Author Topic: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child  (Read 8189 times)

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According to Irish Hermit:


There are also Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child (imagery obviously borrowed from Roman Catholic religious art), something which goes completely against Orthodox doctrine and theology.

These icons exist outside Athos......





I propose moving discussions on the topic to this thread (from here:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,42173.0.html )
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Offline Nephi

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2013, 12:36:13 AM »
On this point, I recently heard either a Church hymn or early church Father emphasizing how St. Joseph "caressed" the child Christ. Does anyone remember what I'm referring to?

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2013, 06:45:17 AM »
On this point, I recently heard either a Church hymn or early church Father emphasizing how St. Joseph "caressed" the child Christ. Does anyone remember what I'm referring to?

I've only come across it in a Byzantine Catholic akathist to St Joseph. Such a phrase is nowhere to be found in Orthodox hymns related to St Joseph.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2013, 11:06:30 AM »
On this point, I recently heard either a Church hymn or early church Father emphasizing how St. Joseph "caressed" the child Christ. Does anyone remember what I'm referring to?

I've only come across it in a Byzantine Catholic akathist to St Joseph. Such a phrase is nowhere to be found in Orthodox hymns related to St Joseph.

Must have been a church Father then, I wish I could remember as it was a really interesting passage.

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2013, 09:48:48 PM »
I believe it was attributed to St. Ephraim, saying that Joseph caressed Jesus and held him in his bosom. This link might help, but I don't know how reliable it is: http://www.serfes.org/lives/stjoseph.htm

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2013, 11:21:57 PM »
I believe it was attributed to St. Ephraim, saying that Joseph caressed Jesus and held him in his bosom. This link might help, but I don't know how reliable it is: http://www.serfes.org/lives/stjoseph.htm

Looks accurate to me, as I found a hymn by St. Ephraim:

Quote
Joseph caressed the Son as a Babe; he ministered to Him as God. He rejoiced in Him as in the Good One, and he was awe-struck at Him as the Just One, greatly bewildered.

Who has given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me? I was jealous of Your Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate. David the king sprang of my race, and wore the crown: and I have come to a very low estate, who instead of a king am a carpenter. Yet a crown has come to me, for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns!

- NewAdvent, Hymns of the Nativity, Hymn 4.

This might be the one that I heard, but honestly I'm not entirely sure.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2013, 11:22:33 PM by Nephi »

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2013, 12:22:38 AM »
I believe it was attributed to St. Ephraim, saying that Joseph caressed Jesus and held him in his bosom. This link might help, but I don't know how reliable it is: http://www.serfes.org/lives/stjoseph.htm

Looks accurate to me, as I found a hymn by St. Ephraim:

Quote
Joseph caressed the Son as a Babe; he ministered to Him as God. He rejoiced in Him as in the Good One, and he was awe-struck at Him as the Just One, greatly bewildered.

Who has given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me? I was jealous of Your Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate. David the king sprang of my race, and wore the crown: and I have come to a very low estate, who instead of a king am a carpenter. Yet a crown has come to me, for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns!

- NewAdvent, Hymns of the Nativity, Hymn 4.

This might be the one that I heard, but honestly I'm not entirely sure.

This hymn is not present in the Orthodox Nativity services, nor is it found in the hymnography of the Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord, which commemorates St Joseph, along with Prophet David and St James, Brother of the Lord. These "Hymns of the Nativity" are most likely compositions for the composer's personal devotions.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2013, 12:29:16 AM by LBK »
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Offline LBK

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2013, 12:37:25 AM »
I believe it was attributed to St. Ephraim, saying that Joseph caressed Jesus and held him in his bosom. This link might help, but I don't know how reliable it is: http://www.serfes.org/lives/stjoseph.htm

Looks accurate to me, as I found a hymn by St. Ephraim:

Quote
Joseph caressed the Son as a Babe; he ministered to Him as God. He rejoiced in Him as in the Good One, and he was awe-struck at Him as the Just One, greatly bewildered.

Who has given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me? I was jealous of Your Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate. David the king sprang of my race, and wore the crown: and I have come to a very low estate, who instead of a king am a carpenter. Yet a crown has come to me, for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns!

- NewAdvent, Hymns of the Nativity, Hymn 4.

This might be the one that I heard, but honestly I'm not entirely sure.

This hymn is not present in the Orthodox Nativity services, nor is it found in the hymnography of the Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord, which commemorates St Joseph, along with Prophet David and St James, Brother of the Lord. These "Hymns of the Nativity" are most likely compositions for the composer's personal devotions.

Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2013, 12:55:48 AM »
Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.

Yeah, I pretty much assumed that, which doesn't diminish their worth especially considering the source. Although I do believe some of his personal hymns did eventually make it into, IIRC, what became the Byzantine rite's DL, but that's unrelated.

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2013, 01:04:09 AM »
Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.

Yeah, I pretty much assumed that, which doesn't diminish their worth especially considering the source. Although I do believe some of his personal hymns did eventually make it into, IIRC, what became the Byzantine rite's DL, but that's unrelated.

The hymns you linked to on the New Advent site easily conform with RC teachings, but are not part of Orthodox liturgical tradition as a whole. Iconography and hymnography are two sides of the same doctrinal coin, the visual and the verbal.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2013, 01:19:16 AM »
Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.

Yeah, I pretty much assumed that, which doesn't diminish their worth especially considering the source. Although I do believe some of his personal hymns did eventually make it into, IIRC, what became the Byzantine rite's DL, but that's unrelated.

The hymns you linked to on the New Advent site easily conform with RC teachings, but are not part of Orthodox liturgical tradition as a whole. Iconography and hymnography are two sides of the same doctrinal coin, the visual and the verbal.

I meant the fact of the hymn(s) comes from St. Ephraim the Syrian, whose writings, even if in this case never (became) used liturgically, are nonetheless part of the deposit of our Church Fathers.

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2013, 01:42:17 AM »
Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.

Yeah, I pretty much assumed that, which doesn't diminish their worth especially considering the source. Although I do believe some of his personal hymns did eventually make it into, IIRC, what became the Byzantine rite's DL, but that's unrelated.

The hymns you linked to on the New Advent site easily conform with RC teachings, but are not part of Orthodox liturgical tradition as a whole. Iconography and hymnography are two sides of the same doctrinal coin, the visual and the verbal.

I meant the fact of the hymn(s) comes from St. Ephraim the Syrian, whose writings, even if in this case never (became) used liturgically, are nonetheless part of the deposit of our Church Fathers.

It might be part of a saint's writings, but it has not received the imprimatur of being incorporated into the liturgical and iconographic deposit.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2013, 10:37:54 AM »
Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.

Yeah, I pretty much assumed that, which doesn't diminish their worth especially considering the source. Although I do believe some of his personal hymns did eventually make it into, IIRC, what became the Byzantine rite's DL, but that's unrelated.

The hymns you linked to on the New Advent site easily conform with RC teachings, but are not part of Orthodox liturgical tradition as a whole. Iconography and hymnography are two sides of the same doctrinal coin, the visual and the verbal.

