Icon, Part 4: Veneration and the Incarnation

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d. He was in the beginning with G-d. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, [1] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Thus far we have examined the first three festal icons of the Orthodox liturgical year, and in them see some of the conventions necessary to understand and interpret them (conventions such as the avoidance of over-realism, use of symbolism, a flattening of time and overlapping of events). The next Great Feast is, of course, the Nativity of Christ (Christmas), but in the interlude, I thought it time to address the icons themselves, their reason for being, why they are venerated, and what veneration even means in their context. And to do that, we should start with the prototype and, in its way, the most important icon of all, that of Jesus Christ Himself, and of one particular form — The Icon Not Made By Hands. All of Orthodox iconography is in vain if it does not point to Christ, and it is from Christ that all iconography stems.

As the Gospel of John says in its opening, “And the Word become flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory…” This is that fundamental claim of Christians, that G-d Himself took on actual and real human form — The Incarnation (which we observe as Christmas). Throughout all of prior history, G-d forbade any attempt to depict Him because you cannot depict the ineffable. Yet He came and took on human form (real flesh and blood), which we depict all the time, so this form we can depict. (I’m greatly oversimplifying this argument, however. It took 800 years, a lot of misuse of Christian imagery, two iconoclasms, and finally the 7th Ecumenical Council to sort this out.)

Icons, particularly of Christ, are thus an affirmation of the Incarnation. Moreover, there is one type that is considered the prototype of all: The Icon Not Made By Hands. The original of this icon is said to have been an actual image of Jesus’s face — proof to the early Christians of his real and corporeal existence. There are two separate accounts of how these came into being, but the depredations of time, war, conquest, and age have obscured them. Some say that the Shroud of Turin is one of these cloths, and was somehow kept safely in the Syrian city of Edessa for centuries after the Muslim conquest, until retrieved by the warrior emperor Nicephorus Phocas, and then taken again during the 4th Crusade. Some say that a cloth kept by the Vatican, or one kept at an Italian monastery, is a cloth used to wipe Jesus’s face while he carried His cross to Golgotha.  

Regardless, over the centuries many copies have been made and have taken on a common form — The Icon Not Made By Hands, or The Holy Napkin. And even if the originals have truly been lost, they and their copies still point back to the actual physical incarnation of Jesus Christ. And if we can thus depict Him, and venerate and honor His image as a sign of his actual existence, then we can also depict others who have followed Him — the saints.

Veneration

What does it mean then, in the context of icons, to venerate them? Veneration is paying respect to, and honoring, in this case not the object per se but who it depicts. When venerating before an icon, one is paying honor and showing love and affection to the person depicted, and doing so because they were a real person. This is why many will kiss an icon, it’s much like kissing the photograph of someone far away or long departed — the kiss is intended for the person depicted, not the photograph itself.

Moreover, such veneration is a means of affirming and honoring their own incarnation too, their own existence. Just as Christ existed, so too did these saints. Further, as any who have died in Christ still yet live in Christ, our veneration is for those who are alive. Such veneration is not for the wood or paper or paint or cloth, but for the person whose image these materials bear. And so when entering a church, or when in private prayer, we may cross ourselves and gently kiss the icons of saints, or of Christ himself, not as a means of drawing out any sort of power, but like we would kiss the photograph of a friend or family member we wished were present. We venerate the person depicted, for who and what they both were and are. And we do so in recognition that they were and are real people, incarnate upon the Earth just as Christ, The Word made flesh, was incarnate upon this Earth.

The Kursk Root Icon.

1 Crossway Bibles. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This essay is part of the December 2018 Group Writing Series on Veneration

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There are 35 comments.

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  1. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Thanks for this, especially for the icon of the Holy Face (Mandalion). My very favorite of all! 

    • #1
    • December 21, 2018, at 2:30 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thanks for this, especially for the icon of the Holy Face (Mandalion). My very favorite of all!

    I get to do my favorite at Pascha. But we’ll cover that one when the time comes.

     

    • #2
    • December 21, 2018, at 2:38 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. danok1 Inactive

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thanks for this, especially for the icon of the Holy Face (Mandalion). My very favorite of all!

