The Fullness of the Age to Come

I am fascinated by what the Holy Tradition does with the idea of “fullness” or “fulfillment.” The Church is described as the “fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). And it is not unusual for Orthodox Christians to express the meaning of Orthodoxy under the rubric of “fullness”: Orthodoxy is the “fullness of the Church.” The Scriptures do much with the concept – speaking of the “fullness of time,”…

The Icon as Proof of God’s Existence

God “adorns himself in magnificence and clothes himself with beauty.” Man stands amazed and contemplates the glory whose light causes a hymn of praise to burst forth from the heart of every creature. The Testamentum Domini gives us the following prayer: “Let them be filled with the Holy Spirit…so they can sing a doxology and give you praise and glory forever.” An icon is the same kind of doxology but in a…

Icons and Truth

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. In the last several posts I have written about the iconic character of reality – the world about us has the character of an icon. I have also noted the iconic character of language and of Scripture. There is much to say about what is meant by such descriptions as well as what it means to see things in an “iconic”…

Icons – Beauty and the Salvation of the World

“God will save the World Through Beauty.” This saying, often attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky, never occurs in precisely this form in his novels – though the idea is present in such a strong sense that the phrase is correctly attributed to him. It is a phrase that is easily misunderstood. For Dostoevsky, in good Orthodox fashion, beauty is far more than a matter of aesthetics – it is the very goodness of…

To See An Icon

My previous post spoke of the world existing “iconically” rather than “literally.” I do not mean that the world cannot be seen in a “literal” fashion – only that the world will not be truly seen if seen only in a literal fashion (there is probably a better word than “literal” to describe this secularized form of experience). The seeing which sees in a “literal” fashion, assumes that things are only things,…

Is the World Literal or Iconic?

What do you see when you see the world and how do you see it? I have written much about the secular character of our culture and its “literal” view of the world. The world is what you see and nothing more. Significant events take their significance from their own relation to other literal events. Much that passes for Christian theology or “thought” belongs to this world-view today. Thus those who concern…

The Mystery of Faith – Sacrament and Icon

Recent questions have been raised about the difference between icons and sacraments in the Orthodox Church. It is an easy place for confusion to occur – particularly when seen from the outside. The Church in the West, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, developed a carefully-worded and defined understanding of sacrament during the Middle Ages. This definition depended on matters such as the authority of its institution, the intention of its performance, and…

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…

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 Face of God

Orthodox Christians mark August 16 as the Feast of the Icon “Not Made With Hands,” the miraculous face of Christ first left on a cloth sent to King Abgar of Edessa. The stories of the icon are swathed in the mists of history – but the image (or representations of it on icons) remain among the most popular of Orthodox images. It is frequently the icon that graces the entrance of a…