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#47147 01/09/03 01:14 AM
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In another thread, Andrew Rubis asks:

My question regarding any icon is, "of what is it an icon?" An image must be an image of something/somebody.

I take this question to be, what makes an icon an icon?

An icon, to me, depicts a spiritual truth utilizing the sense of vision.

By its very nature, then, it is a depiction of the Word.

By its very nature, it is an Intimate Encounter with the Word. One does not receive an iconic depiciton passively. There is an activity, a relationship that occurs as a result of one's encounter with an icon.

Actually there are a series of Intimate Encounters that exist simultaneously within an icon.

There is the relationship of the depicted to its prototype.

There is the relationship of the depicted to the canon. There is a relationship not only to a specific chapter and verse, but also to the entire canon.

There is the relationship of the depicted to the Tradion.

There is a relationship of the depicted to the Church and the Liturgy (i.e. the communion of saints).

There is a relationship between the canon, Tradition, the Church, the Liturgy, the communion of saints, and the iconographer.

There is a relationship between the canon, the Tradition, the Church, and the viewer.

There is a relationship between the iconographer and the viewer.

And all of these encounters are occurring simultaneously.

An icon, then, draws one in, not only into itself but into the life of the Church, the communion of saints, the participation in the Liturgy, and the Life of the Word Himself.

John

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Dear John,

I welcome this new thread and I think that you have defined well what it is that makes an icon an icon. However, my original question [see "Icon of the Trinity" in FOCUS ON SCRIPTURE subforum] really is trying to get to the "who" and "what" of every icon. I asked,

"Of what is it an icon?"

This question begs to know from where the image depicted originates. This is the critical part.

For example, we know from scripture that the Theotokos held and nursed the Lord as an infant. We depict this in several traditional styles (Vladimir Icon, etc.) and title it appropriately.

We know the story of the Transfiguration and attempt to depict a revellation that the disciples could not bear to see. That the disciples couldn't see His revellation/glory is assured us by the encirclement of the Lord, and the Lord only, by a mandorla.

Even a vision may properly be depicted and titled, such as the Vision of Daniel, as it is written in the scriptures.

Beyond scripture, an ecumenical council, a holy man or woman who walked amongst us, or an event such as the arrival of orthodox missionaries and immigrants on this continent may all properly be depicted and titled.

Even an interpretation may be depicted. For example, John the Forerunner is often depicted alive (resurrected?) with his head firmly on his shoulders and all the while holding the famous charger on which he carries his own previously severed head. His other head? Two heads? Andrew how can that be?

I love this icon because it says that we know that John once had an unsevered head. We know that he lost it for the sake of the Gospel. We know that there is a resurrection. We believe that God will heal our infirmities (including decapitations)in that resurrection. The iconographer interpreted that in the resurrection a healed John will carry his severed head as a sign of his unique role in God's eikonomia, much as the resurrected Lord carried in his hands, feet, and side the marks of his unique role in God's eikonomia.

This is where my question goes for any icon. What is the writer depicting (here we need an appropriate title) and on what part(s) of our Tradition is he or she basing it.

In Christ.

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Dear Andrew:

Once again I have noted that your question is in quotes. The wording is a little unusual. Is this from another source? I'm glad you explained further. I thought that was the basis of your question.

In my opinion, all icons must depict Scripture. You may ask how do icons of the saints depict Scripture, the Word? The answer is that they depict the internal transformation of the saint, the internalization of the Word by that saint.

In feastday icons, many Scriptural sources from both the OT and NT are typically depicted.

Let's take for example the icon of the Annunciation. Mary is typically depicted with cloth across her lap. This is reminiscent of the cloth of Ruth. The buildings in the background serve as a reminder of the enclosed garden in the Song of Songs. The depiction also demonstrates the predictions of Isaiah. The chair/throne she sits upon is often round, more reminiscent of a well, like the famous Samaritan woman story who found the living water and would never thirst. It goes on and on.

You brought up the Virgin icons and the Baptizer. In the Perpetual Help icon, recall that one of the child's sandals is unfastened. John was unworthy to loosen this, his mother was not. (Timely little tidbit for the Epiphany festal period).

You mentioned the Baptizer icons which frequently depict multiple events from his life. You must recall that icons do not depict "facts", they depict the truth. The truth is not bounded by time and space. That is why such overlapping imagery is commonplace in iconography.

So, this is the answer to your question. An icon is a picture of the truth. Most art in the Western sense fails to achieve this for it is meant to depict a fact, an emotion, an event, or a human reality.

John

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Dear John,

I'm simply quoting my own question [quoting myself].

I had wanted to raise the issue of writing an icon of "love," "sadness," or some other emotion. My initial reaction would be that such would be inappropriate. From your post, I would then say that we need to look and see from scripture for manifestations of "love" or "sadness," etc. and depict these manifestations.

So for "love" we depict the Lord alone since "God is love.". For "sadness" perhaps the Crucifixtion with His mother looking on.

Am I on the right track?

But regarding things/events non-scriptural such as the arrival of Orthodox missionaries in North America, would we need to depict this through or somehow employing the Lord's commission in Matthew to "teach all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father....."?

You offer a simple one word answer (an icon is the truth). I will be holding it up to see how that works.

In Christ.


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