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Author Topic: The Lord, with Wings?!
daniel
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Yes, and also the Tree of Life. The house behind the figure on the left represents the House of God, the Temple, and the mountain behind the figure on the right is symbolic of the Mountain of God, the spiritual heights...

It should be noted that the interpretation I have given, while almost universal, has exceptions. Paul Evdokimov, in his book The Art of the Icon: a Theology of Beauty says that the figure on the left is Christ, and he notes an early commentator, a friend of St Andrei, to this end. Against that opinion, decidedly a minority one, is the language of the icon, the colors of the central figure, and the earlier versions of the Hospitality icon, where the central figure had a cross on His halo.

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daniel

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John_Curran
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Interesting, Daniel. I have been told the tree behind the center Figure represents the Cross, and thus that it is the Christ seated in the middle.
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daniel
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The best study of the Trinity icon is The Rublev Trinity by the Swiss Benedictine hermit Father Gabriel Bunge. He explores the history of the icon of the Hospitality of Abraham, and the different understandings of it through the ages. It was originally seen as three angels, then the Lord and two angels, and the early versions had the central figure with the cross on His halo to indicate it was Christ, and the figures of Abraham and Sarah. St Andrei Rublev eliminated these latter and the cross- though from the clothing and gestures this is obviously a representation of the Son- and developed the image as a profound meditation on the Trinity. But it is obviously not a "portrait" of the inconceivable...

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daniel

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John_Curran
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Theron, before posting, I had indeed turned to Genesis 18, and I confess to being very confused by the use of "the Lord" and the "three men", interchangably. That must then, refer to the Trinity. One might think the author of Genesis (Moses?) would have had some commentary on that thought.

Not disagreeing with you, just interested in understanding also!

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Theron
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Well, that would be a good explanation, except the Scripture says in Genesis 18:

18The Lord appeared to Abraham* by the oaks* of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ (New Revised Standard Version).

Which says in very clear terms that the Lord appeared to Abraham. Not messengers of the Lord, the Lord.

Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to understand the theology and the canon.

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John_Curran
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Excellent points, Theron.

But, isn't the Trinity 'represented' by angels in the Rublev icon, not actually 'portrayed'? Which refers back nicely to the Old Testament story.

I'm okay with that icon. The 'Holy Silence' bothers me somewhat, with Christ depicted in a sort of feminine way; He was Incarnate as a Man, so that seems inappropriate...

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Theron
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And yet one of the most respected iconographagers of all time, Andrei Rublev, wrote perhaps the most venerated icon of all time portraying both God the Father and the Holy Spirit (with wings) and Christ with wings.

From what I've read, Rublev was not the first to portray the Hospitality at Mamre as the Trinity, he just did it better than anybody else ever did it.

So this is one example of both the Incarnate being portrayed in a canonical icon, and also Christ being portrayed as an angel with wings.

So, what is the canonical interpretation which allows this. I ask because if there is such a rule then other icons can be painted using it.

According to my book, "Icons", from the British Museum, the "traditional" Holy Silence icon is based on a 17th century Russion icon. This icon in turn is based on an illustration from an illuminated scripture.

And in this instance, the McNichols icon is pretty close to the Russian original. It's sort of unusual in that his fugure is seated instead of standing. McNichols' version is not the worst I've seen.

My interest in the icon comes from my lack of knowledge of both Hagia Sofia and Hagia Hesychia. I'm interested in the theology and tradition behind both.

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Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by daniel:
.... though I do think portraying Christ as Holy Wisdom is more than "types and shadows".

