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Author Topic: Praying to God the Father  (Read 1390 times) Average Rating: 0
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Severian
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« on: October 16, 2012, 04:38:25 PM »

I hope this thread doesn't seem dumb, but I have a sincere question...

Whenever I address the Father in prayer, I cannot help but imagine Him as an old man with a white beard (ridiculous, I know!), sort of like in the un-canonical Icons of Him that you see sometimes. I assume this practice is erroneous and should be avoided, but how? When addressing the Father in prayer, what do you contemplate or think about?

+Thanks again and forgive my foolishness
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« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2012, 04:45:32 PM »

Honestly?

The Empyrean.
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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2012, 04:59:44 PM »

what do you contemplate or think about?

When you pray to the Holy Spirit, do you imagine you're praying to a pigeon? If not, what do you think about?
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« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2012, 05:03:03 PM »

I hope this thread doesn't seem dumb, but I have a sincere question...

Whenever I address the Father in prayer, I cannot help but imagine Him as an old man with a white beard (ridiculous, I know!), sort of like in the un-canonical Icons of Him that you see sometimes. I assume this practice is erroneous and should be avoided, but how? When addressing the Father in prayer, what do you contemplate or think about?

+Thanks again and forgive my foolishness

If envisioning God the Father as an "old man" was OK for Daniel, it should be OK for you.
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« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2012, 05:07:57 PM »

I hope this thread doesn't seem dumb, but I have a sincere question...

Whenever I address the Father in prayer, I cannot help but imagine Him as an old man with a white beard (ridiculous, I know!), sort of like in the un-canonical Icons of Him that you see sometimes. I assume this practice is erroneous and should be avoided, but how? When addressing the Father in prayer, what do you contemplate or think about?

+Thanks again and forgive my foolishness

But those icons aren't uncanonical in Coptic tradition, are they? I've seen Syriac and Ethiopian icons of the Holy Trinity as three old beareded men who look exactly alike. I'm sure they distress St. Andrei Rublev and LBK awfully. But I suppose I or whoever has the sordid responsibility for writing captions in iconography books (those people are invariably clueless) could be mistaking them for the Three Macarii.
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2012, 05:08:44 PM »

what do you contemplate or think about?

When you pray to the Holy Spirit, do you imagine you're praying to a pigeon? If not, what do you think about?

No, silly. A white DOVE.
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2012, 05:10:44 PM »

EO tradition, and OO too I would imagine, are against imaginings during prayer or forming images in your head willfully. Evagrius of Pontus must have something on that.
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2012, 05:19:06 PM »

But those icons aren't uncanonical in Coptic tradition, are they?

The Copts have very little in the way of a developed theology of iconography, so not sure that's a valid point.

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No, silly. A white DOVE.

OK, I'll rephrase. Severian, when you pray to the Holy Spirit, do you picture a bird in your mind?

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EO tradition, and OO too I would imagine, are against imaginings during prayer or forming images in your head willfully.

Exactly, which is the answer to the OP.
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2012, 05:22:37 PM »

EO tradition, and OO too I would imagine, are against imaginings during prayer or forming images in your head willfully. Evagrius of Pontus must have something on that.
Yeah, I try to shoo them away in prayer.
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2012, 05:24:01 PM »

EO tradition, and OO too I would imagine, are against imaginings during prayer or forming images in your head willfully. Evagrius of Pontus must have something on that.
Yeah, I try to shoo them away in prayer.

But, do they look like pigeons?  Grin
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2012, 05:25:00 PM »

what do you contemplate or think about?

When you pray to the Holy Spirit, do you imagine you're praying to a pigeon? If not, what do you think about?
I don't imagine that I pray to a bird/pigeon. But sometimes I do imagine the image of a dove when addressing God the Holy Spirit. This is erroneous too, I would assume. Because the Spirit did not permanently become Incarnate the same way the Son permanently became Incarnate as man.

But, do they look like pigeons?  Grin
Lol. Good pun.

The Copts have very little in the way of a developed theology of iconography, so not sure that's a valid point.
The first point is true. However, my Priest told me that it was prohibited in Coptic Orthodoxy to depict the Father because He is incorporeal and has never been seen in a tangible/physical form.

