St. Theodosia of Constantinople and murder

Discussion in 'Non-Anglican Discussion' started by Chartreux, Jan 1, 2021.

  1. Chartreux

    Chartreux Member

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    I have heard the account of St. Theodosia's 'martyrdom', where she was enraged that some soldier was taking down an icon, and she intentionally shook him off the ladder to his death, killing him. She was later imprisoned and killed, and then declared a 'martyr', when she herself had committed murder. What are we to make of this story? I'd also like to hear more about this from Orthodox and Roman Catholics who understand the importance of this character in their canon of saints. Are we to follow this example? Is it justified? Who would even defend it and is it even taken as truly historical? Let me know, I find it disturbing.
     
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  2. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    It was over the iconoclastic controversy during the reign of Leo of the Byzantine Empire. Leo wanted to get rid of icons in the empire. His policies were eventually ruled heretical so St. Theodosia was seen as a martyrs defending the true faith. She suffered greatly before being killed. I am kinda. Byzantine Empire nut.
     
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  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yeah she is not a saint. The Byzantine iconoclastic party was the remnant of the Church Fathers; there were many of them still including the Emperor and many others. They tried to retain patristic theology, and for a while they succeeded, but the Iconophile party managed to rise up and install an alien piety into the Greek church, where it persists to this day.


    I didn’t know that she had committed the murder, yikes.
     
  4. Moses

    Moses Member

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    I'll go out on a limb and suggest that she probably toppled the ladder, not in an attempt to kill the Islamist, but to prevent him from defacing the image of Christ. And she did so at great personal cost to herself, knowing she was likely to be tortured and killed for it, which she was. I hope I'd have the courage to do the same thing if I were in her shoes.
     
  5. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I see you say that the iconoclastic party was the remnant of the church fathers but when you look at the Copts and Syrians, both out of the imperial fold, and not EO's but OO's they also had icons. Not sure if the use of them is or was different but they are there. Perhaps @Shane R knows more.
     
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    While admittedly I’m no expert on Coptic culture, the icons of theirs I’ve seen were visually indistinguishable from the Eastern Orthodox. Websites like this,

    https://copticmedia.org/icons/

    approvingly cite pro-icon theologians like John of Damascus who were most definitely not Coptic.

    They spread mythology of St Luke being an icon painter, a favorite EO trope. Also the incredible legend of Christ himself painting an icon of his face and sending it to an Eastern king. These are all typical EO tropes.

    Thus it seems that the Copts are culturally identical with the Eastern Orthodox, even if they have minutiae of theological difference. Both are products of a collapsing Roman Empire and the cataclysm of the post-Patristic Christianity.

    Rome and the Latin west are actually better holdouts against the culture of icons. As I’ve posted previously, the Latins sided with the iconoclast party in the 8th century, and the Nicea II was excluded in the West from the lists of councils, until the Popes snuck it in, the 12th century.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
  7. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    The Latins did not side with the iconoclast party. The Pope approved the canons. The Franks initially condemned it and wrote the Libra Carolina against it and sent it to the Pope. The Pope rebuked them and they desisted in their being against it. The Libra Carolina was not reprinted till the reformation. The Franks had a faulty copy of it and the Pope put in place the canons in the 840's.

    The citing of John of Damascus is probably a recent thing. The EO's and the OO's literally would kill each other and persecute each other. There was no way in the year 800 that they would collaborate on anything. By the 840's the Copts had been out of the Roman Empire for 200 years.

    While I have no problem with icons per say in churches as decorations and perhaps aids to devotion I don't venerate them as I see that as a dangerous practice.
     
  8. Moses

    Moses Member

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    The non-Chalcedonians today cite St. John of Damascus in defense of icons because they never had an iconoclastic controversy. Much the same reason I, as an Orthodox, look to Anglican authors for a defense of the episcopate. It was just never controversial in my Church, so we haven't spilled much ink defending it.

    It's also worth pointing out that they venerate icons in the same manner as Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Assyrians: just by treating them respectfully. They aren't explicit about it like the Chalcedonian Orthodox are. Our habit of kissing icons is a direct response to a controversy, sort of like Anglicans not elevating the host in the old BCP mass, or the Roman Catholics adding the second half of the Hail Mary during the counter-Reformation.

    The Byzantine Church did have an iconoclast controversy, because the Byzantine emperors were largely power hungry maniacs who lined up as fast as they could to support any theological idea that would undermine the Christian faith in Christ as God. Since the government has authority from God, if Christ wasn't God then the Church he founded was therefore subordinate to the government. This why they dragged Arianism out for so many centuries; the triumph of the Ecumenical Councils is a miracle that can't be understated.

    The Jews did not know God in the flesh, so they could paint no icons of him. The Christians, on the other hand, had seen and known God incarnate. They could paint God because they had seen him. With the rise of Islam, Mohammedan ideas about iconography spread their way to the Byzantine empire and the Emperors were quick to grasp the implications; they could implicitly deny the incarnation by destroying all the pictures of him.

