Icons from the Life of Christ-with Fr. Stephen Gauthier

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For more than a thousand years the Eastern Church has used icons (“images”) to visually communicate the profound theological truths that underlie each of the key moments in the life of Christ as recounted in the Gospels. This session will examine this rich “visual theology,” from the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Word Incarnate to the Lord’s return to the Father forty days following his resurrection.

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Icons from the Life of Christ-with Fr. Stephen Gauthier

  1. 1. Saturday, May 4, 2013 Icons of the Life of Christ
  2. 2. Our approach  Background  What is an icon?  Development  Basic conventions  Traditional use in the Eastern Church  Icons of the life of Christ  The church calendar  Festal icons  Conventions of each  Theology of each
  3. 3. Background
  4. 4. What is an icon?
  5. 5. Origin and meaning of term  Greek = “image”  Specialized meaning = images used in the worship and life of the Eastern Church
  6. 6. Image vs. idol  Two different Hebrew words translated as “image”  Tselem  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him (Genesis 1:28)  Greek translation (Septuagint) = icon  Fesel  You shall not make for yourself a carved image (Exodus 20:4)  Greek translation (Septuagint) = idolon  Distinction  Icon = true image  Idol = false image
  7. 7. Usage: East vs. West  West = instructional  Open to artistic innovation  East = liturgical  Subject to stringent rules
  8. 8. Development
  9. 9. Earliest Christian images  Pagan images subject to Christian interpretation  Hermes the patron of shepherds = good shepherd  Old Testament scenes  Jonah
  10. 10. Hermes the shepherd
  11. 11. Jonah
  12. 12. Later early Christian images  Symbols  Vine  Fish  New Testament scenes  Magi  Multiplication of loaves
  13. 13. Loaves and fish
  14. 14. Magi
  15. 15. Images after Constantine  Traditional imperial motifs reinvested with Christian meanings  The philosopher  The apotheosis of the emperor  The royal entrance  The emperor in his court
  16. 16. Philosopher
  17. 17. Christ the teacher
  18. 18. Apotheosis
  19. 19. Ascension
  20. 20. Triumphal entry
  21. 21. Palm Sunday
  22. 22. Imperial court
  23. 23. Deisis (supplication)
  24. 24. Profusion of images in 6th and 7th centuries  On model of use of imperial image for legal purposes
  25. 25. Iconoclastic controversy (726- 843)  Arguments against images  Idolatry  Christological argument  Any image of Christ is necessarily false  We can see only his human nature o His divine nature cannot be circumscribed
  26. 26. Iconoclastic controversy (cont.)  Arguments for images  Not idolatrous  Old Testament prohibits false images and all images of God were false prior to the incarnation  Christological  To see the human nature of Christ is to see his divine nature since the two are distinct, but inseparable  Witness of the Church (universal practice)  Practical value for the illiterate  “Books in pictures”
  27. 27. Nicaea II  Occurs midway through controversy  Adopted in East in 843  Feast of Orthodoxy, (March 11)  Theology (quasi-sacramental)  Key writers  John Damascene  Nicephoros of Constantinople  Theodore the Studite  Not fully accepted in West
  28. 28. Subsequent history of images in the Church  East  Quasi-sacramental  Part of liturgy  Highly regulated  West  Purely instructional  Decorative  Open to artistic interpretation
  29. 29. Basic conventions
  30. 30. Theoretical anti-naturalism  Goal: transcend the natural to the supernatural  Specifics  Two dimensional  Inverted perspective  Avoid decorative detail
  31. 31. Inverted perspective Table perspective reversed
  32. 32. Primacy of doctrine over history  Presentation of events that occurred at different times  Symbolic alternations of historical scene  Psychological perspective
  33. 33. Events that occurred at different times Journey of magi Announcement to shepherds Joseph’s doubts Washing of baby
  34. 34. Symbolic alterations of history Fish on Holy Thursday
  35. 35. Psychological perspective Size of other Figures
  36. 36. Other conventions  No natural light sources or shadows  Halos represent saving knowledge = righteousness  “then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43)  Not present prior to understanding  Apostles prior to Pentecost  Features stylized  Always both eyes for saints  High forehead = intelligence  Tight lips = asceticism
  37. 37. High forehead = knowledge
  38. 38. Apostles: No halos prior to Pentecost
  39. 39. Apostles: Halos after Pentecost
  40. 40. Traditional Use in the Eastern Church