I meant the fact of the hymn(s) comes from St. Ephraim the Syrian, whose writings, even if in this case never (became) used liturgically, are nonetheless part of the deposit of our Church Fathers.

It might be part of a saint's writings, but it has not received the imprimatur of being incorporated into the liturgical and iconographic deposit.

Oh LBK, let me be a sourpuss.  :P

At least as far as the Byzantine rite is concerned, I'm happy to concede that that particular hymn is not a part of your hymnography (I don't know for sure one way or the other, but for the sake of argument...). 

But does it really follow that everything the Fathers wrote that has the Church's "imprimatur" is quoted in the liturgical texts, but the things that are not quoted somehow don't have this approval?  Is there really "an icon for everything"?  We don't use this standard for determining the canon of Scripture, and I don't think we use this in determining what from among the patristic writings we accept as and incorporate into Orthodox teaching.   

I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).  St Ephrem, on his own, may not be enough to "change" iconographic conventions or force additions to Byzantine liturgical texts or piety, but it does suggest that there has to be some nuance in how we explain these things. 

Now play nice!  :P   
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2013, 07:49:41 PM »
St Ephraim, as I've said before, is entitled to express what he has in the hymns he has written, which are clearly personal compositions. Iconography expresses in pictures what the whole Church teaches and accepts, just as the hymnographic deposit does in words. St Ephraim's hymns could be regarded as the equivalent of "Christian art", a product of one's own creativity and expression, unlike an icon, which is suitable for veneration not least because its fidelity of expression of the teachings of the Church. The hymnographic and iconographic deposit of the Church represents and expresses the consensus patrum. Many writings of saints measure up to the standard of the consensus, and are accepted and profitable; writings which fall short of this standard should be seen in a different light.

Some food for thought:

In iconography, a person may be shown with the "tools of their trade" when those tools are relevant to their spiritual role. It is proper to depict a saint with the tools of their spiritual trade (which may or may not coincide with their earthly trade). Thus, priest-saints will often hold a blessing cross, and bishop-saints will hold the Gospel or perhaps a blessing cross. Martyrs are depicted with the cross as they took up the cross of Christ. The holy fathers and mothers may be shown with a scroll upon which we see written the words that they spoke. This is all a very consistent principle.

Extending that to the Mother of God - we see her holding the "tool of her trade" - the incarnate God whom she brought into the world. This was her role - her spiritual place - to be the Mother of God, and thus it is only right, according to the noted principle, that she be thus depicted. St Joseph, on the other hand, has a different role - he is not "the father of God", in fact from the hymnography about him, it is clear that his role was never that of "father" or the "parent" of the Christ-child. Rather, his role was that of the protector of the Virgin.

Furthermore, the Virgin is always spoken of as the "Mother of God" and her primary relationship is to her divine/human Son. Joseph, however, is always spoken of as "the Betrothed". He was not betrothed to Christ, but rather to the Virgin. He is not so much the protector of the Christ-child, but rather the protector of the Virgin. His primary relationship is not to the divine/human Child, but rather to the Virgin. Thus to depict him holding the Child is to completely ignore and distort his place in the Church. He is not the "father" of Christ, nor is he the "protector" of the Christ-child - but rather he is the "betrothed" and the "protector" of the Virgin. It is easy for us to think of him as the protector of the Child, but that was in fact not who he was - he was the protector of the Mother who was in turn the protector of the Child.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2013, 08:14:58 PM »
St Ephraim, as I've said before, is entitled to express what he has in the hymns he has written, which are clearly personal compositions. Iconography expresses in pictures what the whole Church teaches and accepts, just as the hymnographic deposit does in words. St Ephraim's hymns could be regarded as the equivalent of "Christian art", a product of one's own creativity and expression, unlike an icon, which is suitable for veneration not least because its fidelity of expression of the teachings of the Church. The hymnographic and iconographic deposit of the Church represents and expresses the consensus patrum. Many writings of saints measure up to the standard of the consensus, and are accepted and profitable; writings which fall short of this standard should be seen in a different light.

Some food for thought:

In iconography, a person may be shown with the "tools of their trade" when those tools are relevant to their spiritual role. It is proper to depict a saint with the tools of their spiritual trade (which may or may not coincide with their earthly trade). Thus, priest-saints will often hold a blessing cross, and bishop-saints will hold the Gospel or perhaps a blessing cross. Martyrs are depicted with the cross as they took up the cross of Christ. The holy fathers and mothers may be shown with a scroll upon which we see written the words that they spoke. This is all a very consistent principle.

Extending that to the Mother of God - we see her holding the "tool of her trade" - the incarnate God whom she brought into the world. This was her role - her spiritual place - to be the Mother of God, and thus it is only right, according to the noted principle, that she be thus depicted. St Joseph, on the other hand, has a different role - he is not "the father of God", in fact from the hymnography about him, it is clear that his role was never that of "father" or the "parent" of the Christ-child. Rather, his role was that of the protector of the Virgin.

Furthermore, the Virgin is always spoken of as the "Mother of God" and her primary relationship is to her divine/human Son. Joseph, however, is always spoken of as "the Betrothed". He was not betrothed to Christ, but rather to the Virgin. He is not so much the protector of the Christ-child, but rather the protector of the Virgin. His primary relationship is not to the divine/human Child, but rather to the Virgin. Thus to depict him holding the Child is to completely ignore and distort his place in the Church. He is not the "father" of Christ, nor is he the "protector" of the Christ-child - but rather he is the "betrothed" and the "protector" of the Virgin. It is easy for us to think of him as the protector of the Child, but that was in fact not who he was - he was the protector of the Mother who was in turn the protector of the Child.

While the above is all true (especially what the Church takes as her consensus of the Fathers and the Deposit of Faith), Scripture, the heart of Sacred Tradition, itself points out that she herself refers to St. Joseph as His father. (Luke 2:48).  In fact, his protection of the Holy Theotokos consisted in giving Him a name (Matthew 1:25 He was know as Jesus bar Joseph (John 6:42) and give Him a genealogy (Matthew 1:), and the combination thereof (Luke 3:23, Matthew 1:16)).
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Offline Shanghaiski

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #15 on: September 25, 2013, 09:55:01 PM »
Having now seen the hymns from the New Advent page linked to by Nephi, it is clear that these are not liturgical compositions. They do not form part of any established Orthodox church service.

Yeah, I pretty much assumed that, which doesn't diminish their worth especially considering the source. Although I do believe some of his personal hymns did eventually make it into, IIRC, what became the Byzantine rite's DL, but that's unrelated.

The hymns you linked to on the New Advent site easily conform with RC teachings, but are not part of Orthodox liturgical tradition as a whole. Iconography and hymnography are two sides of the same doctrinal coin, the visual and the verbal.

I meant the fact of the hymn(s) comes from St. Ephraim the Syrian, whose writings, even if in this case never (became) used liturgically, are nonetheless part of the deposit of our Church Fathers.

It might be part of a saint's writings, but it has not received the imprimatur of being incorporated into the liturgical and iconographic deposit.

