St. Theodosia of Constantinople and murder

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

  1. Moses

    Moses Member

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    Stalwart, I do not mean to start a flame war. I'm a guest on this forum, and I also have no desire for Anglicans to Byzantinize themselves, just as I wouldn't want to see the Byzantine rite Anglicized.
     
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  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I actually really appreciate these conversations which we're having. It's unfortunately become a polemical subject, so people rarely talk about it across divisional lines, which is too bad. That we are able to do so is a great service, to me at least, because it helps me understand how others see the matter. If you'd rather not continue, I can understand also! Blessings, brother.
     
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  3. Moses

    Moses Member

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    I am happy to continue, I could just see things devolving because I understand your position slightly less with each post, and the position you seem to be arguing against is not the one held to by the Orthodox Church either.

    I suppose I should restart by explaining our understanding as best as I can:

    Certain things represent other things; in the Orthodox Church, we call these icons. For example, we call the Ark of the Covenant an icon of the Mary, since God dwelt in the Ark just as he would later dwell in Mary’s womb. Perhaps most significantly, God made man as an icon of himself.

    Iconography is inescapable. Everything we build shows something about what we believe. Even a strictly iconoclastic church with bare walls and no cross at the altar is an icon reflecting the beliefs of those who worship there.

    In the Orthodox Church, we paint icons of holy things. Some have obvious doctrinal significance; for example, the empty cross represents Christ’s triumph over death. Others remind us of our departed brethren.

    An icon of a holy thing must be venerated – that is, if we love what is holy we will treat its icon differently than something ordinary or profane. I can eat a BLT because pigs, lettuce, and wheat aren’t made in the image and likeness of God. But I can’t eat a person; I am supposed to treat my fellow man as if he is Christ.

    On a US military base, every morning at 8 the national ensign is raised. It’s just a piece of cloth; by itself it is meaningless. But it represents something significant; the belief that God bestowed on man certain unalienable rights, and those who fought and died for that idea. And so each and every time the flag is raised, those present stand at attention and salute by touching their right hands to their hats. This is not the One True Way to venerate a flag, but custom in the American military dictates that this is how it’s done.

    If I saw someone trampling an American flag, I’d be disgusted. If I saw someone trample the flag of the Third Reich, I wouldn’t be. One is an icon of something venerable, the other an icon of something profane. This is not just a thing we’re taught by religion; it’s something inborn in us. People disrespect or destroy icons of what they hate. Before everyone kept their photos digitally, they used to rip apart pictures of their ex after a breakup. Lately in the US, statues of Confederate generals have been taken down due to their involvement in slavery.

    This inborn understanding of iconography is so deep in us that there is no mistaking iconoclasm for an act of love. No one tore down a state of Lee because they thought they’d love him more if they couldn’t see his icon. Nobody threw her ex’s photos in the garbage in order to miss him more.

    When we do love something, we venerate its icon. As Christians, we give to those in need because they are made in the image and likeness of God; no one would disrespect a beggar out of love for Jesus. In our homes, we display flags, crosses, paintings of saints, photos of family, etc. and we don’t treat them as if they were simply pieces of cloth or wood or paper. We treat them specially out of love for what they represent.

    I don’t know any other way of dealing with icons; but if you have a different worldview I am curious to learn.
     
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  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    As you’ll see below, there are significant linguistic obstacles between our mutual understandings. It really turns out to be a question of language, not theology. Clarifying such things would normally be impossible in a more polemical context, so with us here this is a real opportunity.

    Okay, since I’ve heard versions of this stated from others, I can take it as a competent apologia for icons coming from a standpoint of Greek Christianity (broadly considered).

    Here is my answer: throughout your lengthy explanation, where you were using the word “icon” I caught myself thinking that other English words were a better, more natural fit. Maybe in Greek it’s different with “eikona”, but in English there exist, and are available for use, at least three distinct words which get meshed within your one “icon”:
    1. symbol, something which stands for something else.
    2. representation or image, something which depicts something else.
    3. icon, a representation which is accorded piety and devotion.

    These are the English meanings for those words. Perhaps it’s different in Greek, with “eikona”, but it would be a disservice to collapse the three words into one when all three were available among English-speaking Christians.