    I get to do my favorite at Pascha. But we’ll cover that one when the time comes.

    Mine as well, Skip!

     

    • #3
    • December 21, 2018, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Painter Jean Member

    Thank you, Skip – this is as interesting as it is inspiring!

    • #4
    • December 21, 2018, at 3:38 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    If you have not read the other @skipsul posts on icons, do so.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under December’s theme of Veneration. There are plenty of dates still available. Have you had an encounter with a saint, or someone who is truly venerable? Is there a sports figure who you believe is venerated, and what do you think of it? What is venerated in our society today? We have some wonderful photo essays on Ricochet; perhaps you have a story to tell about nature, art, or architecture that points to subjects worth venerating. Have we lost the musical, written, visual language of veneration? The possibilities are endless! Why not start a conversation? Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. As a heads-up, our January theme will be Renovation. I’ll post the sign-up sheet mid-month.

    • #5
    • December 21, 2018, at 5:45 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    I was debating including these two accounts in the post, but decided that while fascinating, they distracted from the point, which is the Incarnation. But how the “Not Made By Hands” images came to be is worth reading.

    Veronica

    And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.  (Luke 23: 26-27)

    According to tradition, one of these women was Veronica, said to be the same woman referred to elsewhere as the woman with the issue of blood (see Matthew, Chapter 9, or Luke, Chapter 8), and it is said that when Jesus stumbled while carrying the cross, she wiped His face with a cloth, and that the cloth ever after bore His image. This cloth has been referred to, variously, as The Mandylion, The Holy Napkin, or The Icon Not made With Hands. It was treasured by early Christians, and kept hidden for centuries until such time as Constantine made Christianity safe, at which time it was shown publicly. This cloth is thus considered to be the first icon – the first physical representation of Christ. Veronica’s story does not end at this point, for she is mentioned some 300 years later by the historian, Eusebius of Caesarea.

    “SINCE I have mentioned [Paneas, or Caesarea Phillipi] I do not think it proper to omit an account which is worthy of record for posterity. For they say that the woman with an issue of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel, received from our Saviour deliverance from her affliction, came from this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there. For there stands upon an elevated stone, by the gates of her house, a brazen image of a woman kneeling, with her hands stretched out, as if she were praying. Opposite this is another upright image of a man, made of the same material, clothed decently in a double cloak, and extending his hand toward the woman. At his feet, beside the statue itself, is a certain strange plant, which climbs up to the hem of the brazen cloak, and is a remedy for all kinds of diseases. They say that this statue is an image of Jesus. It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city.” Eusebius of Caesarea. History of the Church (Kindle Locations 4202-4214). Fig. Kindle Edition. 

    Eusebius does not mention “Veronica” (or Berenice as she is sometimes called) by name. The 20th century theologian and iconographer Leonid Ouspensky suggested that the name of Veronica, and the legend of her wiping Christ’s face, were later medieval legends attached to a very old icon in Rome – one that had been sent to Rome during one of the iconoclastic periods of Byzantine history, but this is disputed. Others point to “Veronica” itself as Latin meaning “true image”, but the name actually comes from Greek (Berenika, or Berenice), and doesn’t mean that at all.

    There are at least three cloths claimed to have the genuine imprint of the face of Christ on them today – one in Rome, one at a separate Italian monastery, and one reported to be kept by an Orthodox bishop, and last publicly seen in the 1800s.  Could one of these be an original? Or at least a very old copy?

    • #6
    • December 21, 2018, at 8:00 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Edessa

    There is a different account of this first icon, tracing instead to the city of Edessa. Again we turn to Eusebius of Caesarea, writing around the year 320:

    “King Abgarus [of Edessa], who ruled with great glory the nations beyond the Euphrates, being afflicted with a terrible disease which it was beyond the power of human skill to cure, when he heard of the name of Jesus, and of his miracles, which were attested by all with one accord sent a message to him by a courier and begged him to heal his disease. But he did not at that time comply with his request; yet he deemed him worthy of a personal letter in which he said that he would send one of his disciples to cure his disease, and at the same time promised salvation to himself and all his house. Not long afterward his promise was fulfilled. For after his resurrection from the dead and his ascent into heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, under divine impulse sent Thaddeus, who was also numbered among the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa, as a preacher and evangelist of the teaching of Christ.” Eusebius of Caesarea. History of the Church (Kindle Locations 830-837). Fig. Kindle Edition. 