PS: I am aware that in prayer we should try to clear our minds of any sort of visualization. I guess that it's just in human nature to imagine mental images which is why I sometimes fall into these erroneous practices.
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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2012, 05:59:22 PM »

I lack the ability to "see anything in my head" except when dreaming.

So I have no idea what you all are talking about.
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« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2012, 06:01:42 PM »

I lack the ability to "see anything in my head" except when dreaming.

So I have no idea what you all are talking about.
Use your imagination.

Ha.
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« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2012, 06:51:00 PM »

what do you contemplate or think about?

When you pray to the Holy Spirit, do you imagine you're praying to a pigeon? If not, what do you think about?

But what if you are a pigeon?
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« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2012, 07:46:44 PM »

I hope this thread doesn't seem dumb, but I have a sincere question...

Whenever I address the Father in prayer, I cannot help but imagine Him as an old man with a white beard (ridiculous, I know!), sort of like in the un-canonical Icons of Him that you see sometimes. I assume this practice is erroneous and should be avoided, but how? When addressing the Father in prayer, what do you contemplate or think about?

+Thanks again and forgive my foolishness

Severian,

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath exegeted him."

"He is the icon of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."

God (the Father) looks like Christ. So when you pray to the Father, if you need an image, look at Christ.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2012, 07:47:10 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2012, 07:47:40 PM »

I lack the ability to "see anything in my head" except when dreaming.

So I have no idea what you all are talking about.
Use your imagination.

Ha.

I'LL TAKE IT EASY WHEN I'M DEAD!
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« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2012, 08:00:39 AM »

As someone has said, we are not to form images in our mind during prayer. We say the prayer, or simply maintain a silent attitude towards God, nothing more, nothing less. No special attention is to be given to the words; the power of the prayer is in what we are trying to communicate (which often contains the name of God whom we are addressing). This is a very strict rule and is meant to keep us away from false ideas about God that come through imagination. In such a scenario, imagination is basically a temptation. Truth be told, it's also a lot easier to pray (less work) without imagining.  Most importantly, in this manner we allow The Grace of The Holy Spirit to talk to us, to become our prayer, our life, which is really the highest purpose of prayer -- to know God Himself, not just say certain words or follow a prayer rule in themselves.

As it is known, God is immaterial spirit, so to imagine Him as if He is a man is not at all accurate. Also, as someone has said, we have icons of Christ (as Man, not as God), and we could use them without a problem. We have to remember that Christ is God also, The Logos or Icon of God, so we must place Him on the same level as The Father and The Holy Spirit. Of course, we can pray to The Father individually, or to any Person of The Holy Trinity individually, but we must be careful that we don't give any one of them more attention than the others. And we need to remember that only together they form God -- The Holy Trinity.  

The closest that can come to representing God in icon is the Uncreated Light of God that is seen in icons such as this: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_2KHnJxC2IFM/S-MCk_Rx0_I/AAAAAAAAA9s/l31Y72FV-l0/s1600/thtran.jpg
Obviously, wouldn't help much to imagine God as that Smiley; most important is to have Him reveal The Uncreated Light to us.
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« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2012, 01:11:57 PM »

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

I hope this thread doesn't seem dumb, but I have a sincere question...

Whenever I address the Father in prayer, I cannot help but imagine Him as an old man with a white beard (ridiculous, I know!), sort of like in the un-canonical Icons of Him that you see sometimes. I assume this practice is erroneous and should be avoided, but how? When addressing the Father in prayer, what do you contemplate or think about?

