Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Little Bit On Icons

'We do not make obeisance to the nature of wood, but we revere and do obeisance to Him who was crucified on the Cross...When the two beams of the Cross are joined together I adore the figure because of Christ who was crucified on the Cross, but if the beams are separated, I throw them away and burn them.' - Leontius of Neapolis

'Of old God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among humans, I make an image of the God who can be seen. I do not worship matter but I worship the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material and deigned to dwell in matter, who through matter effected my salvation. I will not cease from worshipping the matter through which my salvation has been effected.' - St. John of Damascus

Iconoclasts, by rejecting all representations of God fail to take full account of the Incarnation. They seem to regard matter as a defilement - they want a religion free from contact with the material world. They lose the sense and understanding that it's not just our soul that must be saved and transfigured but our bodies as well. God, as Incarnated in Christ Jesus, deified the flesh. He redeemed matter. The world, material, is not evil in and of itself.


  1. That's an interesting way to look at it. I liked reading their explanations, and yours.

    But icons aren't rejected because they're material. At least, that's not why everyone rejects them. They are rejected because one of the ten commandments says not to worship graven images, interpreted by many as any image. When you make a representation of Christ, that is not Christ. It is material without the incarnation of God. Worshiping icons isn't rejected because the icons are material, but because they are made by humans rather than God. I think there is probably a difference between using and respecting human representations of God and actually worshiping those representations, though. Do you think that's true?

  2. I realllllly like these thoughts you shared! Thought-provoking.

  3. Sanil,

    That is the difference. And I didn't mean to say that Iconoclasts reject icons because they're made of material, so if it came across that way, my bad! :) They do reject them because they see it as idolatry, which it is not. People do not worship icons. They reverence them, but the worship is always directed at the God that they represent. I explained it once using the flag as an example. People don't respect the American flag in and of itself. It's just a piece of cloth. They respect and honor (or dishonor, depending on their point of view) the nation that it represents. Same thing with icons.

    I just meant that it seems that a lot of people who view icons as idolatry (the most hard core of them anyway) are also those who view the material world as abjectly fallen and evil. Which is not the case. I think that there's a connection between the two ideas. Sort of like in rejecting the theological teaching that is represented in the tradition of iconography they've thrown the baby out with the bathwater to some extent.

    I did some much more detailed posts on icons here:

    and here:

    and one more:

  4. Susanne,

    That's what they're there for. To make you think thoughts. :)

  5. Ah, that makes sense. Thanks to the links to the other posts! I'll have to check those out soon. :)


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