    Eusebius goes on to quote a translation he made of an exchange of letters claimed to be between Jesus and Abgarus. There is no mention of any cloth or image in this account, or in the letters. But later church histories add to the story, and tell of a cloth with which Jesus wiped his face, leaving an image of his face on the cloth, which was then sent to Abgarus, whose household kept it as a treasure. In this account, a later descendant of Abgarus turned apostate and persecuted the Christians of Edessa, necessitating the hiding of the cloth in a niche within the city walls, over the city gate. According to this telling, the cloth remained for centuries within that niche, with an ever-burning vigil lamp, until the time of a Persian invasion, when the niche was opened and the image had burned itself into the stonework. Other accounts vary.

    Still, by the 500s it seems that a famous image of Jesus’s face was reported on a cloth in the city of Edessa. During the Muslim conquest of the Middle East, Edessa was conquered with the Mandylion (as the cloth was known) still within the city. As the centuries passed, Edessa remained well within Muslim territory, though by the 900s the Roman Empire had begun successfully pushing back those boundaries to the point where, in the 940s, Edessa was a frontier city. The great Byzantine general (and later emperor) Nicephoras Phocas even besieged Edessa for time, and took the Mandylion back to Constantinople as payment. It remained in the imperial city until the 4th Crusade of 1204, when it disappeared.  

    Later History

    Whether Nicephoras Phocas brought back Veronica’s veil, or the Mandylion of Abgarus, he returned with something considered a great relic of Christ. Some scholars today suggest that was he really brought back is what we today know as the Shroud of Turin. Others suggest that it was a cloth placed over Christ’s face, but not the full burial shroud itself.

    It may well be that the Veil of Veronica, The Shroud of Turin, and The Mandylion of Edessa were originally all one and the same, or truly 3 different icons whose histories have intermingled. The depredations of time and decay, war, fire, and conquest have likely forever obscured the full story.

    And in the many centuries since Jesus, numerous other copies or interpretations of this image have been made, to the point where the Icon Not Made By Hands, or The Holy Napkin, is a common iconographic theme found in many Orthodox churches.  

    • #7
    • December 21, 2018, at 8:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Gary McVey Contributor

    Another beautiful and profound glimpse into the Orthodox soul. 

    Where I grew up, we had learned, bearded men of God, but they tended to be Jewish! Thanks for inspiring us on one of the longest nights of the year. 

    • #8
    • December 21, 2018, at 9:31 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    My Melkite monastic brothers (first in Steubenville, then in Hebron, OH) had the Mandylion as their patronal icon. St. Therese of Lisieux was known as “Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face” in religious life; these connections make this icon my favorite.

    • #9
    • December 21, 2018, at 11:16 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. Painter Jean Member

    Are you familiar with the Stations of the Cross, used in Catholic Churches? These are 14 images reproducing the “Via Dolorosa”, the pilgrimage devout Christians would make in Jerusalem before Muslim invaders made this pilgrimage difficult at best. “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus” is Station #6.

    • #10
    • December 22, 2018, at 7:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Are you familiar with the Stations of the Cross, used in Catholic Churches? These are 14 images reproducing the “Via Dolorosa”, the pilgrimage devout Christians would make in Jerusalem before Muslim invaders made this pilgrimage difficult at best. “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus” is Station #6.

    Yes, and I had punted around trying to include that in with the section on Veronica, but as that all ended up on the cutting room floor and saved for the director’s cut, I forgot to do so. 

    The Stations of the Cross would make an interesting subject unto itself, as the number of stations and what they commemorated changed quite a bit until firming up with what there is today (apparently at one time there were maybe 4-5 more than today?). There are records of processions being made in the 3rd and 4th centuries, but they’re short on details. I’m not sure when, as the practice developed, that Veronica was formalized. Leonid Ouspenskey, in his work The Theology of the Icon, considers Veronica to be a late Medieval addition, and her association with the Woman With The Issue Of Blood to likewise be a later and unprovable connection. But not all scholars agree with this.

