Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I. The Image or Icon of God
a. While man was forbidden to create an image of the invisible God for worship, we must remember that Man was created in the image of God - Adam and Eve are together clearly the Icon of God. As a matter of fact, the Church teaches that all human beings are the icon of God
i. "Then God said, let us make man in our image (icon), after our likeness…so God created man in his own image." (Icon) (Genesis 1:26 and 27)
ii. The Icon of God has been marred however, in that Adam and Eve sinned. Fallen, sinful Man is still in the image of God, but tragically, it is not the original image. In the OT, God is dealing with sinful man prior to the "Fullness of Time" - but when the time comes - Christmas!
iii. The Incarnation – The eternal Mystery of God is realized when God himself makes Himself into a human being, in order to show us the original image and save us so that we can become what we were intended to be. Nearly everything the Church does and says flows from this fact: Christ IS the image of the Father. He is the perfect Icon of God. And God is Human.
1. Christ is the icon of God: "He is the image (icon) of the unseen God." (Col. 1:15)
2. "He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature." (Hebrews 1:3).
3. "Philip said, ‘Lord, let see us the Father and then we shall be satisfied’ To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, let us see the Father." (John 14:8-11)
iv. Affirming the Incarnation – affirming that the God-Man Jesus Christ is the perfect icon of God the Father, is perhaps the primary litmus test of Orthodox Christianity.
1. John 4:2,3 - By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God - this is the spirit of Antichrist…
v. In the Orthodox Church, the Icon is the celebration of the Incarnation and a witness against the Antichrist. In short, to the same degree that God, in the second commandment, emphatically prohibited the Jews from any futile attempt to create a material or visual likeness of Himself, the Orthodox Church, by the Holy Spirit, now encourages the creation, presence and veneration of icons as a celebration and testimony to God's incarnation as material man.
b. This honor is also extended to include the commemoration of His image and likeness in the heroic men and women of the Church, the Saints, the prototypes of His sanctification and holiness unto salvation. St John of Damascus wrote: "If you make an image of Christ, and not of the saints, it is evident that you do not forbid images, but refuse to honour the saints. You are not waging war against images but against the saints themselves." (The Defence of Icons)
-------------- And now for the article from the Orthodox Study Bible:
Many people have been taught that the second of the Ten Commandments prohibits icons. However, if correct, all artistic representations of anything would be forbidden. The Lord Himself in the same book of Exodus commanded Moses to make two gold cherubim (angels) "of hammered work," and to place them at each end of the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:17-21). The Lord also stipulated that the ten curtains of the tabernacle be woven with images of cherubim on them (Ex 26:1), and likewise the veil (Ex 26:31).
When King Solomon built the temple, the huge basin, or "sea," was set upon twelve statues of oxen (3Kg 7:13, 30). And upon the ten bases of the sea were cast or engraved "lions, oxen, and cherubim" (3Kg 7:16), as well as palm trees (3Kg 7:22). The Lord bestowed His blessing upon all these artistic representations first by filling the new temple with His Glory (3Kg 8:10, 11), and then by declaring to Solomon, "I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually" (3Kg 9:3).
Perhaps a most striking example of an image made at God's command in the Old Testament is the bronze serpent that God ordered Moses to make and put on a pole in order to protect the Hebrews bitten by the deadly serpents (Nm 21:4-9; see Jn 3:14, 15). Hundreds of years later, when the Israelites were offering incense to this same bronze serpent in a kind of idol worship, King Hezekiah, who "did what was right in the sight of the Lord," had the serpent smashed into pieces (4Kg 18:3, 4).
So it is not the image itself which is faulty or prohibited, but rather its improper use. The prohibition in Exodus 20:4 is not against all artistic representations. Rather, it is against images, whether in human form or not, which would be worshipped as gods and goddesses - "gods of silver, and gods of gold" (Ex 20:23). For the Lord knew that such images would tempt the Hebrews to depart from worshipping Him, the One true God (Ex 20:3-5).
Certainly, before the invisible and limitless Lord God of Israel became incarnate, it was impossible to make an image of Him. However, after God the Son assumed the visible and tangible human body, it was natural and beneficial for the Church to create artistic representations of Him - and of His holy Mother and of the saints and angels - from the earliest times. According to tradition, St. Luke the Evangelist made at least three icons of Christ and His Mother.
Every image, or icon, of Christ has significant theological content. For it proclaims anew the Incarnation of God, who "became flesh" for our salvation (Jn 1:14). Recognized icons of our Savior, prayerfully made, provide us with inspired, trustworthy representations of Him.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in AD 787, condemned the heresy of iconoclasm (the rejection, and even destruction, of icons). These Holy Fathers articulated the critical distinction between the worship reserved for God alone, and the veneration/honor/reverence given to the icons. In addition, this Council declared that "the honor given to the image passes on to that which the image represents."
