Beauty and the Salvation of the World

Thus the most persuasive philosophic proof of God’s existence is the one the textbooks never mention, conclusion of which can perhaps best express the whole meaning: There exists the icon of the Holy Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev; therefore, God exists. – from Pavel Florensky’s Iconostasis This short quote from St. Pavel Florensky’s Iconostasis is among the most startling in his extant works. It is not unlike the oft-attributed Dostoevsky quote, “God will save the world…

The Sunday of Orthodoxy

The first Sunday of Great Lent is always observed as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” in our Churches. It marks both the return of the icons to the Churches following the end of the Iconoclast Controversy, but also as a summation of all the Holy Teachings of the faith which Orthodoxy holds and for which many have died. Most of our parishes will have a procession around the Church with adults and children…

Icons and Scripture

The great summary statement of theology at the Seventh Ecumenical Council is succinct: Icons do with color what Scripture does with words. The first time I read this, I was a graduate student at Duke University, studying Systematic Theology. I wound up writing my thesis on the “Icon as Theology.” What was new for me – and the thought that became central in my mind – was the inherent possibilities in the…

The Smashing of Images

I have a quote on the sidebar from an earlier posting. It is about the need we have for proper images and the danger inherent in “image smashing” or “iconoclasm.” We have to renounce iconoclasm. In so doing, we inherently set ourselves against certain forces within modernity. The truth is eschatological, that is, it lies in the future, but we also believe that this eschatological reality was incarnate in Christ, the Beginning…

What We Do Not See

One of the most striking features of the Gospels is the frequent response of the Disciples after the resurrection of Christ: doubt. I have always been sympathetic to the doubts and hesitations that afflicted their lives during the ministry of Christ. The disciples are almost endearing in their inability to grasp what Christ is all about. However, the same inability to grasp things after the resurrection seems to carry with it all…

Bad Icons

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).  It is a teaching of the Fathers concerning the holy icons that we do not truly “see” them if we have no reverence for that which they depict. Icons are “windows into heaven,” but…

The Role of Icons

Icons are not about art. Icons are not about left-overs of Byzantine style. Icons are not about the idolatrous impulse within fallen humanity. Icons are about the very nature of our salvation. The history of Western theology, particularly the opposition to icons within the Protestant movement, has removed one of the most traditional components of Christian theology and handicapped the modern imagination and understanding of our relationship to God. Our encounters with…

The Meaning of Scripture

What is the meaning of Scripture? Where do we look for it and how is it found? It is interesting to listen to the disarray of voices on this subject. My early training, in college and later in a liberal protestant seminary, was to look, first, to “authorial intent” (to use a constitutional interpretive phrase), and to the “Sitz im Leben” (the “life situation” or “context”) and through a host of various…

Cultures of Remembrance

I grew up in a “culture of remembrance.” By that, I mean that the history of the place in which I lived was far more a matter of discussion and meaning than the present or the future. That culture was the American South. Much of the remembrance we discussed was not true – just a left-over from the sentimentality of the 19th century. My childhood was spent in the 1950’s, which may…

A Particular Pilgrimage

One of the common aspects of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land – and this my wife and I have discussed and find we share in common – is the particularity of certain experiences. There are inherently overwhelming experiences, such as kneeling beside a priest in the actual sepulchre of Christ, and reading names aloud for him to remember in the proskomidie, as he prepared the bread and wine for the Divine…