    Applying these definitions to your examples then, a US flag is a symbol of America, not a representation, or an icon. Symbols are socially conditioned, and have no intrinsic meaning. To an Australian Aboriginal, a US flag may be a meaningless piece of cloth, if unaware of its social / symbolic connotations.

    On the other hand, man is a representation or image of God, not a symbol, or an icon. There’s an intrinsic connection between the image of man and the image of God, making it more than a symbol; and yet it’s not an icon, because it does not receive piety or devotion. It would simply be ungrammatical to say that “man is an icon of God”, when there is available a more grammatical and precise expression, “man is a representation or image of God”.

    Finally, for icons being “a symbol or representation which is accorded piety and devotion”:
    -for example if people indifferently walked past an icon of St George and never once gave it a religious thought, then it would revert back to being only a representation of St George. It’s the presence of devotion which specifically turns a representation into an icon. Likewise if something passed for millennia as a simple representation/image, and suddenly by some person was accorded piety and devotion, then it would become an icon (at least for that person).

    Do you agree that these are the most natural and commonly accepted meanings for those words in the English language?
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
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  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    This in an interesting development in the discussion. I am wondering if perhaps the word "icon," rather than differentiating between "icon" and "image" and "representation," is in common usage among the Orthodox because of the largely Greek heritage of the group (I am guessing that there are more Greek Orthodox than Russian, Oriental, etc. Orthodox). If the Greeks only have the one Greek word, "eikona," to apply to all of the above, maybe it's just a matter of habit and culture that has produced this way of referring to things in English?
     
  6. Moses

    Moses Member

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    I wouldn’t, at least not for the word icon. Most commonly in English, it’s either a picture for a computer application or a celebrity who personifies a particular decade. But even Merriam Webster’s dictionary includes both image and symbol in its definition of icon.

    In a discussion of theology, to avoid confusion I will naturally use the word the way my Church uses it. As you noted this goes back to even before the resurrection; Genesis 1:27 in the LXX tells us that man is the εἰκόνα Θεοῦ - the icon of God. It’s not an accident that this is the same word we choose for our Church art. Greek isn’t lacking in vocabulary; we use the same word because we’re describing different examples of the same phenomenon. To limit the definition of icon to objects of religious devotion is to separate the paintings from their proper context and turn them into something they’re not. I will try to explain.

    The proper context for religious paintings is the concept of iconography (images and symbols) used in the scriptures, present in creation, and seemingly written in the human heart (the American Left didn’t need an Orthodox person to explain iconography to them in order to tear down statues of Jefferson Davis and paint pictures of George Floyd). If we define icon in a way that excludes the entire worldview and theology that gives rise to Church art, then we’re trying to separate religion from faith, orthodoxy from orthopraxy.

    As to turning painted icons into something they’re not: holy icons are objects of veneration rather than devotion. Going back to the example of the flag, a soldier venerates the flag but devotes himself to his country. And we venerate holy icons because they’re holy icons, not vice versa. A beggar does not become an icon of God because a Christian feeds him dinner. Rather, the Christian helps at the soup kitchen because the beggar is an icon of God. It is the same way with a painted icon; we venerate a painting of Christ because it is his icon; it does not become an icon because we venerate it.

    (It’s possible that I’m misunderstanding what you mean by devotion. Like piety, it’s a word I only associate with RCs in a religious context and not one we use much.)

    Most painted icons won’t even be outwardly venerated. At Church, the icon of the feast or the Sunday is placed on a stand before the liturgy, and most people come and kiss it before hand. After the liturgy, the priest holds a cross while most people come to kiss it. And during the agape meal on feasts we greet one another with a holy kiss, as images of Christ. We do not outwardly show our veneration for the overwhelming majority of the icons in the Church, but they are still icons and we still venerate them.
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Okay let's try this another way. My contention is that you are collapsing 3 different words into 1, thus violating their grammatical usage. Take 3 sample cases:
    1. a US flag;
    2. man vis-a-vis-God;
    3. a Byzantine painting of St. George.