Through icons, Orthodox Christians are drawn closer to Christ. A hymn sung the first Sunday of Great Lent, which commemorates the restoration of icons in AD 843, declares: "the icons that depict Thy flesh lead us to the desire and love of Thee."
And just as a note to the above article, when they talk of veneration, honor, reverence given to the icons, it reminds me of the flag. We honor the American flag, or the British, or whatever nation's flag we happen to live in. However, we are, really, intending that honor, that respect, for the nation that the flag represents, not the cloth and colors of the flag itself. *However* drop an American flag to the ground. Unless you're surrounded by anarchists, somebody is going to get pissed and dive for that flag. Pick it up and respect it. Why? It's just cloth or plastic or what-have-you. It's the disrespect to what it stands for that they're insulted by.
And one more quote, this from The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware, pg. 271 - 272:
The icons which fill the church serve as a point of meeting between heaven and earth. As each local congregation prays Sunday by Sunday, surrounded by the figures of Christ, the angels, and the saints, these visible images remind the faithful unceasingly of the invisible presence of the whole company of heaven at the Liturgy. The faithful can feel that the walls of the church open out upon eternity, and they are helped to realize that their Liturgy on earth is one and the same with the great Liturgy of heaven. The multitudinous icons express visibly the sense of 'heaven on earth'.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
So, I've been listening to the archived podcasts from Our Life in Christ, which I found through one of Alana's posts. Because I am anal, I started at the beginning, which, aside from the *very* first one, which deals with Mark 2, has been six episodes on icons, and why they're not idolatry and their purpose and use in the life of the Church.
I could *try* to explain everything that was taught in the series, but it'd be a *very* long post, and I'd miss something, and it's just better if you go and listen/read the production notes yourself. The archives are here: Our Life in Christ Archives. The pertinent ones, though you can tell from the titles, are dated September 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and November 7, 2004. They're each 40-50 minutes long, and enjoyable, imho. Plus, in their breaks, you get some very lovely Orthodox music.
Just my brief, rambling impression from it:
God Himself was the first iconographer. Man was created in the image of God - we are an *icon* of Him. Does this mean that God looks like us? Nope. He is invisible, uncreated. So the physicality is not the 'image' of God. It's our souls, our spirits that are made in the image of God. Just as, in an icon, it's not an effort to represent the true to life physical image of the subject. An icon is written to express, in visual, physical terms, the truth of a spiritual reality.
There is only one reality, but, for the most part, we cannot see reality, as it really is, because of the schmutz that covers us. So, we're icons, but we're like old icons, covered in years of dirt and soot and fire damage. But, just as icons have been miraculously restored, so can we, as icons of God be restored. It involves, of course, being in Christ. Being the sword in the fire. Taking on (absorbing) the energies of God, but never, of course, the essence. And *remaining* in the fire. It all ties back to the concept of deification.
That's why, according to the program, icons don't have a light source for the subject. The light emanates from *within* the Saint.
When Christ revealed Himself at the Transfiguration, He was not adding something to Himself, He was merely *opening their eyes* to the true reality that had always been there, but that they had been unable to see.
There is, of course, so much more. But those are some of the, to my mind, more important things that stuck with me.
Edit: Because I keep forgetting to say that I am becoming unaccountably fond of St. John of Damascus
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
5:3 - Seth was begotten from Adam and Eve. This threefold relationship illustrates, to a certain extent, the Holy Trinity. Adam had no human father. He was begotten by no one. Thus, he was unbegotten. Seth was begotten from Adam. Eve was neither unbegotten nor begotten. Instead she proceeded from Adam (2:21). Therefore, Eve and Seth were related to the unbegotten Adam, but each in a unique manner - Eve proceeded from Adam, but Seth was begotten from him. Each person had his or her own distinct and unique properties - unbegotten, begotten and proceeding - but all three possessed the same human nature.
Similarly, the manner in which these three existed images the Holy Trinity. God the Father is Unbegotten; God the Son is Begotten from the Father, and God the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. These distinct and unique properties - unbegotten, begotten, and proceeding - distinguish each of the individual Persons of the Holy Trinity from each other; yet, They are one in nature. (John of Damascus) - Orthodox Study Bible, pg. 10
Okay, so, well all know that Amber doesn't take the entire Bible, word for word literally. Some parts are, some parts aren't. I don't believe that the very beginning, the creation, is literally what happened. I don't think God created woman out of man's rib. I view the Creation story as more myth and allegory, you know? But why the image of woman being created out of man? The above quote makes it make sense. Just quite nice to run into.
