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Author Topic: The Forerunner with Wings?
daniel
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Extensive searching reveals no other Orthodox Christians who object to this depiction, at least none I can find. Google and see for yourself.
At any rate, this is the beginning of Holy Week for Catholics, and I shall refrain from argument. Suffice it to say that the burden of proof is on the one(s) holding a novel opinion.

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daniel

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John_Curran
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Clearly, daniel, Jill and Tom have presented better arguments than I could; as you don't trouble to read their postings thoughtfully, I'll refrain from vain attempts to make myself understood.
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daniel
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Clearly , if the best one has to offer is criticism of another's vocabulary, one does not have much to add to the conversation.

You are a curious case, John Curran; only a few weeks ago you made your appearance here, professing ignorance of and interest in iconography, as well as strange ideas about sexual morality. Within this short time you have become well informed enough to hold strong opinions on controversial matters. And a certain obvious animus toward me, who alone challenged the aforementioned strange ideas...

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daniel

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John_Curran
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Daniel, overuse of the word "clearly" does not an argument make.
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daniel
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My dear Jill;
I did not misread your post, and am puzzled as to how you misread mine. I must not write clearly enough. Clearly you meant that the Prophet Elias was the forerunner to the Forerunner. Clearly the Forerunner has a higher place.
And Simeon, while a bridge, was not an ascetic nor the one who was destined to "prepare the way" for the Lord. Clearly he should not be depicted with wings. He did however, ( [Wink] ) hold the Infant like you know who is not supposed to.
It seems to me the strongest case against your argument is praxis , the near universality of this icon, in the most venerable places, the unqualified assent given to it by authoritative iconologists, and the uniqueness of your argument

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daniel

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Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by daniel:
As always, Jill, I appreciate your research and input.
St John, however, is not just another ascetic or prophet. He is not even the "Forerunner of the Forerunner"; he is the Forerunner. His role is unique as the bridge between the Testaments;

My dear Daniel, you have misread my post. I wrote that Prophet Elijah was the "forerunner to the Forerunner". I do write in plain English, please take the time to read my posts carefully, and not rely on your own agenda in interpreting my words.

In addition, regarding a bridge between the Old and New Testaments, the same can be said for Righteous Symeon the God-receiver, who took the infant Messiah in his arms on His presentation to the Temple. The Orthodox hymnography for this major, and profound, feast, makes this quite clear, as does the singing of the Song of Symeon (Nunc Dimittis) at the close of every Orthodox Vespers. I have already provided you with some of the hymnody of the Meeting of the Lord, I can easily provide you with all the liturgical material for this feast.

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John_Curran
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Exactly, the keys are unique to St. Peter: wings would not be unique to St. John the Baptist.
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daniel
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As always, Jill, I appreciate your research and input.
St John, however, is not just another ascetic or prophet. He is not even the "Forerunner of the Forerunner"; he is the Forerunner. His role is unique as the bridge between the Testaments; he is the "messenger" as no other. Why would his iconography not also be unique?
Think of icons of St Peter: he is shown holding the keys given to him by Christ. Subsequent sainted popes do not hold the keys, even if they inherit the authority given Peter. (I know that Orthodox opinion is all over the place regarding the historic role of the bishop of Rome, just as it is all over the place on certain iconographic subjects. I am only using this as an illustration; even in Roman Catholic imagery only Peter is shown with the keys, though RC doctrine holds that all bishops of Rome inherit Peter's primacy).

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daniel

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Jill
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St John the Baptist is indeed referred to liturgically with great frequency as an "earthly angel", as I mentioned earlier. However, he is not the only saint or righteous one who is referred to in such terms. What of St Mary of Egypt? the hymnody to her, both in her vigil service, and in the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, is peppered with such references. What of so many other monastic and ascetic saints, such as St Anthony the Great, who are likewise described? Or of the Old Testament prophets, the messengers of God? Here are selections from the Vigil of Prophet Elijah, the "forerunner of the Forerunner":

From Great Vespers:

At "Lord, I have Cried":
Come, gathering of the orthodox, assembled today in the all-honoured temple of the inspired Prophets, let us sing in psalms a harmonious melody to Him who glorified them, Christ our God, and let us cry out with joy and gladness: Hail, angel on earth and man of heaven, glorious Elijah. Hail, all-honoured Elisha, who received double grace from God. Hail, fervent helpers, defenders and physicians of both souls and bodies of the people which loves Christ. From every hostile assault and calamity, from every kind of danger deliver those who celebrate with faith your festive memorial.


From the Apostikha:
The one hallowed before his conception, the Angel embodied, the mind of fire, the man of heaven, the godlike forerunner of the second coming of Christ. The glorious Elijah, the foundation of the Prophets, has spiritually invited all lovers of festivals to celebrate his godly memory. At his intercessions guard your people, O Christ our God, untroubled from every kind of harm of the trickster.

Troparion of the Feast:
An angel in the flesh and the cornerstone of the prophets,the second forerunner of the coming of Christ, glorious Elijah sent grace from on high to Elisha, to dispel diseases and to cleanse lepers. Therefore, he pours forth healings on those who honor him.

From Matins:

After the readings from the Psalter:
Elias, blessed visionary of God, with one voice we proclaim you as all-radiant beacon, fire-bearing charioteer and angel in the flesh, breathing out zeal for God, routing impiety, rebuking the lawless, and as prince of the Prophets; therefore watch over us.

Canon, ode 6:
Inspired, god-bearing Elijah, you became a figure of godliness and of unsullied life, a husbandman of purity and an image of Angels.