Oh LBK, let me be a sourpuss.  :P

At least as far as the Byzantine rite is concerned, I'm happy to concede that that particular hymn is not a part of your hymnography (I don't know for sure one way or the other, but for the sake of argument...). 

But does it really follow that everything the Fathers wrote that has the Church's "imprimatur" is quoted in the liturgical texts, but the things that are not quoted somehow don't have this approval?  Is there really "an icon for everything"?  We don't use this standard for determining the canon of Scripture, and I don't think we use this in determining what from among the patristic writings we accept as and incorporate into Orthodox teaching.   

I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).  St Ephrem, on his own, may not be enough to "change" iconographic conventions or force additions to Byzantine liturgical texts or piety, but it does suggest that there has to be some nuance in how we explain these things. 

Now play nice!  :P   

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2013, 10:22:07 PM »
I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).

So that means the hymn in question is actually in use by the Syriac Churches?

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2013, 10:34:03 PM »
I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).

So that means the hymn in question is actually in use by the Syriac Churches?

Mor would know, but I'd assume it was. St. Ephraim wrote prayers and hymns for the Church. Some are still used today, particularly in the Antiochian/Syrian churches.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2013, 10:41:24 PM »
St Ephraim, as I've said before, is entitled to express what he has in the hymns he has written, which are clearly personal compositions. Iconography expresses in pictures what the whole Church teaches and accepts, just as the hymnographic deposit does in words. St Ephraim's hymns could be regarded as the equivalent of "Christian art", a product of one's own creativity and expression, unlike an icon, which is suitable for veneration not least because its fidelity of expression of the teachings of the Church. The hymnographic and iconographic deposit of the Church represents and expresses the consensus patrum. Many writings of saints measure up to the standard of the consensus, and are accepted and profitable; writings which fall short of this standard should be seen in a different light.

Some food for thought:

In iconography, a person may be shown with the "tools of their trade" when those tools are relevant to their spiritual role. It is proper to depict a saint with the tools of their spiritual trade (which may or may not coincide with their earthly trade). Thus, priest-saints will often hold a blessing cross, and bishop-saints will hold the Gospel or perhaps a blessing cross. Martyrs are depicted with the cross as they took up the cross of Christ. The holy fathers and mothers may be shown with a scroll upon which we see written the words that they spoke. This is all a very consistent principle.

Extending that to the Mother of God - we see her holding the "tool of her trade" - the incarnate God whom she brought into the world. This was her role - her spiritual place - to be the Mother of God, and thus it is only right, according to the noted principle, that she be thus depicted. St Joseph, on the other hand, has a different role - he is not "the father of God", in fact from the hymnography about him, it is clear that his role was never that of "father" or the "parent" of the Christ-child. Rather, his role was that of the protector of the Virgin.

Furthermore, the Virgin is always spoken of as the "Mother of God" and her primary relationship is to her divine/human Son. Joseph, however, is always spoken of as "the Betrothed". He was not betrothed to Christ, but rather to the Virgin. He is not so much the protector of the Christ-child, but rather the protector of the Virgin. His primary relationship is not to the divine/human Child, but rather to the Virgin. Thus to depict him holding the Child is to completely ignore and distort his place in the Church. He is not the "father" of Christ, nor is he the "protector" of the Christ-child - but rather he is the "betrothed" and the "protector" of the Virgin. It is easy for us to think of him as the protector of the Child, but that was in fact not who he was - he was the protector of the Mother who was in turn the protector of the Child.

While the above is all true (especially what the Church takes as her consensus of the Fathers and the Deposit of Faith), Scripture, the heart of Sacred Tradition, itself points out that she herself refers to St. Joseph as His father. (Luke 2:48).  In fact, his protection of the Holy Theotokos consisted in giving Him a name (Matthew 1:25 He was know as Jesus bar Joseph (John 6:42) and give Him a genealogy (Matthew 1:), and the combination thereof (Luke 3:23, Matthew 1:16)).

The point is, though, what is an "icon" of St Joseph holding the Child telling us, theologically, Christologically, and doctrinally?

Scripture indeed says that, but there are many instances in iconography where a literal rendering of scripture is overridden by the drawing out of a higher spiritual meaning. Examples include the inscription above Christ's head in icons of the Crucifixion. The Gospels tell us the words of the charge sheet: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Iconography, at least that prior to the 16th century, shows otherwise: The King of Glory.

It is also significant, and no accident, that in icons of the Meeting of the Lord, it is not St Joseph who is presenting the Child to Righteous Symeon, but His Mother, the reverse of Jewish practice of the time. The hymnography of this feast is full of such references, such as:

When the godly Elder saw the Word held in the hands of his Mother, he understood that this was the glory revealed of old to the Prophet. He cried out, ‘Hail, holy Lady, for, like a throne, you hold God, Lord of the light that knows no evening and Lord of peace’.

The Elder, bending down and reverently touching the footprints of God’s Mother, who did not know wedlock, said, ‘Pure Virgin you carry fire. I tremble to take God as a infant in my arms, Lord of the light that knows no evening and Lord of peace.’

‘Isaiah was cleansed when he received the coal from the Seraphim’, cried the Elder to God’s Mother, ‘You, with your hands as with tongs, make me resplendent as you give me the one you carry, Lord of the light that knows no evening and Lord of peace.’


St Joseph is mentioned only once in the feast, bearing the offering of the two turtle-doves:

He who rides on the Cherubim and is hymned by the Seraphim is being brought today into God’s Temple according to the Law, and enthroned on aged arms. By Joseph He receives gifts befitting God, as a pair of turtledoves the unblemished Church and the newly chosen people of the nations; as Author of the Old and New Covenants, two young pigeons. Symeon, having received the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Him, blessed Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, and foretold the symbols of the Passion of Him born from her. From Him he asks for his release, crying out, ‘Now let me depart, Master, as You promised me; for I have seen You, the pre-eternal light, Savior and Lord of the people that bears Christ’s name.’

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2013, 10:42:33 PM »
I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).

So that means the hymn in question is actually in use by the Syriac Churches?

Mor would know, but I'd assume it was. St. Ephraim wrote prayers and hymns for the Church. Some are still used today, particularly in the Antiochian/Syrian churches.

I cannot speak for the OO churches, only for the EO. My posts should be seen in this light.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2013, 11:21:13 PM »
I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).

So that means the hymn in question is actually in use by the Syriac Churches?

Mor would know, but I'd assume it was. St. Ephraim wrote prayers and hymns for the Church. Some are still used today, particularly in the Antiochian/Syrian churches.

The only prayer I'm aware of used is during the hours in Lent, and apparently from what I just read also during the Pre-Sanctified. Which ones in the Antiochian tradition specifically are from St. Ephraim?

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2013, 11:27:19 PM »
I believe it was attributed to St. Ephraim, saying that Joseph caressed Jesus and held him in his bosom. This link might help, but I don't know how reliable it is: http://www.serfes.org/lives/stjoseph.htm

Looks accurate to me, as I found a hymn by St. Ephraim:

Quote
Joseph caressed the Son as a Babe; he ministered to Him as God. He rejoiced in Him as in the Good One, and he was awe-struck at Him as the Just One, greatly bewildered.

