sit in a circle to reinforce that neither one is "better" or has gotten more grace from God, but, all are equal.  In the middle, the spot is empty, and reserved for the "Head" of the Church - Christ.










There are also icons with the Mother of God depicted on them, sitting among the Twelve.  I understand that most likely she was present at the event, and have no issue with that fact.  However, often when she is on the icon, Cosmos is not.

Additionally, she is depicted sitting in the center, the spot reserved for Christ.






Then there are those with the Theotokos and Cosmos.





So, the email conversation seems to be hinging upon the fact that if you display an icon without the Mother of God depicted on it, than you are a traitor, etc.

Can anyone explain the history behind the various icons? 

Do some ethnicities, jurisdictions, Churches, etc. prefer one over the other?  If so, why?


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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2012, 08:58:27 AM »


Anyone?
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2012, 09:53:36 AM »

The inclusion of the Mother of God in icons of the Descent of the Holy Spirit appears to be relatively recent (17thC or later), and, most likely, a borrowing from art outside the Orthodox world (this would also explain the absence of the motif of the old man Cosmos holding the scrolls of worldly wisdom). The hymnography for the feast barely mentions the Mother of God, and in only general, conventional terms in a couple of verses in ode 9 of the Matins canon. This cannot be accidental. Of course, the dominant themes of the feast are the fulfillment of the Trinitarian mission of Christ, the bestowing of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, and the beginning of the Great Commission through their receiving the gift of speaking in the various languages of the world.

It has been argued that the Mother of God has a legitimate place in this iconography, as Acts mentions her as being in the Upper Room with the other disciples in 1:12-14, though it is not clear whether the account of the manifestation of the tongues of fire in 2:1-4 occurred at the same time, or during a different time. However, even if these passages are an account of the same day, iconography, in its modus operandi of expressing doctrine and theology above all else, regularly omits or modifies certain details to make a theological or doctrinal point, such as showing the crucified Christ without the crown of thorns, or showing Apostle Paul in icons of the Twelve Apostles and of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The absence of the Mother of God in pre-17thC Pentecost icons cannot be accidental, and her absence conforms with the silence of the hymnography on the matter.

Hope this helps.

« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 09:54:47 AM by LBK » Logged
Orest
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2012, 10:19:46 AM »

I want to concur with what LBK has written above.  I look a course on theology & iconography (a religion course not an art course) when I was a student and that is what the professor said.

Also to mention that the renown theologian Jaroslav Pelican said in Volume 2  (The Eastern Orthodox Church)  of his church history series that in the Orthodox Church we find that our liturgy will reflect our theology before that theology is even minutely defined.  He gave the example of the liturgy mentioning the Theotokos and references to the 2 natures of Christ before the Ecumenical Councils sanctioned The Creed.  Sorry, my books are packed away at my parents place & I can't find the exact quote.  But I thought it important to point out that LBK’s statement about the "her absence conforms with the silence of the hymnography on the matter" is very important evidence.  I was taught in the few religion courses I took, that when we Orthodox study theology we have to look at scripture, our liturgy and our tradition.

That is another reason why the liturgy was so important throughout our history during the centuries when most of our people were illiterate.  Our people went to the services and really drunk in the liturgy and committed so much to memory.  The liturgy lived in the depths of their beings inside and outside church.

Secondly, the 17th century is the right date for the introduction of the second scheme with the Theotokos and this scheme entered the Ukrainian Orthodox Church first because artists copied the same religious art they saw introduced in local Polish Roman Catholic Churches n Ukraine especially in the major cities.  Just look at art books from Poland. 

Then when Eastern Ukraine became part of the Russian Empire, this scheme spread to Russia and from Russia in the 19th century to Serbia and Bulgaria and even Romania.

So now you may ask why this scheme with the Theotokos was introduced in Poland in the 17th century.  It was because this was the age of the Counter Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church.  There was an attempt the emphasize everything that was different from the Protestants.  If the Protestant church rejected the veneration of the Theotokos, the Counter Reformation Roman Catholic Church took a stand to increase Mariology and the Theotokos became even more prominent in art, music and spiritual popular piety.  It did not originate in Poland, it was throughout the whole Roman Catholic Church in Europe, but the Orthodox in Ukraine were then part of the Polish Empire and they were influenced by the religious art in Polish churches.  And again I apologise for not giving references because my notes & books are packed away.  But it was a great course and that is what I remember.  Please feel free to correct any mistakes I have inadvertently made.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 10:29:26 AM by Orest » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2012, 11:07:36 AM »


Thanks, LBK!  I knew you would be able to help me out!  I was taught by a priest that the while the other is not "wrong", the icon without the Mother of God in the middle is preferred and more "correct".  Thanks for the background info.

Orest, thanks for the input, particularly regarding the icons usage in Ukraine.  I think you are aware of which email "discussion" I am referring to...and I am flabbergasted that it has come down to iconography.  If you don't use "this" one, you are a traitor, or vice versa.  Sheesh!  Talk about totally missing the point of life.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 11:09:57 AM by LizaSymonenko » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2012, 11:24:04 AM »

Orest,

Thanks for your input.
Could I ask where you took this great course?

In fact I'd love to hear from anyone who has input on where good courses like ths exist.
I particularly like what you had to say about the hymography and tradition blending with Iconokogy.

Sorry don't mean to hijack the thread!
In our Bulgarian Dioscese we used the one without Theotokos, but since I had not seen the Cosmos figure before I think I had more questions on that.

Thanks - Gypsy

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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2012, 12:22:38 PM »

Here is an icon from an Armenian illuminated manuscript dated 1391, showing the Mother of God with the Apostles at Pentecost:



Of course the Armenians by that time had had plenty of contact with the West, including a period of union with them during the time of the Kingdom of Cilicia.  If including the Mother of God in a Pentecost icon comes from the West, then that could explain it.

This is from another illuminated manuscript, dated 1307, this time without the Mother of God, but showing the king under the table:



http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/arts_of_armenia/miniatures.htm
« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 12:23:37 PM by Salpy » Logged

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