+Thanks again and forgive my foolishness

If your experience praying to the Father feels like praying to an Old Man with a beard what is the harm exactly? That is YOUR experience, and part of YOUR relationship with Him as "Father"  We call Him Father to emphasize our relationship with Him as His children.  Our fathers here sometimes are elderly men with beards, so if we engage God in this same way I think there is no harm.  Should we have canonical  icons in the Church during Divine Liturgy? Not for y'all, I can respect y'all Tradition, in our Ethiopian jurisdiction we have such icons in the Church so it is really not an issue at all for us.  When we pray to Father we need to engage in the Father not as a concept or a symbol, but in a real and direct way.  If for our visualization we meditate on God as an elderly man, I would say this is not a problem so long as it conveys the sense of relationship, as Father and creatures, the way we respect our gray bearded elders because of our relationships with them

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2012, 01:37:39 PM »

Of course, we can pray to The Father individually, or to any Person of The Holy Trinity individually

Ah, but you cannot pray to the Father except through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.

And you cannot pray to the Son except to the Father and in the Holy Spirit.

And you cannot pray to the Holy Spirit except through the Son and to the Father.

So we are never really praying to just one Person, even if we name only one.
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« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2012, 02:09:40 PM »

St. Symeon (Or Nikiphoros, or whoever) gives some good advice in The Three Methods of Prayer. Perhaps that text would benefit you, if you have not read it before. I am not sure how the OO feel about hesychasm (which you wouldn't want to employ on your own anyway) but even apart from that his analysis of prayer is very valuable IMO.
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« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2012, 04:11:24 PM »

i want to point out that icons of God the Father are NOT allowed in the coptic church, although if it was a rural african church that received the icon as a gift from ethiopia, then it theoretically could slip by (however i have never seen one and have visited many of britain's coptic churches).

when i pray, i sometimes think of candles, or icons of the resurrection or crucifixion, and recently i have been thinking of a warm creative force and all the beauty of the galaxy when praying to the Holy Spirit.
i suppose if i was in a hot, dry country, i would think of cool showers!
sometimes i pray, looking out of the window at the neighbour's tree!

i don't think it matters very much, but if the image in your mind does not express your adoration and God's great love, then maybe you need to change it.
sometimes i imagine what i am praying for (eg. someone being chrismated), but if you don't have an image in your mind, it is ok.
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« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2012, 10:39:56 AM »

It is recommended not to imagine anything in your mind, as in visual. Not even clouds. This was the basic teaching I read from one of the fathers of the church, which I cannot quote right now because I do not have the books anymore!
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« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2012, 11:44:48 PM »

Is this Icon of the Holy Spirit canonical?

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« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2012, 12:30:14 AM »

Not sure about the dove, but depicting the four writers of the gospels as the animals they are associated with is incorrect, or so I've read.
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« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2012, 12:35:30 AM »

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

Not sure about the dove, but depicting the four writers of the gospels as the animals they are associated with is incorrect, or so I've read.

Wow, something is telling me y'all really won't like our Ethiopian Icon, this one is above the altar in my parish Wink

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Mj0omBbN_mw/TGy4FfC06gI/AAAAAAAAAQA/qp33zmAmvBk/s640/Holy+Trinity.JPEG


stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #25 on: October 27, 2012, 01:10:00 AM »

Personally, I quite like the Ethiopian rendition of the Holy Trinity. It makes me think of Rublev.
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« Reply #26 on: October 27, 2012, 01:21:10 AM »

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

Personally, I quite like the Ethiopian rendition of the Holy Trinity. It makes me think of Rublev.

The common Byzantine complaint

(a) God the Father as Old Man with beard forbidden by their Canons

(b) The Trinity as Three Old Men with Beards forbidden by their Canons

(c) I haven't heard of this before so I don't know one way or the other, but you mentioned that the Apostles shouldn't be animals in the Icons, didn't you notice the four corners of that Icon link I posted? By the way, I posted it as a link in respect for our Eastern Orthodox folks whose forum this rightfully is, and as an appreciative guest I have learned to try to be as respectful as I can.  That icon is perfectly ordinary in the Ethiopian tradition, it is the one in our parish right about the Altar.  In fact, its the same one that is in Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa but on the west wall, not the Altar.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #27 on: October 27, 2012, 01:26:17 AM »

Oh, it wasn't a comment on it being canonical or not, but I do like it!  Wink

If I worked at it I'm sure I could it it into EO iconographic theology.