Who has given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me? I was jealous of Your Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate. David the king sprang of my race, and wore the crown: and I have come to a very low estate, who instead of a king am a carpenter. Yet a crown has come to me, for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns!

- NewAdvent, Hymns of the Nativity, Hymn 4.

This might be the one that I heard, but honestly I'm not entirely sure.

Looks like this was the hymn I had in mind, as it was quoted in a book that can be found here, where it interestingly describes St. Ephraim's hymn-writing for liturgical usage.

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2013, 01:51:44 PM »
St Ephraim, as I've said before, is entitled to express what he has in the hymns he has written, which are clearly personal compositions.

If you're going to make an assertion like this, you will have to demonstrate that the hymn in question was a "clearly personal composition".   

IIRC, Brock's work The Luminous Eye mentions how a eulogist at St Ephrem's burial praised his having reversed the Pauline command for women to be silent in church by writing hymns specifically for women's choirs to sing during church services.  In his lifetime, these hymns were sung in the churches during liturgical services, he composed them for this purpose (and to counter the heretical hymnography that was gaining ascendancy among the people), and they continued to be used after his death even to the present day in the Syriac Churches, both Orthodox and "Nestorian".   

It may be true that these hymns were not adopted in the Byzantine liturgical tradition, and therefore do not factor into EO liturgy and hymnography as it exists today, but certainly this is an accident of history: unless I'm mistaken, the Roum Patriarchate of Antioch continued to use St Ephrem's hymns (along with the rest of the Syriac liturgy) until they adopted the Byzantine rite.  So before Eastern Orthodoxy became a single-rite Church, but well after the Chalcedonian schism, these hymns were used liturgically within Eastern Orthodoxy, and can thus claim the same "authority" as Byzantine liturgical texts.  Before that schism, they were used liturgically, even during the lifetime of their author.  In light of this, I contend that St Ephrem's hymns meet the criterion of having been received by the praying Church as an expression of her belief and worship.     

The only relevance this has, IMO, in the matter of St Joseph's iconographic depiction is that quasi-dogmatic pronouncements about how inappropriate it is to depict him holding the infant Christ need to include some amount of nuance or qualification. 

While the above is all true (especially what the Church takes as her consensus of the Fathers and the Deposit of Faith), Scripture, the heart of Sacred Tradition, itself points out that she herself refers to St. Joseph as His father. (Luke 2:48).  In fact, his protection of the Holy Theotokos consisted in giving Him a name (Matthew 1:25 He was know as Jesus bar Joseph (John 6:42) and give Him a genealogy (Matthew 1:), and the combination thereof (Luke 3:23, Matthew 1:16)).
 

Without wanting to suggest that Byzantine hymnographers did not take Scripture as seriously as Syriac hymnographers, ISTM that the latter were more comfortable with incorporating (more) Scripture into their thought and composition.  At any rate, as you rightly note, Scripture is at the heart of Tradition, and does not contradict with the rest of Tradition--it deserves to be respected for itself, even if also interpreted through the other sources. 

The point is, though, what is an "icon" of St Joseph holding the Child telling us, theologically, Christologically, and doctrinally?

If the objection to St Joseph holding the Christ Child is that this particular pose implies he's his biological father, I think this claim needs to be convincingly demonstrated.  We don't have any qualms about the Elder Simeon holding the Christ Child, we don't assume that he had a role in fathering the Child because he's holding him in the icon.  Why does "man holding child" have such a fluid iconographic meaning depending on who the man is?  Are iconographic conventions fluid?   

I think it'd be more honest if we admitted that there is an "awkwardness" surrounding St Joseph and his role in the life of Christ, but this "awkwardness" has less to do with the Scriptures and with subsequent patristic/liturgical teaching and more to do with...well, I don't know how to describe it.

Quote
Scripture indeed says that, but there are many instances in iconography where a literal rendering of scripture is overridden by the drawing out of a higher spiritual meaning.

Iconography may emphasise one layer of meaning more than another, but surely it cannot "override" Scripture without becoming itself anti-liturgy and anti-patristic, in addition, obviously, to anti-Scripture.  I'm pretty sure you didn't mean it that way, but it's still an unfortunate expression.     
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #23 on: September 26, 2013, 01:57:34 PM »
Looks like this was the hymn I had in mind, as it was quoted in a book that can be found here, where it interestingly describes St. Ephraim's hymn-writing for liturgical usage.

Thanks for the link.  It includes testimony from St Jacob of Sarug regarding St Ephrem's compositions for women's choirs.  I don't have Brock's book available to me at the moment, so I can't say for sure if the reference in the previous post was just a reference to St Jacob and I conflated something along the way, or if what I wrote on that matter stands as is, and there's simply more than one reference to this aspect of Ephrem's work.  But I felt I should add this disclaimer anyway.   
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #24 on: September 26, 2013, 07:54:19 PM »
Quote
It may be true that these hymns were not adopted in the Byzantine liturgical tradition, and therefore do not factor into EO liturgy and hymnography as it exists today, but certainly this is an accident of history: unless I'm mistaken, the Roum Patriarchate of Antioch continued to use St Ephrem's hymns (along with the rest of the Syriac liturgy) until they adopted the Byzantine rite.  So before Eastern Orthodoxy became a single-rite Church, but well after the Chalcedonian schism, these hymns were used liturgically within Eastern Orthodoxy, and can thus claim the same "authority" as Byzantine liturgical texts.  Before that schism, they were used liturgically, even during the lifetime of their author.  In light of this, I contend that St Ephrem's hymns meet the criterion of having been received by the praying Church as an expression of her belief and worship.     

Yet the iconographic portrayal of the Meeting of the Lord is utterly consistent: It is not Joseph who presents the Child, but His Mother. Nativity icons consistently show a pensive Joseph some distance from the center of the icon, being tempted by the devil. As for the period before the Byzantine rite was adopted, where are the icons which show Joseph holding the Child? They couldn't have all been destroyed through iconoclasm or natural causes, could they?

Quote
ISTM that the latter were more comfortable with incorporating (more) Scripture into their thought and composition. 

I find it difficult to imagine how Byzantine hymnographers could stuff more scripture into their work than they already have!  :o  :D

Quote
The only relevance this has, IMO, in the matter of St Joseph's iconographic depiction is that quasi-dogmatic pronouncements about how inappropriate it is to depict him holding the infant Christ need to include some amount of nuance or qualification.


Have I not provided reasons for this?  ???

Quote
If the objection to St Joseph holding the Christ Child is that this particular pose implies he's his biological father, I think this claim needs to be convincingly demonstrated.  We don't have any qualms about the Elder Simeon holding the Christ Child, we don't assume that he had a role in fathering the Child because he's holding him in the icon.  Why does "man holding child" have such a fluid iconographic meaning depending on who the man is?  Are iconographic conventions fluid?   

Icons showing Righteous Symeon holding the Child show the Elder in utter awe, fear and wonder at being granted the astounding and inexpressible privilege of holding in his arms God Incarnate, and the spiritual joy that the great prophecy he had received many years before had been fulfilled. The hymns of the feast again and again speak of these things.