The relevant bible passage is Gen. 16: 7 - 13, and, again, the thought comes from the notes:
16:7 - The Lord is the Father, and the Angel is His Son (Hilary of Poitiers). And the prophet Isaiah calls Him "the Angel of Great Counsel" (Is 9:5). "The Son is called Angel because He alone reveals the Father" (Athanasius the Great).
16:8 - The Lord asked Hagar questions, not because He was ignorant, but for Hagar's sake and for ours. After He became Man, He also asked questions in the four Gospels, not because He was ignorant, but for the sake of the immediate listeners and of the faithful. For He is God in the flesh, and therefore, never ignorant of anything (John of Damascus).
16:9 - Since He is God, the Angel Commanded Hagar. She obeyed (v. 15). This Angel is the Word of God.
16:10 - This statement by the Angel could not have been made by a created angel, for only God can say, "I will surely multiply your seed exceedingly, that it may not be counted because of its multitude." No created angel can do this. The Angel is God the Son.
16:11 - The Angel then spoke to Hagar concerning the Father and said, "The Lord has taken notice of your humiliation."
16:13 - Hagar called the Angel who appeared to her both Lord and God. The Church knows Him as the Only-begotten of the Father (Jn 1). As the Father's Only-begotten, He is "true God of true God" (Creed). One meaning of the name God is, 'You are the God who sees me'. The Only-begotten sees everything. So do God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. - OSB, pg. 21
Okay, so, a) never had anyone tell me that the angel in this passage was God. It makes sense, given the notes at the bottom. b) and this is a wacky thought, and I am aware of this, but here it be:
So, God is outside of time. When God the Son became Incarnated, the 'process' was irreversible. The human body was perfected, glorified, and taken up to Heaven. God the Son would, for all eternity, have that body. So, um, when people see the Angel, God the Son, in the Old Testament, could they be seeing the physical form of Jesus? Before He was, in linear time, born? Not that it makes any difference, it's just a wacky, wacky thought that occurred to me. Too much scifi?
Friday, May 15, 2009
*cough* FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOM! *cackles like mad* And now we get to wait and see what the reaction is from the rest of the family, tomorrow morning.
So, um, please ignore the pjs and, you know, general frumpiness of my self.
also, nothing to do with the video, but, Supernatural season finale - so much awesome. So much. Where's my season five already?! And I'm gonna see Angels & Demons on Sunday. Hello Ewan McGregor...I've missed you...
Thursday, May 14, 2009
And also, because I've come back to the idea of wanting to wear hijab again...scarves.
These are the dress, and the two scarves I'm debating over.
Green pashmina style scarf w/brown slacks.
Green pashmina style scarf w/bluejeans.
White scarf w/green detail w/bluejeans.
White scarf w/green detail w/brown slacks.
Any opinions? Do any of them look okay? Should I wear hijab? *wibbles in fashion uncertainty*
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
But it is wise to remember that our enemy lies not only outside us but within. As Solzhenitsyn discovered in the prison camp, we should not simply project evil upon others, but we need to search our own hearts:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through the states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through the human heart - and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of hearts, there remains...an unuprooted small corner of evil. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2 (p. 597)
- The Orthodox Church, p. 171
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Pictures of what might be rain, coming my way.
My mother's flower bed, and then some potted babies that she's waiting to plant. I have *no* idea what any of these are, except for the yellow ones in the bed. They're straw flowers, and they do very well in dry climate. The flowers all curl up when they get wet!
The veggie garden. We have lettuce and radishes, we were supposed to have carrots, but they didn't make it. Cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and corn. The sunflowers got planted up near the front fence, but they didn't make it either. *Someone* who shall remain nameless, but who answers to Dad, forgot that we have rabbits in the yard. The bunnies ate well.
Corn - I assume that the fuzzy bit is what's going to become corn. It's still in the young stage...
Our two strawberry plants....
And the single strawberry that they have thus far produced. :)
Sunday, May 10, 2009
'dei', 'deus' - god - deification - the act of making something into a god - Ancient civilizations deified everything. The weather, animals, their dead rulers. Everything became a god. Deified. So, I think I know what the word 'deification' means. And then I run into it in my readings in The Orthodox Church and in Genesis, in the notes of my Orthodox Study Bible. Hmm...and not in the...'don't do that, for it is idolatry!' sort of way you'd expect...
Deification, according to the glossary at the back of the Bible - "The GRACE of God through which believers grow to become like Him and enjoy intimate COMMUNION with the FATHER through the Son in the HOLY SPIRIT."
There's an article about it on pg. 1692 in the Bible, and it's covered in both The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way, but I haven't read all of the pertinent articles, so I'm really not confident on getting into it too much.
So, I'm just going to quote the last two paragraphs of the article, and go back to pondering a new (to me) definition of an old word:
"Historically, deification has often been illustrated by the example of a sword in the fire. A steel sword is thrust into a hot fire until the sword takes on a red glow. The energy of the fire interpenetrates the sword. The sword never becomes fire, but it picks up the properties of the fire.