    Author and Orthodox convert Veronica Hughes has put together a short work on Veronica’s history, as well as a canon service for her, which you can find at http://www.pearlofgreatpriceorthodox.com 

    • #11
    • December 22, 2018, at 8:12 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Sr./St. Faustina Kowalska included a version of the Via Dolorosa in her Diary (chronicling mystical encounters with Jesus) that spotlights Simon of Cyrene and Veronica – as bringers of mercy – and Jesus’ willingness to accept their love and assistance. This is a powerful reminder for me, daily.

    • #12
    • December 22, 2018, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    As an evil protestant, I still can’t around the whole graven image side of things. It just seems wrong to be showing veneration to an object. When Catholics do Eucharistic adoration, I want to run screaming from the room.

    Just curious, are all those “saint candles” or “Mary candles” I see in the Hispanic section of my grocery store like icons?

    • #13
    • December 22, 2018, at 1:41 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Painter Jean Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    As an evil protestant, I still can’t around the whole graven image side of things. It just seems wrong to be showing veneration to an object. When Catholics do Eucharistic adoration, I want to run screaming from the room.

    Just curious, are all those “saint candles” or “Mary candles” I see in the Hispanic section of my grocery store like icons?

    It’s the making of graven images to be worshipped as a deity that is prohibited. God Himself commands certain images to be made, Moses’ serpent, for example. And Catholics and the Orthodox do NOT venerate the object – they venerate the person depicted.

    In the case of the Eucharist, we believe, along with the Orthodox, that the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (though the Orthodox do not use the term “transubstantiation”. Skip could clarify this more than I am able to). So we’re not adoring bread and wine, we’re adoring Our Lord. That is, in fact, what most Christians, past and present, believe, as even some Protestant sects believe something similar.

    • #14
    • December 22, 2018, at 1:51 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    As an evil protestant, I still can’t around the whole graven image side of things. It just seems wrong to be showing veneration to an object. When Catholics do Eucharistic adoration, I want to run screaming from the room.

    Just curious, are all those “saint candles” or “Mary candles” I see in the Hispanic section of my grocery store like icons?

    Dear Paladin, as you are reminded of family and friends when you look at a photo album, most Catholics (though some are more culturally-demonstrative) are reminded of those in the “great cloud of witnesses” who’ve gone before us in faith – and whose lives are worthy of emulation – because of that faith. We see no separation in God between those who’re on the faith journey and those who’ve completed it; so we ask our mentors/friends – the saints – to pray with and for us. The votive candles (whether at church or the bodega) are reminders to “pray constantly” and to “let our prayer rise like incense”. The portraits on the candle-holders serve as the sort of reminders described above.

    Please note: Protestant you may be…Evil? Not. We confess Jesus as Lord, making the journey by different routes, and I’m glad that the paths sometimes cross.

    • #15
    • December 22, 2018, at 2:06 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. danok1 Inactive

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    As an evil protestant, I still can’t around the whole graven image side of things. It just seems wrong to be showing veneration to an object. When Catholics do Eucharistic adoration, I want to run screaming from the room.

    Just curious, are all those “saint candles” or “Mary candles” I see in the Hispanic section of my grocery store like icons?

    It’s the making of graven images to be worshipped as a deity that is prohibited. God Himself commands certain images to be made, Moses’ serpent, for example. And Catholics and the Orthodox do NOT venerate the object – they venerate the person depicted.

    In the case of the Eucharist, since we believe, along with the Orthodox, that the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (though the Orthodox do not use the term “transubstantiation”. Skip could clarify this more than I am able to). So we’re not adoring bread and wine, we’re adoring Our Lord. That is, in fact, what most Christians, past and present, believe, as even some Protestant sects believe something similar.

    I believe that we Orthodox use “transubstantiation” to merely refer to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not to how the bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Christ. That is a Mystery.

    • #16
    • December 22, 2018, at 2:51 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    As an evil protestant, I still can’t around the whole graven image side of things. It just seems wrong to be showing veneration to an object. When Catholics do Eucharistic adoration, I want to run screaming from the room.

    Just curious, are all those “saint candles” or “Mary candles” I see in the Hispanic section of my grocery store like icons?