Ode 8:
We know you to have been a vessel that contained the Spirit of God; for you, Elijah, were an angel on earth who breathed the fire of divine zeal, routed impiety, rebuked kings, anointed prophets and cut off the priests of shame with the sword. And so we cry to you: Deliver us from shame to come.

I could repeat this approach with the hymnody of any number of ascetic saints.

In light of this, if it is permissible to paint St John the Baptist with wings, then it would be permissible to paint St Mary of Egypt, St Anthony the Great, Prophet Elijah, and many other monastic and ascetic saints and prophets with wings. Yet history shows that these saints and righteous ones were never portrayed thus. The antiquity of the emergence of icons of a winged Baptist is not enough to justify such a portrayal.

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Theron
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This is what I have found from my research.


http://www.morsink.com/index.php?objectID=989

"Representations of St John the Forerunner as an angel derive from the passage from Isaiah, quoted at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark: ‘Behold, I send my messenger (Greek angelos) before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee’. Orthodox Christians refer to him as the ‘Angel of the Desert’. "

"The earliest representation of the winged Saint John in Byzantine art, painted in 1295, is to be found in the Saint Achilles Church in Arilye in Serbia. In Russian art the image first appears around 1500, in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin at the Ferapontov Monastery."


http://www.stjohnscanberra.org/st_johns_icon

"Now let us consider another icon. John the Baptist 13th century Byzantine icon from the church of Wadi Natrun, Egypt, a rather early example where you can see him quite clearly with wings shown as the Angel of the Desert as in our icon in Canberra and the inscription on the scroll is again identical to the one we have in this church. The use of wings designates the role of a messenger. John the Baptist as Angel of the Desert denotes both the idea of his role as the prodromas – the messenger and also refers to his ascetic life, as referred to in the liturgy as “terrestrial angel and celestial man”. In the Vespers for 29th August [this is the feast day commemorating his death] there is a reading from the Canticles of St Germanus of Constantinople in reference to John the Baptist as Angel of the Desert. “How shall we call thee O prophet? Angel, apostle or martyr? Angel for thou has led an incorporeal life. Apostle, for thou hast taught nations. Martyr, for thou hast been beheaded for the Christ”."

So, it appears there is a long Orthodox tradition of portraying the Forerunner with wings because Scripture describes him as a messenger (angelos) and because of the ascetic life he lived in the desert.

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Tom
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Thanks for your input.

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Tom

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daniel
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Samples of works, including the presence of one such work on the iconostastis of the most ancient Orthodox monastery in the world, almost universal usage in the Orthodox world, notes by the most noted authority on iconography in the world; one would think that is plenty of evidence.
And no one has said that it is improper to portray him without wings- I have done so myself-any more than anyone has said that it is improper to portray a particular saint with or without a scroll, or the Holy Archangel Michael with or without a sword. There can be varying motifs for particular persons.
You imply that you don't understand what the big deal is: as I am not Orthodox, but Byzantine Catholic, why should I care what the proper Orthodox way to paint a particular icon is? But it is important; I know of too many self-styled iconographers who believe- as you have falsely accused me- that "anything goes" and they have given scandal. Indeed, many Orthodox do not think that Catholics have any business painting icons because, partly at least, of these scandalous so-called iconographers. I want to do it right. But as you have noted, it isn't easy to determine, sometimes, what is or is not right (and I speak here not of obviously aberrant images, like those of Lentz and McNichols, but of icons widely painted by Orthodox iconographers). In such questions, it seems, what is authoritative is what is convincing. No offense, but sometimes when questioned some people start getting accusatory and defensive. I mean really, Tom, how much authority can I grant you? I mean good heavens, man, I don't even know your last name. And I have never even seen your work, that I can recall.
I really would hate to forego these discussions; they sharpen my mind and illuminate, at least until they descend to the personal. I consider myself a novice, trying to be a faithful iconographer. This is one of the few places to discuss such things. I would appreciate it if we could all assume good faith unless proven otherwise, and "proven" doesn't mean "disagree with me".

I hope none of this offends; I really do value this site, and my seeking is sincere.

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daniel

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Tom
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I am sorry of you feel that you, personally, have been unduly critized. I did not get that from any of the posts but apparently, you did.

I also have no expectations that anyone posting would feel compelled to pay homage to the "Orthodox authority" since in reality there are no specific rules. There are however, compelling arguments pro and con and only the Orthodox are bound to them and even at that, loosely.

So, that being said:

We know iconographers paint this way. No one is looking for samples of work.

Perhaps the point needs clarification.

This is not about who does or does not. This is about whether or not it is correct to do so despite the iconographer or his works.

Do you have anything, besides samples of works, to show that indeed John should be portrayed with wings? Or, if it is incorrect to portray him without wings?

Have a blessed lent.

[ 31. March 2009, 05:49 AM: Message edited by: Tom ]

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Tom

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daniel
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I know I said I wasn't going to post on this topic, but I have discovered that none other than Leonid Ouspensky, who quite literally wrote the book on iconography ("The Meaning of Icons", considered authoritative), saw the icon of the Forerunner with wings as appropriate and Orthodox. See page 106 of that work. I am not sure if this HTTP thing will work, but: books.google.com/books?islon=09383677X

Really, criticizing someone as simply resistant to authoritative Orthodoxy when he does not find your arguments convincing is a bit much, especially when he cites so many well respected Orthodox iconographers and authorities.

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daniel

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daniel
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Yes, it did occur to me that I was getting what I deserved for my remarks...:^(

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daniel

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