By application, the divine energies interpenetrate the human nature of Christ. When we are joined to Christ, our humanity is interpenetrated with the energies of God through Christ's glorified flesh. Nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, we partake of the grace of God - His strength His righteousness, His love - and are enabled to serve Him and glorify Him. Thus we, being human, are being deified."
I'm still not certain exactly what it means...but I find it occupies my thoughts.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I also feel the need to add that, especially in the comments on Lisa's post, there is discussion of methods of committing suicide, and well, I need people to be responsible about their own triggers and issues. Do *not* read if any of this is going to upset you. No one is advocating suicide, but there is frank discussion of it.
So, on a far more serious point than my last post...
Lisa's post on the anniversary of her Grandmother's death brought the topic up, and there was a little, let's call it a kerfuffle over there about whether or not all suicide, in Islam, was automatically a one way ticket to hellfire. Someone seemed to say that it was, others argued against it, a little back and forth. To be honest I'm not sure where the final word came down over there, or even if it has. It *seems* that the majority of opinion over there believes that mental illness, diminished capacity, etc. removes some degree of responsibility/culpability for a persons actions, including suicide. Seeing as how I am not Muslim, it's not of burning importance to me.
What do I think?
Well, suicide is, according to the dictionary - 1) the intentional taking of ones own life, 3) a person who intentionally takes their own life - also known as self-annihilation, self-destruction, self-murder.
I mean, it's a fairly simple term, on the face of it. Suicide is killing ones self. Self-murder. Methods vary, I mean, we're a very creative race. If a thing can be done, a determined person will find a way to do it. Murder, very, very basically, can be defined as the intentional killing of a human being by a human being. In a sense, killing yourself is committing murder, hence the term 'self-murder'. And, murder is an acknowledged evil.
It's condemned in the Bible - Wilful murder was distinguished from accidental homicide, and was invariably visited with capital punishment (Num. 35:16, 18, 21, 31; Lev. 24:17). This law in its principle is founded on the fact of man's having been made in the likeness of God (Gen. 9:5, 6; John 8:44; 1 John 3:12, 15). The Mosaic law prohibited any compensation for murder or the reprieve of the murderer (Ex. 21:12, 14; Deut. 19:11, 13; 2 Sam. 17:25; 20:10). Two witnesses were required in any capital case (Num. 35:19-30; Deut. 17:6-12). If the murderer could not be discovered, the city nearest the scene of the murder was required to make expiation for the crime committed (Deut. 21:1-9). But, I think that the underlying concept for this condemnation was always that the murderer was of sound mind and body. No, the ancients may not have defined it that way, and they really didn't have a very good way of determining who was a psychopath, sociopath, what have you. Their best bet was to kill anyone who was found guilty of murder. They didn't really have a concept of mental illness, as we do today. People were 'possessed'.
Okay, so what does the Catechism say about suicide? I reference the Catechism because I'm Catholic, so your mileage will vary.
2280 - Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for His honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
2281 - Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends the love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
2282 - If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
2283 - We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
Emphasis mine, above. So, I read, from this, that those suffering from a mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia, or of diminished mental capacity for one reason or another (drugged/drunk person jumping from a bridge, comes to mind), is held *less* responsible for their actions than one who is in full control. Also, for example, those who jumped from the Twin Towers. Did they, *technically* take their own lives? I'd say yes. Were they under stresses and strains that no one else understands? Most definitely. They had an untenable choice. Die by fire, smoke, explosion, building collapse, or jump. I cannot imagine what I would do in that situation, and neither can anyone else. Can we justifiably also say that they were murdered? Of course we can. They would never have been in that position but for the actions of the hijackers, who are nothing more than murderers.
Now, how can you tell if a person is diminished at the time they killed themselves? Unless they have a history of suicide attempts, depression, other mental illness, I think it's almost impossible. So, I believe we must make the assumption that all suicides are acting under a certain level of diminished mental responsibility, and therefore condemning them for their manner of death is unkind and unwarranted.
The end point is, as with everyone else, we *do not know* the final state of their soul. And making assumptions just burdens us with the illusion that we do know something that we have no knowledge of.
So, I say, we mourn them like everyone else, we pray for them, and we leave the rest to God. He, as always, knows best.
And, though it may be hard, even impossible, we have to do the best to not condemn ourselves for 'not seeing it', not saying 'just the right thing', not 'getting them help'. No one, on seeing a friend or loved one in pain, does anything but their utmost to help. Unfortunately, sometimes the illness is stronger than us. Sometimes, there are no signs. Sometimes, there's nothing to be done. And we need to forgive ourselves for that. For being helpless, because you have to know that you tried. If you could have saved them, you would have.