I believe I heard from Fr. Thomas Hopko that depictions of the Trinity are OK, so long as the three faces are the same, though I don't recall his justification for this, nor, truly, if it was him who said it! And, if the old man was representative of the Ancient of Days as Christ, then I think it would work...

 Cheesy

And yes, although depictions of the evangelists as animals are not canonical (methinks), they are still commonplace in both EO and OO iconography, from what I've seen.
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« Reply #28 on: October 27, 2012, 05:13:49 AM »

Is this Icon of the Holy Spirit canonical?



The EO view is that it is not canonical. The Holy Spirit appeared as a dove at Christ's Baptism, but is not a dove by nature, so the dove imagery should only be used in icons of the Theophany, as it was, at that specific time and place, that the Holy Spirit manifested as a dove.

On the four creatures:

Imagery from the Book of Revelation of four mystical creatures (an angel, an ox, a lion, an eagle) in the presence of the throne of God were interpreted by the Fathers as mystically representing the four Evangelists: in order, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The following is Canon 82 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council:

In certain reproductions of venerable images, the Forerunner is pictured pointing to the lamb with his finger. This representation was adopted as a symbol of grace. It was a hidden figure of that true Lamb who is Christ our God, shown to us according to the Law. Having thus welcomed these ancient figures and shadows as symbols of the truth transmitted to the Church, we prefer today grace and truth themselves, as a fulfilment of the Law. Therefore, in order to expose to the sight of all, at least with the help of painting, that which is perfect, we decree that henceforth Christ our God be represented in His human form, and not in the form of the ancient lamb. We understand this to be the elevation of the humility of God the Word, and we are led to remembering His life in the flesh, His passion, His saving death and, thus, deliverance which took place for the world.

We also have, from his authoritative treatise In Defense of the Divine Images, St John of Damascus’ statement of:

Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of the God who can be seen. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material, and deigned to dwell in matter, who, through matter, effected my salvation. I will not cease from venerating the matter through which my salvation has been effected.

Iconography is concerned with the fullness of divine revelation: in essence, the Word made flesh. Where only a prefigurative or mystical image has been revealed, then that image may be permitted in an icon. Where the fullness has been revealed (most notably in the incarnation of Christ), then only the fullness of that image may be properly depicted. As, according to Canon 82, it is not considered proper to represent Christ in His prefigured forms (as a lamb, as a youthful winged angel, etc), so also is it wrong to portray the mystical creatures in the book of Revelation with the inscriptions of the names of the Evangelists.

The Evangelists were human beings, and not the abovementioned creatures in essence or nature. Was St Mark an ox? Or St Luke a lion? Of course not. We should not confuse symbolic forms with reality. Therefore, while it is permissible to show these mystical creatures around the throne of God in icons of Christ in Majesty, as per the Book of Revelation, the inscriptions of the names of the Evangelist-saints should not be there.
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« Reply #29 on: October 27, 2012, 10:19:59 AM »

^Thank you all. Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: October 27, 2012, 05:10:08 PM »

I was under the impression that the EO and OO Churches discouraged imagination of anything during prayer. Am I mistaken here?
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« Reply #31 on: October 27, 2012, 05:40:02 PM »

I was under the impression that the EO and OO Churches discouraged imagination of anything during prayer. Am I mistaken here?
No.
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"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -Jesus Christ (Cf. St. John 16:33)
Nephi
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« Reply #32 on: October 27, 2012, 11:38:45 PM »

PS: I am aware that in prayer we should try to clear our minds of any sort of visualization. I guess that it's just in human nature to imagine mental images which is why I sometimes fall into these erroneous practices.

Not sure if it's still a problem for you, but this is a problem I definitely have and especially when praying to the Father. I used to have Old Man Trinity icons in my icon corner which helped with this, but I've since felt that they were wrong and took them out. After I took them out I was pretty agitated because I didn't have anything to look at to help keep me from imagining an old man. But lately I've started looking at the Son when praying to the Father, since "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." It's helped a lot.
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mabsoota
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Kyrie eleison


« Reply #33 on: October 28, 2012, 02:35:18 PM »

lately I've started looking at the Son when praying to the Father, since "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." It's helped a lot.

post of the month nominee!
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