I'm reading a biography of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of Russia in the 16th century, contemporary of England's Queen Elizabeth. Stalin found much inspiration in his methods of governance, including mass executions, but excluding Ivan's adoration of the Russian Orthodox icons.

As someone raised in a low-Protestant tradition, icons and praying to saints was always foreign to me, and remains, unnecessary, if not distasteful to me still. However, both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic branches of the church embrace icons, 2D for the East and 3D for the West. Why is that?
a wiki article states
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, only flat images or bas relief images are used. They believe the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary to have been painted by St Luke. The Greeks, having a long, pagan tradition of statuary, found the sensual quality of three dimensional representations did more to glorify the human aspect of the flesh rather than the divine nature of the spirit and so prohibitions were created against statuary. The Romans, on the other hand, did not adopt these prohibitions and so we still have statuary among the Roman Catholics to this day. Because the Greeks rejected statuary, the Byzantine style of iconography was developed in which figures were stylized in a manner that emphasized their holiness rather than their humanity.
Who says local circumstances have no influence on theology?

What is the purpose of the icons and how does one interact with them? one site says
In the Orthodox Church, icons are sacred images painted on wood, carved in stone, molded in metal, sewn on cloth, or made in any suitable material, which conform to a canonical non-naturalistic style, and which are venerated by the faithful with bows, kisses, incense and lights, with the understanding that the icon itself is not worshipped, but the honor given it is transferred to Christ, the Mother of God, or to whatever saint is depicted thereon.

but the Protestant in me says, what about those Commandments forbidding the creation of images? the same site continues
In the New Testament, the Invisible, Indepictable God of the Old Testament became man of the Virgin Mary, and in the act of taking on our humanity, became depictable. Thus reason the holy fathers of the Seventh Universal Council (787 A.D.) in their defense of the Orthodox practice of the veneration of icons. For many years the church had been troubled over the use of images, wondering if, perhaps, it violated the commandment of the Old Testament. The Seventh Council put an end to all doubts, making it clear that by the venerating icons, we proclaim our faith in the true Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prohibition against images can no longer apply, since through the Incarnation, it had been cancelled by God Himself.
I am forced to admit, that most Protestant homes have pictures of Jesus and his disciples, perhaps a poster of the Last Supper, or even a child's Sunday school paper, or an illustrated Bible, without concern of violating God's command. But those same homes don't touch or kiss the pictures or pray before them. Even if no 2D images are found, perhaps a 3D cross is hanging somewhere. If this serves to stimulate thoughts of Christ's sacrifice and his work for our salvation, is this image causing one to forsake the 1st commandment? Is this much of a distinction?

Perhaps the right question concerns the issue of minimal Christianity and maximal Christianity. What is the minimum that a missionary needs to make a disciple? Can disciples be made by words alone, preferably memorized words of God's word? and do icons freeze someone or something that shouldn't be frozen. in america, African Americans have found objection to the white Jesus, and in response, some have crafted the black Jesus. Jesus said that whatever we do for the least among us, we do for him. Jesus identifies with the least. What if our depictions of the cross included a tortured child, or a raped woman, or a leprous man? Wouldn't those depictions make Jesus' point? According to Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 53, Jesus was nothing to look at. Should our mental images of him depend on who we think is one of the ugliest and least likely for us to befriend? after his resurrection he was often unrecognized. he didn't look like he used to. he was the firstfruits of that promised resurrection body.

i'm digressing. when we make disciples, we are showing people how to follow Jesus. so we read his words in the Bible, both Testaments. we talk to God, AKA pray. we pray for each other. and this is where praying to the saints comes in. as i understand it, the EO and RC understand the verse that says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses to mean that those believers who have passed on before us, are still contemporaries, in a sense. thus, not only can you ask your incorporeal believing fellows to pray for you, but also those incorpreal. but, i wonder, once i leave this plane in my prayers, why stop at anyone below God, Jesus, who is the only mediator between the Father and myself?

i bring the good news to the disciple. the disciple's heart softens and God places in the disciple his Holy Spirit as a promise of eternal life. The Spirit is active and intelligent and interactive and brings about the progressive sanctification of the disciple. the disciple is the real icon, the real image-bearer of God. no one can improve on God's icons.


Popular Posts