    Heh. I understand the reaction, it’s a bit of a culture shock. Can’t say about the saint candles as that’s strictly Catholic, so maybe someone else would take that up here.

    I only lightly touched on this in the OP, but it took over 800 years to work out what constituted a forbidden graven image or not, with the real major clashes occurring from the late 600s through the mid 800s, and even then skirmishes around the subject for at least another generation. Of course other arguments taking iconography into other directions have flared up again in different ways, while the Protestant Reformations (the plural is deliberate to distinguish them because they differed greatly between regions and reasons) brought out their own assorted iconoclasms (the Anglican one being astoundingly destructive, the ones in Germany and elsewhere varying quite a bit).

    Here are some of the main arguments in favor of iconography:

    1. The way the 2nd Commandment is interpreted or translated is important, including its context. If you want to get really technical, it should translate as “Don’t make any statuary that people would worship” or “Don’t make untrue images”. Remember that the stories of Jacob’s wives include accounts mentioning household “gods” – that’s a reference to the idols that many families would keep in little shrines, a practice common also in Graeco-Roman times. Further, the gods depicted in these idols are all false – they do not exist and have no power. Thus the commandment is a prohibition on making such objects, be they household gods or big golden calves.
    2. If the 2nd commandment is to be understood as a specific prohibition of a well-known practice, that does seem borne out in the some of the instructions for how the Tabernacle and Ark were to be constructed, and how Solomon’s Temple later would be too. The Ark itself has cherubim figures on it. Cherubim are embroidered in the Tabernacle cloths, or carved into the Temple later on. The Temple itself, and later synagogues frequently had frescos or mosaics of scenes of nature, and sometimes biblical stories (archaeology has borne this out), so it would appear that this understanding of the commandment would be the correct one.
    3. Icons are not depicting anything (apart from Christ) that is to be worshipped (worship and veneration not being the same things), nor are they objects in and of themselves containing any power (pagan statuary, by contrast, was very much seen as a way of controlling and manipulating or propitiating the gods). Any veneration shown to them is not shown to the paint and wood, but to the prototype (i.e. the person depicted) – much as you’d have photographs around of dear friends and family. The icons themselves are not to be worshipped, and as one saint said “If you join two beams together into a cross, I will venerate the cross, but if you separate them I’ll use them for firewood”.
    4. Icons must depict reality and real people. Of course the term “reality” must be qualified in that here it means spiritual reality, which for the saints means depicting them as they are in Christ – this is why they are stylized and given a halo or nimbus representing the uncreated light of God shining through them. In the case of events, this spiritual reality is the truth of both of what happened at the even, and its meaning.

    Like I said, though, this has been an argument that goes back a long time. Even with what I have detailed in this response, these points are themselves secondary to the main one, which is that depicting Christ is, by its very nature, an affirmation of His Incarnation. It’s a way of saying “Yes, he really exists, and he really took on human flesh.” One of the main arguments against the iconoclasts time and again was that by smashing all depictions (the correct along with the incorrect – and boy but the misuse of icons could be an essay all its own because there are some painfully misused and misbegotten ones out there), the iconoclasts were in effect denying an affirmation that Christ was incarnate.

    I’ve been overlong on this response, but I have a bit more to add below.

    • #17
    • December 22, 2018, at 3:00 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    (cont from 17) Here we have a portrait that I have seen I cannot say how many different times and places over the years. Most recently I saw it in the office of a Protestant pastor, and either it or a close variant in the foyer of a different large Protestant church. Mind you, the pastor and church both would say quite emphatically that Orthodox and Catholic imagery was borderline idolatry. And yet they had this portrait. Why?

    Or consider this one, of which my maternal grandmother had 2 copies, and one hung at the foot of a bed in an attic bedroom (I’d swear the eyes would follow you across the room at night, it was unnerving!):

    My grandmother was, to put it kindly, unfriendly towards Catholicism. And still, she also had this over her front-room fireplace for all to see:

    We’re visual creatures. We cannot help ourselves, it seems. We try to tell our stories and reveal our truths through images of all kinds. Just a quick search also turned up these, which I would say are going to be found solely in Protestant contexts, their beholders not likely seeing anything amiss:

    And I would add, whether we paint with, well, paint, or with sound, or even with words, we are still using created things to represent other things, for even words on paper are stand-ins for the objects or ideas themselves, always imperfect and falling short of the reality.