More food for thought:

Below is the last apostikhon sung before the close of the service of Great Friday Vespers, which commemorates the Deposition from the Cross:

When Joseph with Nicodemus took You down from the Tree, You who is clothed with light as a garment, and saw You as a corpse, naked, unburied, he was filled with compassion. Raising a lament, he grieved and said: Alas, sweetest Jesus, when a little while ago the sun saw You hanging on the Cross, it wrapped itself in gloom, and the earth quaked with fear, and the veil of the temple was torn in two; but behold, I now look upon You, who for me has willingly undergone death; how shall I bury You, my God? Or how shall I wrap You in shrouds; with what hands shall I touch Your immaculate body? Or what dirges shall I sing at Your departure? I magnify Your sufferings and I hymn Your burial, with Your resurrection, as I cry: Lord, glory to You.’

Here, another saintly Joseph grapples with the dilemma of the need to physically touch the Lord’s body in order to perform the required burial rites, yet, knowing that the Lord is God Incarnate, is utterly aware of his own imperfect humanity and unworthiness to do so. St John the Baptist felt the same humility, likewise:

Seeing You, O Christ our God, draw near to Him in the River Jordan, John said: “Why have You, who has no defilement, come to Your servant, O Lord? In whose name shall I baptize You? Of the Father? But You bear Him in Yourself. Of the Son? But You are Yourself this Son made flesh. Of the Holy Spirit? But You know that through Your own mouth You give Him to the faithful? O God who has appeared, have mercy on us. (Vespers apostikhon, Theophany)

Who has ever seen the sun, bright by nature, being cleansed? the Preacher cried. How, then, shall I wash You in the waters, You who is the Brightness of the Glory, the Image of the everlasting Father? How shall I, I that am grass, touch with my hand the fire of Your divinity? For You are Christ, the wisdom and the power of God.
(Matins, ode 4, first Canon of Theophany)

How could, then, Joseph of Arimathea bring himself, with hands of mere clay, to touch the perfect and divine body of the Son of God, even if that body was lifeless? Joseph eloquently and movingly proclaims the divinity of Christ in this apostikhon, therefore it is not at all surprising that he is awestruck at the thought of physically handling the body of Jesus, of touching God Incarnate.

Of course, in earthly reality, as the Baptist did as he was asked by the Lord at His baptism, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to physically handle the body of Jesus in order to bury Him. Nicodemus, Apostle John, and the women who were present at the Crucifixion would have done likewise, but the point is this: Those who knew, or came to understand, that the man Jesus was God Incarnate, would feel the same way. The unnamed woman who had suffered for years from an issue of blood certainly did: "If only I could touch His garment, I would be cured." And when Jesus asked "Who touched Me?", despite the throngs of people who were pressing up against Him, the woman fell to the ground before Him, sobbing and distressed, not only from relief that she had been healed from a terrible and shameful illness, but because she had dared to touch the Son of God in faith.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #25 on: September 26, 2013, 08:03:21 PM »

How could, then, Joseph of Arimathea bring himself, with hands of mere clay, to touch the perfect and divine body of the Son of God, even if that body was lifeless? Joseph eloquently and movingly proclaims the divinity of Christ in this apostikhon, therefore it is not at all surprising that he is awestruck at the thought of physically handling the body of Jesus, of touching God Incarnate.

Of course, in earthly reality, as the Baptist did as he was asked by the Lord at His baptism, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to physically handle the body of Jesus in order to bury Him. Nicodemus, Apostle John, and the women who were present at the Crucifixion would have done likewise, but the point is this: Those who knew, or came to understand, that the man Jesus was God Incarnate, would feel the same way. The unnamed woman who had suffered for years from an issue of blood certainly did: "If only I could touch His garment, I would be cured." And when Jesus asked "Who touched Me?", despite the throngs of people who were pressing up against Him, the woman fell to the ground before Him, sobbing and distressed, not only from relief that she had been healed from a terrible and shameful illness, but because she had dared to touch the Son of God in faith.


What a crock!  Not only those "touchings", but let's not forget the Roman soldiers that beat him half to death.  Or does that not fit your fantasy.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #26 on: September 26, 2013, 11:30:37 PM »

How could, then, Joseph of Arimathea bring himself, with hands of mere clay, to touch the perfect and divine body of the Son of God, even if that body was lifeless? Joseph eloquently and movingly proclaims the divinity of Christ in this apostikhon, therefore it is not at all surprising that he is awestruck at the thought of physically handling the body of Jesus, of touching God Incarnate.

Of course, in earthly reality, as the Baptist did as he was asked by the Lord at His baptism, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to physically handle the body of Jesus in order to bury Him. Nicodemus, Apostle John, and the women who were present at the Crucifixion would have done likewise, but the point is this: Those who knew, or came to understand, that the man Jesus was God Incarnate, would feel the same way. The unnamed woman who had suffered for years from an issue of blood certainly did: "If only I could touch His garment, I would be cured." And when Jesus asked "Who touched Me?", despite the throngs of people who were pressing up against Him, the woman fell to the ground before Him, sobbing and distressed, not only from relief that she had been healed from a terrible and shameful illness, but because she had dared to touch the Son of God in faith.


What a crock!  Not only those "touchings", but let's not forget the Roman soldiers that beat him half to death.  Or does that not fit your fantasy.

In your abrasiveness, you have quite missed the point.

St Joseph of Arimathea knew and believed the man Jesus was God Incarnate. So did the woman with the issue of blood, as did St John the Baptist, and St Joseph the Betrothed. The Roman soldiers who beat and crucified Him did not. To them, he was just another Jew, a criminal they'd been ordered to punish and execute.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #27 on: September 26, 2013, 11:53:45 PM »
I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).

So that means the hymn in question is actually in use by the Syriac Churches?

Mor would know, but I'd assume it was. St. Ephraim wrote prayers and hymns for the Church. Some are still used today, particularly in the Antiochian/Syrian churches.

I cannot speak for the OO churches, only for the EO. My posts should be seen in this light.

The EO Church of Antioch would have used them until switching rites to all Byzantine all the time.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #28 on: September 27, 2013, 12:02:45 AM »
I think it's significant that St Ephrem, in one of his hymns on the Nativity, makes precisely the point about St Joseph which is argued against by iconographic canons and a hymnographic argument from silence (in the Byzantine rite, anyway...those hymns of St Ephrem were sung in his Church both in his lifetime and after his death, even to this day).

So that means the hymn in question is actually in use by the Syriac Churches?

Mor would know, but I'd assume it was. St. Ephraim wrote prayers and hymns for the Church. Some are still used today, particularly in the Antiochian/Syrian churches.

I cannot speak for the OO churches, only for the EO. My posts should be seen in this light.

The EO Church of Antioch would have used them until switching rites to all Byzantine all the time.