    I would argue that these 3 things are essentially different from each other, and thus deserve 3 different words:
    1. symbol
    2. depiction
    3. icon

    You would argue that all 3 are essentially the same thing, and thus are correctly described by just 1 word:
    1. icon
    2. icon
    3. icon

    Can you validate how you're using the English language in these cases? For instance, with the US flag, can you provide common everyday uses, from newspapers and such, which refer to US flags or any flags for that matter, as icons?

    Similarly for man vis-a-vis God, I'd argue that man is an 'image of God', while you're arguing that man is an 'icon of God'. Here we have an easy reference point, namely the countless English bibles. Here I have for you thirty-nine different English translations of Genesis 1:27, from the historic ones like KJV to the modern ones; even those claiming to be absolutely literal; Reformational as well as Roman Catholic, they're all here:
    https://biblehub.com/parallel/genesis/1-27.htm

    Please let me know if you find even one of these thirty-nine translations that renders Genesis 1:27 as man being the 'icon of God'.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2021
  8. Moses

    Moses Member

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    Not three separate categories, but three subcategories of iconography.

    Certainly. Here is a recent example, from a newspaper, about flags: https://www.wtva.com/content/news/M...ze-new-flag-without-rebel-icon-573534851.html

    Since I was attempting to explain an Orthodox theological concept, I was of course using the word in its ecclesiastical sense. But it's everyday English use is largely the same. A quick search on Google news brought up a plethora of examples, including the one above.

    None of them do, as I believe you already figured out. I'm fine with saying image instead of icon; among English speaking Orthodox we say "the holy images" interchangeably with "the holy icons." Like the Bible, the Seventh Ecumenical Council which defended icons (here) also uses the term image when translated into English.

    I am most interested in, rather than further arguing over definitions, hearing the Anglican position on iconography and church art.
     
  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I'd be willing to bet a decent sum that the Anglicans utilize the word "icon" differently than the way the Orthodox utilize it, so an understanding of the "Anglican position on iconography" will necessitate usage of the word "icon" differently than the Orthodox use it.

    What it comes down to is the need to use a word with its most prevalent meaning for the sake of efficient communication. Not that this is done to denigrate or disregard the meaning you've been accustomed to, but rather to enhance comprehension in both directions.
     
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  10. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Exactly right. If we mean different things by the same word, then we can’t use that word to communicate with one another.

    So @Moses I hope you’re seeing that the grief I’m giving you over the word is worthwhile, because it shows that Anglicans (at least myself and Rexlion) have an unbridgeable gulf from you in understanding the meaning of “icon”. And thus, when you approach to speak to another Anglican, you should feel some anxiety that they literally won’t understand what you’d be trying to say. Similarly in any ecumenical talks between Anglicans and EO, if this language gap is left untended, then massive misunderstandings will occur.

    The only way to cross that gap is for both sides assign the same meaning to the word. And since the discussion (in this case) is being had in English, it is charitable to defer to the English (anglican) meanings and uses here.
     
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  11. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    wait..
    so if people are icons of God, then why do we not bow to those we see around us?.. Or why don't we venerate people upon the altar, in the way that the images of saints are? I am sorry to be butting into your all's discussion, but it occurred to me to ask this
     
  12. Moses

    Moses Member

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    In the Orthodox Church we do. For example, before consecrating the Eucharist the priest stands in front of the royal doors and bows to the congregation asking for forgiveness, then the congregation bows back. I think it's inspired by Matt. 5:23-24. We also greet one another with kisses, especially on feasts.
     
  13. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    But "why don't we venerate people upon the altar, in the way that the images of saints are?"
     
  14. Moses

    Moses Member

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    If my above answer didn't answer your question, then perhaps you could clarify what you're asking?
     
  15. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hmm..

    this is what you mean, right--
    these don't seem to be the same as venerating a person on an altar, so my question still stands, why don't we venerate people literally on an altar, in a way that a painted icon might be.. I guess I am trying to understand your theology of icons, because it seems that you say that they are all the same (human, painted or whatever)
     
  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    All this kind of 'religious' stuff seems to me, (thick as I may be), to be epitomised by the metaphor of a beautiful painting that is so encrusted with dirt and old varnish that it is hardly discernable anymore as the beautiful coloured painting that it once was, when first painted by the master.

    I thought the reformation was equavalent to a painting being restored, but it doesn't seem to have got back to the original paint yet and the frame it's in is hideous.
    .