  41. 41. Location of icons  Primarily for use in liturgy  Best understood in context of their placement
  42. 42. Floor Plan of Eastern Church Modeled on Old Testament tabernacle/temple
  43. 43. Outer court Holy place Holy of holies Tabernacle/temple Pattern Veil
  44. 44. Looking out toward the Narthex
  45. 45. Looking in toward the sanctuary and the altar
  46. 46. In the sanctuary
  47. 47. Looking through the iconostasis to the Altar
  48. 48. Altar proper
  49. 49. Christ the Teacher/Door Entry to Nave
  50. 50. Abbreviation for “Jesus Christ” Jesus (IC) Christ (XC)
  51. 51. Cross within halo
  52. 52. “The one who is” (‘O WN) = “I AM”
  53. 53. English adaptation I AM
  54. 54. Open book (teacher)
  55. 55. Blue (divinity) over red (humanity) (his immortality covers our mortality) RED BLUE
  56. 56. Christ the Almighty (Pantocrator) Inside top of dome (rising from East)
  57. 57. Somewhat stern aspect (we see the Father through the Son)
  58. 58. Rainbow (Revelation 4: 1-3)
  59. 59. Closed book (to avoid superfluous detail)
  60. 60. Alternate position (if no dome)
  61. 61. Iconostasis Reminder of our participation in the heavenly liturgy
  62. 62. Developed from chancel screen (practical barrier)
  63. 63. West: Rood (cross) screen ROOD
  64. 64. East: Addition of images
  65. 65. East: Reach up to 5 levels
  66. 66. “Wider than the Heavens” (Platytera) Apse Mary as image of the Church (between heaven and earth)
  67. 67. Initials for “Mother of God” MR = Mother OY = of God
  68. 68. Hands in “orans” (prayer) position
  69. 69. Three stars = perpetual virginity
  70. 70. Quasi-adult features
  71. 71. Overall arrangement
  72. 72. Logic  We approach the Father only through Jesus  Entry = Christ the Teacher  The Church militant joins with the Church triumphant  Iconostasis  And as one Church we transcend this world  “Wider than the Heavens”  Praying to the Father through the Son  Christ the “Ruler of All”
  73. 73. Ruler of All Wider than the Heavens Iconostasis Directional logic
  74. 74. Dormition (Mary’s “falling asleep”) Exit to Narthex
  75. 75. Christ carries away Mary’s soul at her death (baby = birth to new life)
  76. 76. The Second Coming Exit from Narthex
  77. 77. Resurrection on the Last Day
  78. 78. Detail of iconostasis
  79. 79. Number of levels varies  Less for Greeks than Russians  Desire not to block view of “Wider than the Heavens”
  80. 80. Levels (bottom to top)  “Sovereign level”  Include royal doors (middle)  Include deacons doors (both sides)  Deesis (“intercession”) or Festal Icons  Deesis or Festal Icons  Prophets/Central = Mary of the “Sign”  Patriarchs/Central = Old Testament Trinity
  81. 81. Royal doors = Annunciation (first proclamation of Gospel)
  82. 82. Royal doors (Expanded to include the Evangelists) Annunciati on = first proclamatio n of Gospel Evangelis ts = Gospel proclaime d to world
  83. 83. Deacon’s doors (angels or saints who were deacons)
  84. 84. Jesus and Mary in center positions
  85. 85. John the Precursor and patron saint Patron saint John the Precursor
  86. 86. Deacon’s doors (angels, saints who were deacons, or soldier saints)
  87. 87. Annunciation Evangelists
  88. 88. Annunciation Evangelists
  89. 89. Holy hierarchs instead of Evangelists (wrote Eastern Eucharistic Prayers) Basil John Chrysostom
  90. 90. John the Precursor (with wings = “messenger”= “angel”
  91. 91. Deesis “Intercession”
  92. 92. Core= Mary/Christ/John the Precursor
  93. 93. Add archangels + Peter/Paul Paul Gabriel Peter Michael
  94. 94. Add hierarchs (Basil and John Chrysostom) Basil John Chrysostom
  95. 95. Basic Apostles Other Saints
  96. 96. Development of the Church Year
  97. 97. Seasonal calendar  Earliest church  Each Sunday = celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus  Stage 1  Addition of Easter  Special annual celebration of death and resurrection of Jesus  Rooted in Passover  Stage 2  Addition of Christmas/Epiphany  Christmas – Developed in Western Church  Epiphany – Developed in Eastern Church
  98. 98. Natural expansion  Annunciation (Christmas – 9 months)  Presentation (Christmas + 40 days) = February 2  Holy Week (Week before Easter)  Ascension (Easter + 40 days)  Pentecost (Easter + 50 days)
  99. 99. Seasonal feasts with “festal” icons  Annunciation (March 25)  Nativity (December 25)  Presentation (February 2)  Baptism (January 6)  Transfiguration (August 6)  Raising of Lazarus (Saturday prior to Palm Sunday)
  100. 100. “Festal” icons  Palm Sunday  Good Friday  Resurrection  Ascension (40 days after Easter)  Pentecost (50 days after Easter)  Dormition (August 15)
  101. 101. Annunciation March 25
  102. 102. Text = Announceme nt of the good news to the God bearer