    • #18
    • December 22, 2018, at 3:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    One final thought is, of all things, the illustrated Bibles we give to our kids. If there is a danger in images (and there certainly can be!), why do we use these when teaching our children?

     

    • #19
    • December 22, 2018, at 3:15 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    If I recall correctly, Skip, in that first portrait of Christ, the Host and Chalice are hidden – yet highlighted – by the artist.

    • #20
    • December 22, 2018, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    If I recall correctly, Skip, in that first portrait of Christ, the Host and Chalice are hidden – yet highlighted – by the artist.

    Neat! I did not know much about the portrait.

    • #21
    • December 22, 2018, at 3:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    @skipsul – Re: Jesus pictures

    I think the idea is that iconoblasts (? osteoblast is opposite osteoclast) are confusing the icon with the person it represents. The way icons are venerated might have something to do with that:

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it. Nor would I feel that talking to my mom in front of the picture is more likely to be heard. It’s like the famous Magritte painting – This is not my mom, that icon is not Jesus Christ.

    Perhaps it has some cultural elements – our modern culture is so saturated with images that they don’t have the same power they might have had in the past.

     

    Transubstantiation is an entirely separate issue. Let me put it this way – if unleavened bread and wine appeared to Mary and the disciples instead of the exalted form of Jesus Christ, would they believe that it was their Lord? I believe in the Real Presence, just not the full transubstantiation.

    • #22
    • December 22, 2018, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Painter Jean Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    As an evil protestant, I still can’t around the whole graven image side of things. It just seems wrong to be showing veneration to an object. When Catholics do Eucharistic adoration, I want to run screaming from the room.

    Just curious, are all those “saint candles” or “Mary candles” I see in the Hispanic section of my grocery store like icons?

    It’s the making of graven images to be worshipped as a deity that is prohibited. God Himself commands certain images to be made, Moses’ serpent, for example. And Catholics and the Orthodox do NOT venerate the object – they venerate the person depicted.

    In the case of the Eucharist, since we believe, along with the Orthodox, that the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (though the Orthodox do not use the term “transubstantiation”. Skip could clarify this more than I am able to). So we’re not adoring bread and wine, we’re adoring Our Lord. That is, in fact, what most Christians, past and present, believe, as even some Protestant sects believe something similar.

    I believe that we Orthodox use “transubstantiation” to merely refer to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not to how the bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Christ. That is a Mystery.

    Yes, that was my understanding of the Orthodox position – that it is a Mystery. We Catholics also refer to Mysteries, and even say “The Mystery of the Eucharist”, but I think we’re using the term in a slightly different way.

    • #23
    • December 22, 2018, at 5:10 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Painter Jean Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    If I recall correctly, Skip, in that first portrait of Christ, the Host and Chalice are hidden – yet highlighted – by the artist.

    Hey, Nanda – I am so glad you pointed that out! I have seen that image a gazillion times over the years, but never spotted the chalice and host. Thank you!

    • #24
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Painter Jean Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    @skipsul – Re: Jesus pictures

    I think the idea is that iconoblasts (? osteoblast is opposite osteoclast) are confusing the icon with the person it represents. The way icons are venerated might have something to do with that:

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it.

    Yeah, but that’s cuz you’re a guy. I have certainly kissed the photo of my late Mom many times. And I don’t think it has anything to do with being Catholic.

    Nor would I feel that talking to my mom in front of the picture is more likely to be heard.

    No, nor would I. Nor would I think that Jesus or a saint is more likely to hear my prayer if I’m praying in front of an image of them. No, it simply helps my focus and involves another one of my senses – sight – as an aid to prayer.

    • #25
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Painter Jean Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

     

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it.

    Also, though I said earlier that of course you wouldn’t kiss a photo of your Mom because you were a guy, it’s also likely got a cultural element to it: My brother-in-law is Italian, and he is demonstrative in a perfectly stereotypical Italian way – I can easily see him kissing photos of loved ones. Likewise with my sentimental Irish relatives in my family, male or female. On the other hand, those Scandinavians – forget about it. No kiss for you.