There is no certainty that the particular hymn of St Ephraim was indeed used liturgically at that time. Even if it were, the complete absence of pre-16th C icons showing St Joseph holding the Child must give one pause. Indeed, icons of St Joseph outside of festal icons such as the Nativity or the Meeting are exceedingly rare, if not non-existent. This all marries with the liturgical regard for him: He is rightly venerated as a saint, he is commemorated liturgically on the Sunday after the Nativity, but he is a background figure to the Mother of God.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #29 on: September 27, 2013, 03:12:19 PM »
As for the period before the Byzantine rite was adopted, where are the icons which show Joseph holding the Child? They couldn't have all been destroyed through iconoclasm or natural causes, could they?

I find this line of questioning problematic, and not just because it reminds me too much of YiM's elusive search for apostolic era icons and his conclusions therefrom. 

First of all, it seems to presume that there's "an icon for everything", and that the absence of an icon, or of a specific feature in an icon, indicates something significant.  The latter may, but need not, be the case.

Secondly, it's not just a matter of filtering out the Byzantine liturgy, as a rite encompasses more than prayer texts and ritual rubrics, but involves a whole modus operandi.  The West Syriac tradition has no problem with icons and admits their use and  veneration in churches and in private devotion, but it's nothing like post-iconoclasm Byzantine tradition.  While the Chalcedonian Antiochians used the West Syriac rite, did they lean "Byzantine" in their cult of icons, or did they remain "West Syriac" in this aspect as well?  IMO this is an important consideration if we're going to ask about the presence or absence of particular icons in that context.   

Quote
I find it difficult to imagine how Byzantine hymnographers could stuff more scripture into their work than they already have!  :o  :D

It's not simply a matter of "how much can we cram into this hymn", but also how the hymnographers interacted with the Scripture, which is why I specified "thought and composition".  Anyone familiar enough with Syriac and Greek hymnography will be able to see many points of contact, but also significant differences in thought, focus, application, and so on.  I'm sorry that I didn't communicate this idea better in my original comment.   

Quote
Quote
The only relevance this has, IMO, in the matter of St Joseph's iconographic depiction is that quasi-dogmatic pronouncements about how inappropriate it is to depict him holding the infant Christ need to include some amount of nuance or qualification.


Have I not provided reasons for this?  ???

Reasons for what?  Nothing I've read, from you or any other source, convinces me that this prohibition on depicting St Joseph holding the infant Christ is in fact based on theology.  ISTM more like a "discomfort" that surrounds St Joseph's person, an attempt to put a bit of distance between him and the Christ Child because of that "discomfort", and then some dogmatic reasoning read into this distance in order to justify it.  Was there some heresy that required this "ban" in order to protect the Orthodox faith? 

Quote
Icons showing Righteous Symeon holding the Child show the Elder in utter awe, fear and wonder at being granted the astounding and inexpressible privilege of holding in his arms God Incarnate, and the spiritual joy that the great prophecy he had received many years before had been fulfilled. The hymns of the feast again and again speak of these things.

Does the icon really show all that?  I'm no artist, I'm just a Christian, but I don't usually see "emotions" depicted in icons.  What I see when I gaze on that icon is Simeon holding Christ.  When I look at the "uncanonical" St Joseph icon, I see Joseph holding Christ.  Why does only one "man holding child" imply "that man physically fathered this child" and the other does not?

You can read into the icon the themes contained in the hymnography, but if you don't know the hymnography, the icon itself isn't going to register with the average person in exactly that particular way.  I don't deny the theological value of icons, but they're just not sufficient.       

Quote
Here, another saintly Joseph grapples with the dilemma of the need to physically touch the Lord’s body in order to perform the required burial rites, yet, knowing that the Lord is God Incarnate, is utterly aware of his own imperfect humanity and unworthiness to do so.

...

How could, then, Joseph of Arimathea bring himself, with hands of mere clay, to touch the perfect and divine body of the Son of God, even if that body was lifeless? Joseph eloquently and movingly proclaims the divinity of Christ in this apostikhon, therefore it is not at all surprising that he is awestruck at the thought of physically handling the body of Jesus, of touching God Incarnate.

Without denying the fundamental importance of the liturgical texts as privileged sources of theology, I think there is a danger when we treat them as literal truth in contrast to Scripture.  Orthodoxy does not possess a "magisterium of poets".  The hymnographers composed their prayers by meditating on the Scriptures with the eyes of faith.  The thoughts, words, and motivations they assign to various people are not unscriptural by any means, but neither are they exactly what happened as it happened.  It's theological history.  Scripture itself operates in this way, the liturgical texts are an additional level of that sort of interaction with truth, as you seem to understand: 

Quote
Of course, in earthly reality, as the Baptist did as he was asked by the Lord at His baptism, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to physically handle the body of Jesus in order to bury Him. Nicodemus, Apostle John, and the women who were present at the Crucifixion would have done likewise, but the point is this: Those who knew, or came to understand, that the man Jesus was God Incarnate, would feel the same way. The unnamed woman who had suffered for years from an issue of blood certainly did: "If only I could touch His garment, I would be cured." And when Jesus asked "Who touched Me?", despite the throngs of people who were pressing up against Him, the woman fell to the ground before Him, sobbing and distressed, not only from relief that she had been healed from a terrible and shameful illness, but because she had dared to touch the Son of God in faith.
   

The liturgical hymnographers "knew, or came to understand" that Christ was God.  It's not at all clear in the Gospels that the characters therein all "knew, or came to understand" this truth at the time of the events described, even though the Gospels themselves are written from this perspective. 

The Baptist obeyed the command of Christ to baptise him, but before his death sent disciples to clear up his doubts anyway...and that's after having heard the Father's voice and having seen the Spirit descend on him.  Nicodemus meets with the Lord at night but doesn't seem like he "gets it", and we don't really know much at all about Joseph of Arimathea.  Does the Apostle John, or do the women, believe in the divinity of Christ as he's being crucified, or does that belief come afterward and affect how we remember the history?  No one confessed the divinity of Christ until the Apostle Thomas did so, and it required the Resurrection.  This is all straight out of the Gospels, which do not attempt to hide the tension and conflict surrounding others' understanding of who Christ is.  The evangelical testimony is not as straightforward as you claim here..

St Joseph of Arimathea knew and believed the man Jesus was God Incarnate. So did the woman with the issue of blood, as did St John the Baptist, and St Joseph the Betrothed. The Roman soldiers who beat and crucified Him did not. To them, he was just another Jew, a criminal they'd been ordered to punish and execute.

...even if the liturgical testimony is quite clear. 

The liturgical texts present us with theological reality and theological history.  They are true in their expansion upon the Gospel narratives.  But we do a disservice to them and to Scripture if we exaggerate them and what they are doing.

There is no certainty that the particular hymn of St Ephraim was indeed used liturgically at that time. Even if it were, the complete absence of pre-16th C icons showing St Joseph holding the Child must give one pause.

"No certainty?"  Why stop with this particular hymn?  ;)

We have at least one hymn, written by a sainted Father and arguably the greatest hymnographer of the universal Church, that speaks quite eloquently of St Joseph's holding the Child and his fatherly relationship to this Son given to him by God.  We know that it was written to be used in the liturgical services, and was used in the Syriac Churches in his lifetime and before the major schisms.  They continued to be used in those Churches after the major schisms, even to the present. 