What you think, Daniel, what your impressions are, on this image, are quite off the mark, I'm afraid. On several occasions you have asked for specific canons prohibiting certain images. You have also often referred to Ouspensky as an authority in whom you place great stock (and rightly so). Well, my friend, here are examples of both:

From Ouspensky, his commentary on Canon 82 (bolded sections are my emphasis):

The first sentence of the canon explains the situation existing at that time. It speaks of St. John the Baptist (the "Precursor") pointing out Christ, who is represented as a lamb. We know that the realistic image of Christ, His adequate portrait, existed from the beginning, and it is this portrait which is the true witness of His incarnation. In addition, there were also larger cycles representing subjects from the Old and New Testaments, particularly those of our major feasts, where Christ was represented in His human form. And yet symbolic representations replacing the human image of Christ also existed in the seventh century. This attachment to the biblical prefigurations, in particular to the image of the lamb, was particularly widespread in the West. It was necessary, however, to guide the faithful towards the stand adopted by the Church, and this is what Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council does.

Because it is the truth which came through Jesus Christ, it is not a matter of translating a word into images, but of showing the truth itself, the fulfilment of the words. Indeed, when he was speaking of "the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world," it was not a lamb at which St. John the Baptist was pointing but rather Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God who became Man and came to the world to fulfil the law and to offer Himself in sacrifice. It is He who was prefigured by the lamb of the Old Testament. It is this fulfilment, this reality, this truth which had to be shown to everyone. Thus the truth is revealed not only by the word, but it is also shown by the image. The text of the canon implies an absolute denial of all abstractions and of all metaphysical conceptions of religion. Truth has its own image. For it is not an idea or an abstract formula, it is concrete and living, it is a Person, the Person, "crucified under Pontius Pilate." When Pilate asks Christ, "What is truth?" (John 18:38), Christ answers by remaining silent before him. Pilate leaves, without even awaiting an answer, knowing that a whole multitude of answers can be given to this question without one of them being valid. For it is the Church alone which possesses the answer to the question of Pilate. Christ says to His apostles: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). The correct question is not "What is truth?" but rather "Who is the truth?" Truth is a person, and it has an image. This is why the Church not only speaks of the truth, but also shows the truth: the image of Jesus Christ.

The council orders that the symbols of the Old Testament, used in the first centuries of Christianity, be replaced by direct representations of the truth they prefigured. It calls for the unveiling of their meaning. The image contained in the symbols of the Old Testament becomes reality in the incarnation. Since the Word became flesh and lived among us, the image must directly show that which happened in time and became visible, representable and describable.

Thus the ancient symbols are suppressed because a direct image now, exists and, in relation to this direct image, these symbols are belated manifestations of "Jewish immaturity." As long as the wheat was not ripe, their existence was justified, even indispensable, since they contributed to its maturation. But in "the wheat ripe with truth," their role was no longer constructive. They even became a negative force because they reduced the principal importance and role of the direct image. As soon as a direct image is replaced by a symbol, it loses the absolute importance it embodies.

The Fathers and the Christological councils had found clear and precise dogmatic formulas to express, as much as it was possible to do in words, the teaching of the Church on the incarnation of God. But words were not enough: The truth still had to be defended for a long time against those who did not accept it, in spite of the extreme clarity of conciliar decrees and patristic formulas. It was not only necessary to speak the truth, it was also necessary to show it. In the realm of the image, it was also necessary to make a rigorous confession which would stand up against the obscure and confused doctrines which everyone could accept equivocally, but which were not true. It was not a matter of finding a compromise to satisfy everyone, but of clearly confessing the truth, so "that this fulfilment might be seen by all," according to the words of Canon 82.

Thus Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council expresses, for the first time, the teaching of the Church on the icon and simultaneously indicates the possibility of conveying a reflection of the divine glory through the means of art and with the help of some symbolism. It emphasises all the importance of historical reality, acknowledging the realistic image, but only one which is represented in a special way, with the help of a symbolic language that reveals the spiritual reality which only the Orthodox teaching conveys. It considers that the symbols, "the figures and shadows," do not express the fullness of grace, although they are worthy of respect and may correspond to the needs of a given epoch. The iconographic symbol is therefore not completely excluded. But its importance is seen as secondary. Our own contemporary iconography still retains several of these symbols: for example, the three stars on the robe of the Virgin, which denote her virginity before, during and after the nativity, or else a hand descending from the sky to designate the divine presence. But this iconographic symbolism is relegated to its secondary place and never replaces the direct image.