    • #26
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:17 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I think the idea is that iconoblasts (? osteoblast is opposite osteoclast) are confusing the icon with the person it represents. The way icons are venerated might have something to do with that:

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it. Nor would I feel that talking to my mom in front of the picture is more likely to be heard. It’s like the famous Magritte painting – This is not my mom, that icon is not Jesus Christ.

    Perhaps it has some cultural elements – our modern culture is so saturated with images that they don’t have the same power they might have had in the past.

    “Iconodules” is the word usually used (I don’t decide on these things, I just reports ’em).

    Sure, some of it is definitely cultural. When I first visited an Orthodox monastery and was being introduced to the monks, most were American by birth and just shook hands or bowed. But one was Greek, and he gave me 1, 2, 3 kisses on the cheeks. Many others do more or less likewise. As @jamesofengland is fond of pointing out, is people really wanted to follow Paul’s injunctions on Christian living to the absolute letter, we’d all be greeting each other with a kiss. When we receive a blessing from our priest, we kiss his hand. Other times too. As one priest joked, “The Orthodox are apt to kiss anything not nailed down, and some things that are.” Our handshakes with each other, no matter how friendly and firm, do tend to come across as a bit diffident by comparison.

    One other note regarding icons – keep in mind one significant difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the one hand, and many Protestant denominations on the other hand (and this was something that came up recently on @amyschley ‘s post on saints): Are those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, and thus alive in Christ, actually still able to interact with us or not? The Orthodox and Catholic position is that they are, that the “great cloud of witnesses” (among other texts) referred to in scripture speaks to that. In that respect, kissing and venerating an icon is the next best thing to greeting them in the flesh, since they’re about us anyway.

    • #27
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:26 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

     

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it.

    Also, though I said earlier that of course you wouldn’t kiss a photo of your Mom because you were a guy, it’s also likely got a cultural element to it: My brother-in-law is Italian, and he is demonstrative in a perfectly stereotypical Italian way – I can easily see him kissing photos of loved ones. Likewise with my sentimental Irish relatives in my family, male or female. On the other hand, those Scandinavians – forget about it. No kiss for you.

    My Swedish grandmother would kiss all of us on the cheek, but just once, and that would be about as affectionate as she would get.

    • #28
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:28 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it.

    Also, though I said earlier that of course you wouldn’t kiss a photo of your Mom because you were a guy, it’s also likely got a cultural element to it: My brother-in-law is Italian, and he is demonstrative in a perfectly stereotypical Italian way – I can easily see him kissing photos of loved ones. Likewise with my sentimental Irish relatives in my family, male or female. On the other hand, those Scandinavians – forget about it. No kiss for you.

    My Swedish grandmother would kiss all of us on the cheek, but just once, and that would be about as affectionate as she would get.

    I had one of those, too, Skip; and, you’re right…My German Catholic Gram, on the other hand, would cover you in kisses and floury hugs (if you arrived while she was prepping something for baking).

    • #29
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Painter Jean Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    If my parents were hugging / kissing a photo of me, it would seem odd. If I took out a photo of my mom, a tear might come to my eye but I would not kiss it or demonstrate affection to it.

    Also, though I said earlier that of course you wouldn’t kiss a photo of your Mom because you were a guy, it’s also likely got a cultural element to it: My brother-in-law is Italian, and he is demonstrative in a perfectly stereotypical Italian way – I can easily see him kissing photos of loved ones. Likewise with my sentimental Irish relatives in my family, male or female. On the other hand, those Scandinavians – forget about it. No kiss for you.

    My Swedish grandmother would kiss all of us on the cheek, but just once, and that would be about as affectionate as she would get.

    I had one of those, too, Skip; and, you’re right…My German Catholic Gram, on the other hand, would cover you in kisses and floury hugs (if you arrived while she was prepping something for baking).

    Oh heavens, Nanda, you just reminded me of my German Gramma. Gramma lived far away in California, so I only met her a few times when I was a little girl before she died, but that was my impression too – kisses and flour! 

    • #30
    • December 22, 2018, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
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