  103. 103. Text = Archangel Gabriel
  104. 104. Initials = “Mother of God”
  105. 105. Drapery = indoors
  106. 106. Angel’s rod = authority
  107. 107. Separated feet = movement
  108. 108. Vault of heaven
  109. 109. Ray = action of the Holy Spirit
  110. 110. Halo = enlightene d
  111. 111. Mary’s humanity (red) covers Christ’s divinity (blue)
  112. 112. Theology of annunciation  Essence of “good news” = God, in Christ, has taken on our humanity  Born of the Virgin Mary  Inseparably joined to us = Immanuel (God with us)  Image on royal doors  In Jesus, our humanity has entered into the heavenly places (Ascension)
  113. 113. December 25 Nativity
  114. 114. Text = The Birth of Christ”
  115. 115. Initials = “Mother of God”
  116. 116. Initials = Jesus Chr
  117. 117. Basic elements  Central = Mother and child  Peripheral  Angels  Magi  Announcement to shepherds  Washing of Jesus  Joseph
  118. 118. Mother and child Angels Magi Announceme nt to the shepherds Joseph tested Washing of Jesus
  119. 119. Central Scene Mother and child
  120. 120. Cave
  121. 121. Mary reclining, at peace
  122. 122. Baby in swaddling clothes in stone manger
  123. 123. Ox and ass of Isaiah 1:3
  124. 124. Miraculous star from heaven
  125. 125. Theology - Mary  Mother reclining and at peace  Pain of childbirth associated with sin in Genesis  No sin associated with birth of Christ (new Adam)  Completely separate from Joseph = virgin birth  Halo = enlightened  Red/blue = her humanity covered his divinity
  126. 126. Theology - Jesus  Christ was born to die for us  Swaddling clothes = burial wrapping  Manger = sepulcher  Cave = tomb  Will be rejected by his own  Unlike ox and donkey  Isaiah 1:3 = The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
  127. 127. Peripheral scenes
  128. 128. Angels Magi Announceme nt to the shepherds Joseph tested Washing of Jesus
  129. 129. Angels  Sometimes trinity = humanity added to divinity  Joy in both heaven and earth (cosmic event)
  130. 130. Magi  Hope for the Gentiles  Type of myrrh-bearing women
  131. 131. Shepherds  Hope for Israel  Hope for outcasts
  132. 132. Washing  Unbelief/rejection  Compare Thomas
  133. 133. Testing of Joseph  Virgin birth  Halo = enlightened (Bible = “just man”)
  134. 134. What’s wrong with this icon?
  135. 135. Wise men at scene rather than travellingMary kneeling Joseph with Mary
  136. 136. February 2 Presentation (Meeting)
  137. 137. “The meeting”
  138. 138. Details Drapery = inside “This child made firm Heaven and earth” All have halos = Described as righteous or filled with Holy Spirit
  139. 139. Theology – fulfillment  God comes in person into His temple  Fulfillment of the Law  Same Holy Spirit at work in Old and New Covenants
  140. 140. Baptism (or Theophany) January 6 (Eastern Church) Following Sunday (Western Church)
  141. 141. Surrounded by water (to emphasize immersion)
  142. 142. “You broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters” (Psalm 74:13)
  143. 143. “The sea looked and fled, Jordan turned back” (Psalm 114:3) Woman with scepter = s Man with water pot = river
  144. 144. Theophany - Trinity Father = vault of heaven Dove = Holy Spirit
  145. 145. John looks up at Holy Spirit (John 1:32)
  146. 146. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10)
  147. 147. Ministering angels to accompany Jesus
  148. 148. Theology  Anointing as “anointed one” (Messiah/Christ)  Reversal  Others  Bring sins to waters  Cleansed by waters  Relieved of burden of sins  Jesus  Brings righteousness to waters  Cleanses the waters themselves (sanctifies them for baptism)  Takes on burden of sins o Lamb of God , who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
  149. 149. August 6 (Gospel of last Sunday before Lent by Anglicans) Transfiguration (Transformation)
  150. 150. Christ of Resurrection (anticipation) White robes rather Than blue over red Mandorla
  151. 151. Theophany - Trinity Pink geometric shape = Cloud = Holy Spirit
  152. 152. Moses and Elijah Moses (with book) Elijah
  153. 153. Halos for Moses and Elijah but not apostles
  154. 154. Shoe off = holy ground
  155. 155. Theology  Fulfillment of Law and Prophets  Halos = Moses and Elijah discuss Jesus’ “exodus” (Greek)  Two theophanies as “bookends”  Start of public ministry (baptism)  Preceding temptation in desert  End of public ministry (transfiguration)  Preceding Passion  Message of “bookends”  What it truly means to be the “anointed one”  Context for all that follows – victory vs. defeat
  156. 156. Celebrated the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday Raising of Lazarus (Awakening)
  157. 157. The raising (not resurrection) of Lazarus
