The Image of Christ

And the modern iconoclastic movement that would destroy it

Growing up in Northern Idaho, I clearly remember the Lutheran church in my hometown having a painting above their altar depicting Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, with obvious Norwegian features, while the Catholic church in the same town had Christ represented above their altar with clearly Italian features. That the Lord Jesus Christ has been portrayed as looking like a number of races throughout Christian history, is a clear reflection of the impact Christ has had on human history.

My Etheopian friends have images of Christ in their temples, reflecting their own race, whereas a Japanese friend has a painting of the Holy Virgin holding the Christ Child, both with distinctive Japanese features. I have in my study a crucifix hand carved by an African artist, depicting Christ as a black African. That European artists have depicted Christ with European features is not surprising, given the fact that each generation of every nation has encountered Jesus Christ, Who transforms hearts and heals people, and even whole nations, with His saving grace.

That a leading BLM activist is demanding all “statues, murals, and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother” be torn down, since they represent “gross while supremacy”, should be no surprise. This radical movement adrift in our nation has now turned to a form of modern iconoclasm, given the anti-Christian basis of their collective mindset. This modern iconoclasm that would rid depictions of “white Jesus”, totally ignores the fact that countless Black Americans have written beautiful hymns in praise of this very Jesus, and have contributed to the foundation of Christianity in this country, in a most beautiful way.

We who have encountered Christ, and who have experienced the transformational joy of this encounter, look on with sadness at our brothers and sisters who have surrendered to a worldview devoid of hope, embracing, as they have, a materialism blinded to the Eternal Truths found in Jesus Christ. These individuals are unaware of the huge impact black people have had on world Christianity, and the important role black Christians have played throughout Africa. They are unaware of the power, influence, and size of the Orthodox Church in Africa, and in their ignorance look upon black people as somehow needing to be rescued from the very Christianity they themselves have so positively impacted. Instead, these well meaning white people (by and large) have been lured by a political system that has already demonstrated its ability to suppress human rights, and its utter failure at bringing about economic well-being for the people of Eastern Europe, even after seventy years of being in control.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Thursday June 25, 2020 / June 12, 2020
3rd Week after Pentecost. Tone one.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. Food with Oil
Venerable Onuphrius the Great (400).
Venerable Peter of Mt. Athos (734).
Opening of the relics (1650) of St. Anna of Kashin (1338).
Venerable Arsenius, abbot of Konevits (1447).
Venerable Onuphrius, abbot of Malsk (Pskov) (1492).
Venerables Bassian and Jonah, monks, of Petroma (Solovki) (1561).
Venerables Onuphrius and Auxentius, monks, of Vologda (1521).
Venerable Stephen of Komel, abbot of Ozersk Monastery, Vologda (1542).
Venerables John, Andrew, Heraclemon, and Theophilus, hermits of Egypt (4th c.).
St. John the Soldier of Egypt (6th-7th c.).
Venerable Onuphrius, abbot of Katrom Monastery (Vologda) (16th c.).
St. Julian of Dagouta at Constantinople (Greek).
New Martyrs Onuphrius, bishop (1938), and with him: Anthony, Barsanuphius and Joseph (1937), and bishop Alexander Kharkovsky.
St. Olympius, bishop and confessor who suffered in Thrace (4th c.).
St. Timothy the Hermit of Egypt (4th c.).
St. Cunera, virgin-martyr of Rhenen (451) (Neth.).
Venerable John (Tornike) of Mt. Athos (998) (Georgia).
Finding of the relics (1672) of St. John of Moscow, fool-for-Christ (1589).
Synaxis of All Saints of St. Onuphrius Monastery at Jablechna (Poland).
Miracle-working icons of the Theotokos (14th c.) and St. Onuphrius (14th c.) at St. Onuphrius Monastery (Poland).


The Scripture Readings

Romans 8:22-27

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Matthew 10:23-31

23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. Thank you for so clearly pointing out the importance of these iconographic representations of the Incarnation, not only in terms of humanity in general but Christ’s presence speaking into every culture and race. Having lived 16 years in Ethiopia, I loved their depictions of our Lord and his family as Ethiopian, as well as Coptic Christians in Egypt depicting icons within their cultural context. If one were to insist on absolute historical purity, I suppose all depictions of Christ and the Theotokos would have to be as 1st Century Jews. As you point out, the cultural diversity of these icons has profound spiritual implications. And in terms of the political ideology behind these neo-iconoclasts, it is unfortunate that many seem incapable of learning from history.

  2. Dear Father!
    Blessings to you and thank God that you continue with this daily offering to all. Please if your going to talk what really is happening with the tearing down of the history of our country. You should’ve these BLM are following Marxist. Jesus and God are Not any of what Markists are.
    God Bless !

  3. In the book “Christ the Eternal Tao” are some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen. To the point here, all those depicted are clearly Chinese as is the style.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with your blog today, but we should bear in mind that the idiot who expressed the opinion that all depictions of Jesus with European features should be destroyed is an outlier and does not represent the many honest people of the Black Lives Matter movement who are simply looking for decent treatment for all people. The few who have resorted to burning and looting do not represent them either.

    1. Although the Black Lives Matter is a cause I absolutely agree with, the founders, and their leadership, voice the same bias as the gentleman calling for the destruction of the “white” images of Christ. The leadership of BLM are pro-abortion, as well as adherers to ever other major cause aspired by the left. There are certainly numbers of individuals who are simply wanting equal and decent treatment for black people, but the vast majority of these people are simply being used by leftist who use the cause of social justice as their means of destroying all vestiges of Western culture, and replacing it with Marxism.

  5. I’m not well versed in iconography but depicting Jesus and the Theotokos as different races (other than Israelites) seems non canonical and inconsistent with biblical prophecy since the Messiah had to be from the seed of David. The whole idea seems rooted in some kind of tribal syncretism the Latins would use to “convert” people. Is there a precedent for this in Church history? What do the Councils have to say on this?

    1. From the very beginning, the Church practiced painting icons in the way they are painted today. Never was there a time when icons of Christ were limited to images of the Israelites.

  6. I spent many years in ordained ministry in Japan, where Christianity is still considered to be a Western religion. We clergy gave lip service to “dochakuka”, i.e., the indigenization of the religion, but we were not very successful. I remember visiting a small museum dedicated to the “kakurekirisitan”, i.e., Catholic Christians in hiding during the persecution of the 17th to 19th centuries. There were some artifacts there with an obvious Japanese artistic influence.

    On a lighter note, once when visiting Los Angeles, my Japanese wife and I (white) found an Ethiopian Orthodox parish near our hotel. What wonderfully warm and welcoming people they were! They were so hospitable, we could barely break away when the liturgy was over. Their icons were obviously and delightfully African.

    A mature local Church will know that our Lord was a Jew, of course, but at the same time claim Him closely as one of their own culture and depict Him as such in their art. Isn’t that part of true indigenization of our Faith?

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