There's every likelihood that this was also the case in Chalcedonian Antioch until the dumping of the Syriac rite and the adoption of the Byzantine rite.  The burden of proof, IMO, is on those who implicitly suggest that this was eliminated from the Chalcedonian practice while other things were preserved.         

We also have "the complete absence" of a particular type of icon post-16th century proposed as evidence in support of the ban on St Joseph holding the Child, but this doesn't really prove anything definitively, because there's not "an icon for everything", the cult of icons was not the same elsewhere as it was in "Byzantine" regions, etc. 

Again, the only thing that's definitely true based on all this is that "St Joseph holding the Child is a big no-no" requires a hefty dose of qualification.  There's enough within the tradition that is legitimately tradition to suggest at least this much, and that is what gives me pause. 
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #30 on: September 27, 2013, 04:13:21 PM »
As for the period before the Byzantine rite was adopted, where are the icons which show Joseph holding the Child? They couldn't have all been destroyed through iconoclasm or natural causes, could they?

I find this line of questioning problematic, and not just because it reminds me too much of YiM's elusive search for apostolic era icons and his conclusions therefrom. 

First of all, it seems to presume that there's "an icon for everything", and that the absence of an icon, or of a specific feature in an icon, indicates something significant.  The latter may, but need not, be the case.

Secondly, it's not just a matter of filtering out the Byzantine liturgy, as a rite encompasses more than prayer texts and ritual rubrics, but involves a whole modus operandi.  The West Syriac tradition has no problem with icons and admits their use and  veneration in churches and in private devotion, but it's nothing like post-iconoclasm Byzantine tradition.  While the Chalcedonian Antiochians used the West Syriac rite, did they lean "Byzantine" in their cult of icons, or did they remain "West Syriac" in this aspect as well?  IMO this is an important consideration if we're going to ask about the presence or absence of particular icons in that context.   

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I find it difficult to imagine how Byzantine hymnographers could stuff more scripture into their work than they already have!  :o  :D

It's not simply a matter of "how much can we cram into this hymn", but also how the hymnographers interacted with the Scripture, which is why I specified "thought and composition".  Anyone familiar enough with Syriac and Greek hymnography will be able to see many points of contact, but also significant differences in thought, focus, application, and so on.  I'm sorry that I didn't communicate this idea better in my original comment.   

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The only relevance this has, IMO, in the matter of St Joseph's iconographic depiction is that quasi-dogmatic pronouncements about how inappropriate it is to depict him holding the infant Christ need to include some amount of nuance or qualification.


Have I not provided reasons for this?  ???

Reasons for what?  Nothing I've read, from you or any other source, convinces me that this prohibition on depicting St Joseph holding the infant Christ is in fact based on theology.  ISTM more like a "discomfort" that surrounds St Joseph's person, an attempt to put a bit of distance between him and the Christ Child because of that "discomfort", and then some dogmatic reasoning read into this distance in order to justify it.  Was there some heresy that required this "ban" in order to protect the Orthodox faith?
Ebionism.
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Icons showing Righteous Symeon holding the Child show the Elder in utter awe, fear and wonder at being granted the astounding and inexpressible privilege of holding in his arms God Incarnate, and the spiritual joy that the great prophecy he had received many years before had been fulfilled. The hymns of the feast again and again speak of these things.

Does the icon really show all that?  I'm no artist, I'm just a Christian, but I don't usually see "emotions" depicted in icons.  What I see when I gaze on that icon is Simeon holding Christ.  When I look at the "uncanonical" St Joseph icon, I see Joseph holding Christ.  Why does only one "man holding child" imply "that man physically fathered this child" and the other does not?
One issue on the Meeting of the Lord icon: St. Joseph carries the sacrifice given to redeem the First Born Only Begotten Redeemer as indicated by Moses and St. Luke the Evangelist.  It is where the sacrifice of the Tabernacle and Temple give way to the sacrifice of Calvary.

You can read into the icon the themes contained in the hymnography, but if you don't know the hymnography, the icon itself isn't going to register with the average person in exactly that particular way.  I don't deny the theological value of icons, but they're just not sufficient.       

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Here, another saintly Joseph grapples with the dilemma of the need to physically touch the Lord’s body in order to perform the required burial rites, yet, knowing that the Lord is God Incarnate, is utterly aware of his own imperfect humanity and unworthiness to do so.

...

How could, then, Joseph of Arimathea bring himself, with hands of mere clay, to touch the perfect and divine body of the Son of God, even if that body was lifeless? Joseph eloquently and movingly proclaims the divinity of Christ in this apostikhon, therefore it is not at all surprising that he is awestruck at the thought of physically handling the body of Jesus, of touching God Incarnate.

Without denying the fundamental importance of the liturgical texts as privileged sources of theology, I think there is a danger when we treat them as literal truth in contrast to Scripture.  Orthodoxy does not possess a "magisterium of poets".  The hymnographers composed their prayers by meditating on the Scriptures with the eyes of faith.  The thoughts, words, and motivations they assign to various people are not unscriptural by any means, but neither are they exactly what happened as it happened.  It's theological history.  Scripture itself operates in this way, the liturgical texts are an additional level of that sort of interaction with truth, as you seem to understand: 

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Of course, in earthly reality, as the Baptist did as he was asked by the Lord at His baptism, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to physically handle the body of Jesus in order to bury Him. Nicodemus, Apostle John, and the women who were present at the Crucifixion would have done likewise, but the point is this: Those who knew, or came to understand, that the man Jesus was God Incarnate, would feel the same way. The unnamed woman who had suffered for years from an issue of blood certainly did: "If only I could touch His garment, I would be cured." And when Jesus asked "Who touched Me?", despite the throngs of people who were pressing up against Him, the woman fell to the ground before Him, sobbing and distressed, not only from relief that she had been healed from a terrible and shameful illness, but because she had dared to touch the Son of God in faith.
   

The liturgical hymnographers "knew, or came to understand" that Christ was God.  It's not at all clear in the Gospels that the characters therein all "knew, or came to understand" this truth at the time of the events described, even though the Gospels themselves are written from this perspective. 

The Baptist obeyed the command of Christ to baptise him, but before his death sent disciples to clear up his doubts anyway...and that's after having heard the Father's voice and having seen the Spirit descend on him.  Nicodemus meets with the Lord at night but doesn't seem like he "gets it", and we don't really know much at all about Joseph of Arimathea.  Does the Apostle John, or do the women, believe in the divinity of Christ as he's being crucified, or does that belief come afterward and affect how we remember the history?  No one confessed the divinity of Christ until the Apostle Thomas did so, and it required the Resurrection.  This is all straight out of the Gospels, which do not attempt to hide the tension and conflict surrounding others' understanding of who Christ is.  The evangelical testimony is not as straightforward as you claim here..

St Joseph of Arimathea knew and believed the man Jesus was God Incarnate. So did the woman with the issue of blood, as did St John the Baptist, and St Joseph the Betrothed. The Roman soldiers who beat and crucified Him did not. To them, he was just another Jew, a criminal they'd been ordered to punish and execute.