    And so, like the scum they were, they set about demolishing the icons and murdering anyone who tried to stop them. The orthodox remnant in the Byzantine Church responded by being as explicit as they could about venerating icons. Since they greeted one another with a holy kiss, as images of Christ, they began also to greet the icons with a holy kiss, as images of Christ. And they were tortured and killed for it.

    ---

    The iconoclasm found in some of the pre-Nicene fathers was something quite different; they objected not specifically to religious art but to art of any kind. This position is Biblically indefensible, but the fathers holding to this position were honestly mistaken rather than heretical. They did not try to change or cut off communion with the Christians who had icons, and they certainly didn't take up the sword to destroy Christ's image as the Emperors would later do.
     
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  9. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    "In the Coptic rite not only the whole body participates in worshipping God, but also the creation shares in glorifying the Creator. In other words, the believer, realizing the sanctity of the creation, appears before God offering incense, wood (icons), bread, wine etc. to God, declaring that all creation glorifies God. This concept is in accordance with the words of the "Psalmody": [Praise the Lord from the earth... fire, hail, snow, clouds etc. (Ps. 148)]. Thus the inanimate creatures are not evil, nor do they hinder worship, but are good tools, which the believer can use them to express the sanctity of all creatures."

    "We venerate the icons of saints and put them on the iconstasis (icon-stand). Church walls and doors are hung with icons, also our homes etc., as a sign of our communion with them in the Lord Jesus Christ."
    (Fr. Tadrous Malaty, Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church)
     
  10. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Could we get deeper into this? What are some of the examples that you’re thinking of? I am thinking of St Epiphanius and St Augustine who specifically objected to religious art itself, literally the paintings of Jesus in the former case. It wasn’t in their case a blanket objection to all of art as a whole.
     
  11. Chartreux

    Chartreux Member

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    Are you allowed to keep an icon as a pet? Like, basically, put it in a cage or aquarium or something?
     
  12. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Most people nowadays keep their icons on their device screens, to make the sign of the app.

    :laugh:
     
  13. Moses

    Moses Member

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    I was thinking of certain quotes from David Bercot's Dictionary of Early Christian Belief, where all art is described as bad. Unfortunately I don't have a copy handy right now.

    Looking through Schaff's translation of the pre-Nicene fathers, I can't find any of it. The only one who seems to be anti-image is Tertullian, whose inclusion in a volume of the church fathers is puzzling. When I have Bercot's book again I'll be able clarify.

    The story of St. Epiphanius tearing down an icon is certainly troubling, assuming that -unlike the forgeries that the iconoclasts attributed to him- it's true. But, if he did in fact hold to unbiblical attitudes regarding icons, it's not this but his writing against heresy that we remember him as a saint for.

    What are you referring to with St. Augustine? I haven't come across anything iconoclastic from him.
     
  14. Moses

    Moses Member

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    To the best of my knowledge, animals are not icons of anything. Definitely not icons of the divine in the way that men are.
     
  15. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The issue is iconophobia, not iconoclasm. The Old Testament, New Testament, Church Fathers and Reformational doctrine is most aptly described as iconophobic. Anglicans have never been a party to iconoclasm, and in the Reformation we sought to preserve and put in museums the previously revered images, rather than destroy them as the fanatics were prone to doing.

    Anyway, for Saint Augustine, he had a whole mini-treatise against images, in his Commentary on Psalm 115. I started a thread to discuss it in more detail:
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/st-augustine-against-using-images-in-worship.4153/

    ---

    And while we're at it, a quote from Eusebius. While not a Church Father per se for obvious reasons, he is a Christian whose famous Church History is universally respected, so he gives a good tenor of the whole patristic era.


    Eusebius, "Oration in Praise of Constantine" / "Tricenallian Oration" (335-6 AD)
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2504.htm

    1. And now let us explain the cause for which the incorporeal Word of God assumed this mortal body as a medium of intercourse with man. How, indeed, else than in human form could that Divine and impalpable, that immaterial and invisible Essence manifest itself to those who sought for God in created and earthly objects, unable or unwilling otherwise to discern the Author and Maker of all things?

    2. As a fitting means, therefore, of communication with mankind, he assumed a mortal body, as that with which they were themselves familiar; for like, it is proverbially said, loves its like. To those, then, whose affections were engaged by visible objects, who looked for gods in statues and lifeless images, who imagined the Deity to consist in material and corporeal substance, nay, who conferred on men the title of divinity, the Word of God presented himself in this form.

    3. Hence he procured for himself this body as a thrice-hallowed temple, a sensible habitation of an intellectual power; a noble and most holy form, of far higher worth than any lifeless statue. The material and senseless image, fashioned by base mechanic hands, of brass or iron, of gold or ivory, wood or stone, may be a fitting abode for evil spirits: but that Divine form, wrought by the power of heavenly wisdom, was possessed of life and spiritual being; a form animated by every excellence, the dwelling-place of the Word of God, a holy temple of the holy God.


