Transcendence In Icons
In the icon, the naturalistic is distinguished from spiritualistic. The naturalistic is inadequate, as it is influenced by the fall. Icons do not portray naturalistic ideas or images.120 Rather, the transcendent is emphasized. The icon is devoid of emotional explanation. It is a peaceful transmission: “The icon does not represent the divinity. Rather, it indicates man’s participation in the divine life.”121 Christian art is not to represent everyday life but life infused by the Gospel. Lazarev has given us a number of examples of icons that emphasize a sense of the transcendent – moving beyond this world.122 Some examples of this transcendence are: The Holy Face (12th century), Angel (12th century), Saint Nicolas The Wonderworker (13th century), The Apostle Peter (14th century), The Virgin Hodegetria (1482), The Savior Of The Fiery Eye (14th century). Generally, Christ is portrayed as serene when on the cross. This highlights the contrast between the spiritual and the physical and other kinds of pain he must have experienced.
117 Quenot, 1991, p. 100.
118 Zibawi, 1993, p. 40.
119 Ibid, p. 41.
120 Ibid, p. 47.
121 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 166.
122 Viktor Nikitich Lazarev. The Russian Icon: From Its Origins to the Sixteenth Century. (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1997), p. 142, 144, 148, 194, 316, 252, respectively.
The Eastern Orthodox cross always includes the footrest and nameplate. The footrest allows Christ to stand rather than to hand by his arms and hands.123 Again, this contributes to a sense of the transcendent in the icon, and, specifically, in the face of Christ. The subject (Christ) has risen above the things of this world.124 We see this same transcendence in the description of the face of Stephen while he is being stoned to death (Acts 7:54-56). This is true of any “transfigured” person in the bible.
Some Examples of Icons
A few examples of icons are included here. In spite of the fact that there are far too many icons to be considered, observation of a few examples is helpful in understanding both iconography and some themes in icons. The physical features of the subjects of icons, discussed earlier, are evident in these examples.
There are many icons of Christ. Some of the most common are the Acheiroppoietos Icon (made without human hands) which was discussed earlier, and Pantocrator (the one who presides over the world), seated on the throne, with scroll or book.125 An example of Christ Pantocrator is included on the next page.126 This icon is found in all Orthodox Churches. It is generally painted in the dome above the center of the Nave.
123 Freiedrich Rest. Our Christian Symbols. (Piladelphia, PA: The Christian Education Press., 1954), p. 26.
124 Zibawi, 1993, p. 45.
125 Ouspensky and Lossky, 1983, p. 73.
126 Christ, our Lord. 16th century icon, monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai (Ellopos Gallery)
Another example of an icon of Christ is this crucifixion icon. Note the footrest and name plate that is always a part of the Orthodox cross. Also, note that Christ is not hanging on the cross but standing. He exemplifies transcendence above the physical pain of the cross.
There are also many icons of Mary, the mother of Christ. The Orthodox call Mary “Theotokos” which means “mother of God”. Some examples of icons of Mary include: Our Lady of the Sign – upraised hands, posture of prayer; The Hodigitria – similar looking to Our Lady…; The Smolensk – another version of Theotokos; The Tichvine Mother of God; The Kazan Mother of God – ; The Mother Of God Enthroned.128 The example here is the Theotokos.129
128 Ouspensky and Lossky, 1983, p. 77-89.
129 Mother of God enthroned. Athos, 16th century (from Ellopos Photo Blog).
Another category of icons are the Icons of Loving Kindness. These demonstrate the affection between Mary and the Christ child.130 Some examples are: The Vladimir Mother of God – 11th or 12th century; The Tolga Mother of God – 14th century; The Korsun Mother of God – strongly bent head of Mary and Christ (Mary bent down, Christ up); and The Mother of God of the Passion.
130 Ouspensky and Lossky, 1983, p. 92-100.
Other common icons include important biblical characters like St. John the Forerunner (John the Baptizer) and the apostles. In addition, many of the important leaders of the church are portrayed in icons. St. John the Forerunner is portrayed in the following example.131
- Icons in Worship, a study by D. Dirksen – II: A Brief Critique of The Orthodox Theology of Icons
- Order of Septuagint Psalms and the Masoretic
- Opening the New Testament
- Schmemann, Orthodoxy is the Church of Byzantium
- Adluri on Parmenides and the Transcendence
- The problem of Theodicy again
- Economic growth needs Science, Technology, Will to Power, and Masses
- Learning Greek without reason!
- The Bible and the Fathers in Orthodoxy
- Salvation and Culture