  158. 158. Lazarus still bound by death (bound by burial clothes)
  159. 159. Subject to corruption (fourth day in tomb vs. third day for Jesus) Witness holding nose
  160. 160. Lazarus with halo (belief)
  161. 161. Theology  Christ holds power over death  Our hope of resurrection is for more than a continuation of this life
  162. 162. Palm Sunday Palm Sunday (The Bearing of the Palm Branches)
  163. 163. Children = psychological perspective
  164. 164. Theology  The passion will be Jesus’ victory as Messiah/King  In Luke’s narrative, Jesus immediately enters in power into the temple as Messiah/High Priest
  165. 165. From Palm Sunday to Holy Thursday Christ the Bridegroom
  166. 166. Theology  Christ has come for his bride (the church)  Repeated image of bridegroom  Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? (Matthew 9:15)  John describes himself as “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29)  Need to be watchful
  167. 167. Holy Thursday Mystical Supper
  168. 168. Mystical Supper v.“Last”Supper
  169. 169. Fish v. lamb = Food is Christ himself
  170. 170. Other details Drapery = Indoor scene Psychological perspective
  171. 171. Theology  Lord’s Supper is an ongoing reality  True understanding of what is about to take place  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
  172. 172. Good Friday Crucifixion
  173. 173. Inscription = “King of Glory” (2 Corinthians 2:8)
  174. 174. Christ at peace (not suffering)
  175. 175. Flesh is healthy color (no corruption)
  176. 176. Victory in very place of defeat (“death defeated by death”) Adam’s tomb
  177. 177. Water from right side = water from right side of temple (Ezekiel 47:1)
  178. 178. Centurion with halo (confession of true faith despite appearances)
  179. 179. Other details Feet separated in East Only time sun and moon depicted precisely because they are not a source of light
  180. 180. Theology  Victory (glory) rather than defeat  Death defeated by death  Christ as Messiah:  Victorious king – triumphing over enemy = death  High priest – Priest and victim  Birth of Church  Water (baptism) and blood (Eucharist)  Like Eve taken from side of Adam  Bride and “mother of all living”
  181. 181. Christ in the tomb – Holy Saturday Great Humility
  182. 182. Theology  Humbled himself to death on a cross  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
  183. 183. Resurrection
  184. 184. Resurrected Christ MandorlaResurrection gold/white v. blue over red
  185. 185. Dark cave = Hades (death)
  186. 186. Gates of death broken down
  187. 187. Death itself bound
  188. 188. Jesus’ feet apart (= movement)
  189. 189. Release of Adam and Eve
  190. 190. Others Old Testament figures John the Precursor David and Solomon Abel Elijah Moses
  191. 191. Theology  Meaning of resurrection – our liberation from death  We share in his resurrection  Effective across time  “Saints” of the Old Testament
  192. 192. Additional Resurrection Icons
  193. 193. Touching of Thomas
  194. 194. Myrrh-bearing women Burial clothes Left behind
  195. 195. Theology  Real body  Can be touched  Same body  Wounds still present  Changed body  No longer limited  No longer subject to death (burial clothes left behind)  Rock rolled back after resurrection  Only to allow disciples to see that the tomb was empty
  196. 196. Ascension
  197. 197. No halos for apostles (not yet Pentecost)
  198. 198. Theology  Jesus reigns at the right hand of God  His reign has already begun  Evidenced by gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
  199. 199. Pentecost
  200. 200. Theme of apostolic mission Paul present (prior to Conversion) Addition of non- Apostle evangelists (Mark and Luke) “world” holds scrolls o Gospel to be carried to nations Mary not pictured (not part of apostolic Mission)
  201. 201. Halos on apostles
  202. 202. Peter and Paul central Peter Paul
  203. 203. Other details Drapery = interior scene Rays from vault of heave
  204. 204. Theology  Church is born on Calvary  Bride taken from side of Christ (like Eve)  Jesus continues his mission in his Church
  205. 205. Level 4 of iconostasis Prophets (from Moses forward) Virgin of the Sign
  206. 206. Ezekiel
  207. 207. Isaiah
  208. 208. Jonah
  209. 209. Elijah
  210. 210. Jeremiah
  211. 211. Level 5 of iconostasis Patriarchs (prior to Moses) (Old Testament) Trinity
  212. 212. Old Testament Trinity (same age = co-eternal) Father Green = Holy Spirit “Lord and Giver of Life” Jesus (blue over Red)
  213. 213. Jacob
  214. 214. Patriarchs (Trinity) Prophet s (virgin of the Sign) Deisis Festal icons Sovereign level
  215. 215. Other Icons of the Trinity Common but criticized for theological reasons

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