...even if the liturgical testimony is quite clear. 

The liturgical texts present us with theological reality and theological history.  They are true in their expansion upon the Gospel narratives.  But we do a disservice to them and to Scripture if we exaggerate them and what they are doing.
As you say, there is no "magisterium of the poets," and their words can be taken too literally, with disasterous results.  There is also the danger of theological abstractions taking over like they did in Scholasticism.  Those poems adopted by the Church (and I include the OO here) as expressions of the consensus of the Fathers provide the lens through which we look at Scripture, but they do not constitute an end unto themselves, and must retain their focus on what Scripture actually says.
There is no certainty that the particular hymn of St Ephraim was indeed used liturgically at that time. Even if it were, the complete absence of pre-16th C icons showing St Joseph holding the Child must give one pause.

"No certainty?"  Why stop with this particular hymn?  ;)

We have at least one hymn, written by a sainted Father and arguably the greatest hymnographer of the universal Church, that speaks quite eloquently of St Joseph's holding the Child and his fatherly relationship to this Son given to him by God.  We know that it was written to be used in the liturgical services, and was used in the Syriac Churches in his lifetime and before the major schisms.  They continued to be used in those Churches after the major schisms, even to the present. 

There's every likelihood that this was also the case in Chalcedonian Antioch until the dumping of the Syriac rite and the adoption of the Byzantine rite.  The burden of proof, IMO, is on those who implicitly suggest that this was eliminated from the Chalcedonian practice while other things were preserved.         

We also have "the complete absence" of a particular type of icon post-16th century proposed as evidence in support of the ban on St Joseph holding the Child, but this doesn't really prove anything definitively, because there's not "an icon for everything", the cult of icons was not the same elsewhere as it was in "Byzantine" regions, etc. 

Again, the only thing that's definitely true based on all this is that "St Joseph holding the Child is a big no-no" requires a hefty dose of qualification.  There's enough within the tradition that is legitimately tradition to suggest at least this much, and that is what gives me pause. 
It would be interesting to see if the Protestants, once they denied the perpetual virginity of the Holy Theotokos (that took a couple centuries, perhaps.  An interesting issue to look into), if there was some change in their attention to St. Joseph.  They don't seem more interesting in him than they are in her.
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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #31 on: September 27, 2013, 04:52:17 PM »
Ebionism.

But is that the reason for the ban?  To my recollection, that has never been invoked, but if that is the reason for the ban, as opposed to "a convenient fact that happens to line up with what we're already doing", I would find this a more compelling argument. 

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As you say, there is no "magisterium of the poets," and their words can be taken too literally, with disasterous results.  There is also the danger of theological abstractions taking over like they did in Scholasticism.  Those poems adopted by the Church (and I include the OO here) as expressions of the consensus of the Fathers provide the lens through which we look at Scripture, but they do not constitute an end unto themselves, and must retain their focus on what Scripture actually says.

Agreed.

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It would be interesting to see if the Protestants, once they denied the perpetual virginity of the Holy Theotokos (that took a couple centuries, perhaps.  An interesting issue to look into), if there was some change in their attention to St. Joseph.  They don't seem more interesting in him than they are in her.

Unless it's to speculate about his post-Nativity sex life as part of their rejection of Our Lady's perpetual virginity.  Otherwise, she's just some random person God picked, and so is Joseph.  If there's more to it than that, I'd love to hear about it. 
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Offline LBK

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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #32 on: September 27, 2013, 07:12:02 PM »
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Nothing I've read, from you or any other source, convinces me that this prohibition on depicting St Joseph holding the infant Christ is in fact based on theology.

From post #13:

In iconography, a person may be shown with the "tools of their trade" when those tools are relevant to their spiritual role. It is proper to depict a saint with the tools of their spiritual trade (which may or may not coincide with their earthly trade). Thus, priest-saints will often hold a blessing cross, and bishop-saints will hold the Gospel or perhaps a blessing cross. Martyrs are depicted with the cross as they took up the cross of Christ. The holy fathers and mothers may be shown with a scroll upon which we see written the words that they spoke. This is all a very consistent principle.

Extending that to the Mother of God - we see her holding the "tool of her trade" - the incarnate God whom she brought into the world. This was her role - her spiritual place - to be the Mother of God, and thus it is only right, according to the noted principle, that she be thus depicted. St Joseph, on the other hand, has a different role - he is not "the father of God", in fact from the hymnography about him, it is clear that his role was never that of "father" or the "parent" of the Christ-child. Rather, his role was that of the protector of the Virgin.

Furthermore, the Virgin is always spoken of as the "Mother of God" and her primary relationship is to her divine/human Son. Joseph, however, is always spoken of as "the Betrothed". He was not betrothed to Christ, but rather to the Virgin. He is not so much the protector of the Christ-child, but rather the protector of the Virgin. His primary relationship is not to the divine/human Child, but rather to the Virgin. Thus to depict him holding the Child is to completely ignore and distort his place in the Church. He is not the "father" of Christ, nor is he the "protector" of the Christ-child - but rather he is the "betrothed" and the "protector" of the Virgin. It is easy for us to think of him as the protector of the Child, but that was in fact not who he was - he was the protector of the Mother who was in turn the protector of the Child.


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First of all, it seems to presume that there's "an icon for everything", and that the absence of an icon, or of a specific feature in an icon, indicates something significant.  The latter may, but need not, be the case.

There are innumerable extant icons of the Nativity and the Meeting, and all consistently show St Joseph as a secondary figure, something also reflected in the hymnography for these feasts.



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Re: Athonite "icons" of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child
« Reply #33 on: September 27, 2013, 07:42:42 PM »
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Does the icon really show all that?  I'm no artist, I'm just a Christian, but I don't usually see "emotions" depicted in icons.

Good icons do convey these things, in a restrained and subtle way. Symeon's posture is not just that of an old man, but one of deference and supplication. His hands are covered, in humility and a sense of unworthiness. He gazes at the Child in his arms with awe and wonder, in contrast to the Mother of God with her Child, particularly the Odighitria types, where her "body language" is quite different: she indeed defers to her Son, in gesturing towards Him as the source and way of salvation, but she also has, as many a hymn says, "a mother's boldness before her Son and God".

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You can read into the icon the themes contained in the hymnography, but if you don't know the hymnography, the icon itself isn't going to register with the average person in exactly that particular way.

Everything in Orthodoxy is interrelated, particularly iconography and hymnography. Attending liturgical services and keeping one's eyes and ears open and receptive are cornerstones in increasing anyone's understanding of what the Church teaches and espouses.

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I don't deny the theological value of icons, but they're just not sufficient.

See above. And there are some icons whose theological eloquence is practically immeasurable.

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Without denying the fundamental importance of the liturgical texts as privileged sources of theology, I think there is a danger when we treat them as literal truth in contrast to Scripture.

Icons portray spiritual, heavenly realities, drawing out the true meaning of scripture. We do not see a bloody, ravaged corpse hanging on the Cross, but Christ who, in His immeasurable love for mankind, has willingly suffered crucifixion and death.

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