Canon 82 expresses, for the first time, what we call the iconographic canon, i.e. a set criterion for the liturgical quality of an image, just as the "canon of Scripture" establishes the liturgical quality of a text. The iconographic canon is a principle allowing us to judge whether an image is an icon or not. It establishes the conformity of the icon with Holy Scripture and defines what this conformity consists in: the authenticity of the transmission of the divine revelation in historical reality, by means of what we call symbolic realism, and in a way that truly reflects the Kingdom of God.


Canons specifically denouncing the Holy Wisdom images:

A special decree of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church was proclaimed on May 21, 1722. This decree prohibited a whole series of icons which were deemed to be “contrary to nature, to history, and to truth itself”. Included in this list was “…the image of the Wisdom of God in the form of a young girl…”

More recent decrees, such as those issued by the Moscow Patriarchate in May, 1935, and by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in October of the same year, also forbid such portrayals. These decrees were issued in response to the growing popularity of the Sophian heresies promoted by Vladimir Soloviev, and the priests Paul Florensky and Sergei Bulgakov.

[ 04. June 2009, 03:17 AM: Message edited by: Jill ]

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Tom
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Sorry Daniel.

What draws you guys to this image anyway? I still think it odd and confusing. I have had people want to commission it for Sophia's but generally talk them out of it. It kinda weirds me out especially the androgenous nature. A bit like the Russian dog-faced icon...creepy.

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Tom

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daniel
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Christ in Glory is Christ outside of time; it is of Christ in transcendent glory, which has been seen only by prophets...ditto the Last Judgement. Jill sometimes seems to be saying that the icon can only portray historical images, though icons are full of anachronisms and symbols. Which is not to say I have an opinion on the one in question, though I do think portraying Christ as Holy Wisdom is more than "types and shadows".

And Tom, that priest's last name is McNichols, not Nichols, an important distinction to me, Daniel Nichols.

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daniel

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John_Curran
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Hi Daniel, I'd like to venture a guess that those icons are fine, as Christ was in His Transfigured Body on earth...
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daniel
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Jill- What about icons of Christ in Glory? Or images of the Last Judgement? These are of Christ not in time but in Eternity...

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daniel

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Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by John_Curran:
I am not understanding why icons need to be "more" Scripturally sound than...Scripture. If Proverbs, for example, can paint a picture in words, why can this same image not be used in an icon?

Simple. God did not become incarnate during Old Testament times. God could not be depicted pictorially at all until the Incarnation. What did St John of Damascus say again?

Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of the God who can be seen.

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John_Curran
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I am not understanding why icons need to be "more" Scripturally sound than...Scripture. If Proverbs, for example, can paint a picture in words, why can this same image not be used in an icon?

Tom said: "You know, even heretics of old could paint......"

Good point.

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Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by John_Curran:
Theron speaks of Sophia, Wisdom, the Personification of an Aspect of God, as represented in the Holy Silence; in Eastern Orthodoxy, Sophia is more closely linked with the Logos. Not a Person of the Godhead, but personification of an aspect of God, as mentioned in Proverbs.

Iconography is, at its core and essence, a testament and proclamation of the Incarnation of God. God was revealed to us most fully in the person of the incarnate Jesus Christ. It is He, the God-Man, who should be portrayed in icons. To attempt to depict Him as a personification of an attribute of His is false iconography, as it reduces Him to a type and shadow, an incomplete and insufficient entity, a mere idea, not a Person.

Similarly, there are many icons of the Mother of God where the title of the icon is of an attribute of hers, such as Unfading Rose, Quick to Hear, The Breath of All, and other such terms derived from hymnography, particularly the Akathist. In all such cases, and without controversy, she is shown as a woman, bearing the Christ-child, with which we are familiar. Why then, do some insist that Christ can be painted in forms contrary to incarnational revelation?

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