    ---

    Here is another witness of the era, an orator Nazarius writing the "Panegyric of Constantine" (321)
    -Maxentius is castigated for having destroyed the statues of Emperor Constantine.
    -this is just a natural, rather than a supernatural witness, but still helps us understand the overall tenor of the era. Fits with the arguments from Epiphanius, Eusebius, and Augustine.

    But what did you attain in the end, blind madness? This countenance cannot be effaced. It is impressed on the hearts of every person; it does not shine because it is beautified with wax or falsified with paint, but blossoms through the longing of our spirits. The one and only oblivion of Constantine is the end of the human race. But now your injury will make his patience the more commendable: they will long more keenly for him if no picture represents him. The desires of the spirit are more passionate when they have lost the consolation which the eyes provide. (Panegyrici Latini IV (X) 12.4-5)
     
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  16. Moses

    Moses Member

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    I got my hands on a copy of Bercot; all the anti-art quotes were from Origin and Tertullian.

    Stalwart, your responses leave me confused as to whether or not we disagree at all. I am pretty sure we agree that it is okay to visually depict people and things, including the Christ. Where we disagree, I think, is over veneration - whether or not pictures of holy things should be treated reverently. And although I am under the impression that you are uncomfortable with the term venerate icons, I also can see that you love Christ and I feel almost positive that if the government sent soldiers to tear down your crosses and smash your stained glass windows, that you'd want to stop them.

    Like the Church Fathers you've quoted, the Orthodox today remain vehemently against idolatry. But I struggle to see anything but a superficial connection between the wrongness of worshipping an idol and the supposed wrongness of treating icons with reverence. Worshiping an idol is wrong because the idol is not God - and as St. Augustine points out, is not even an image of God. It's a statue of a fake God. Whether a picture of Christ should be treated with reverence is an entirely different issue.

    The areas where I do think we're in disagreement:
    - I disagree with Nazarius that I will miss someone more if I don't have their picture. Perhaps it was true for him, but it is not the case for me.
    - I don't see the New Testament as iconophobic; it drips with the language of iconography. Marriage is an icon of Christ and the Church. Every human is an icon of the divine. Paul interprets Old Testament stories as actually being about Christ. The concept of one thing representing another is so thoroughly worked into the fabric of scripture that I'm not sure how it could be read in a non iconophile way.
     
  17. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Then we can add them to all the other names cited: Nazarius, Eusebius, St. Augustine, St. Epiphanius, and others, which paint a stark picture of the Christian attitude toward images in the Patristic era. It doesn't matter if you or I find the point made by Nazarius compelling. It shows us how they thought towards religious images. They seemed to strongly believe that religious images were unnecessary for making the object of piety "real" to the worshipper. In fact they seem to claim that adding images dilutes and corrupts the reality of worship, and the object of worship.

    To some up, so far from the patristic era, I have not seen any Fathers advocating for the inclusion of art in worship. Perhaps there were some, since 100% unanimity is rare, but if they existed they appear to be strongly in minority. The majority opinion does not mention images in any connection with worship, which makes sense since the Church came out of the Jewish culture where images were 100% prohibited from worship for thousands of years. The only statements from the Fathers which I've seen so far, are actively alerting people against the dangers of using images in worship. And some go so far as to discard all art altogether, as a precaution.

    So that's the witness of the Early Church on the matter.


    Respectfully, that's an equivocation on the word 'icon'. Saying that man is 'in the image' of God and thus is 'an icon' of God would be a misleading contribution to the conversation. When the word 'icon' is used in these conversations, what meant is an artificial representation of a sacred object or person, which receives piety and serves in worship.
     
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    An "icon" is a physical representation in the sense that it can be gazed upon with the eyes and touched with the hands. The things cited, such as marriage for example, are more appropriately called "types" of Christ who is the "antitype." Things in the Bible that represent or foreshadow other things are not "icons" because they cannot be seen with the eyes or touched with the hands; they can only be understood and visualized in the mind.
     
  19. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yes. To add to that, the item has to be specifically an object of devotion, in order to be considered an icon. If it's just an image of something, then it's not an icon.

    For example in the Old Testament you had many figurative representations, such as the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, but those were not objects of devotion, and thus not 'icons' in how that word is understood.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
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  20. Moses

    Moses Member

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    But nothing we've seen so far from St. Augustine, St. Epiphanius, or Eusebius, has been iconophobic. And I have read all that you've quoted.

    For pagans, who are worshipping false gods whether they build a physical idol or not.

    One has only to look at the churches they built.

    Respectfully, the iconographic tradition of the Church cannot be reduced to just paintings. Icon is just Greek for image. To discuss the iconographic tradition of the Church and throw away everything but the paintings is like saying the theology of the cross is just about two beams of wood.