Thursday, December 20, 2007

Will Latin Rite Catholics Ever Get Icons?

I have been reading a very good post again at First Things called Icons Will Save the World. A very good article from a woman in Memphis that converted to Orthodoxy. When I went to the Catholic bookstore yesterday Christmas shopping I was struck my how many Icons were for sale. The owner told me that they were a big seller. Catholics of the Latin rite are drawn to them. I think Christians period and even non Christians are. Form her article:
After receiving the priest’s counsel and absolution, I remain in the nave (the large part of the temple, called the sanctuary in Protestant churches) to give thanks and to let God’s grace and peace fill my heart. Surrounded by icons of Christ, his Mother, the angels, saints, biblical scenes and church feasts, I think about how Prince Vladimir’s envoys must have felt when they walked into Hagia Sophia Orthodox Cathedral in Constantinople near the end of the tenth century. Their mission was to find a religion that Prince Vladimir could embrace and offer to the people of Russia. In their report they said, “We didn’t know whether we were in Heaven or on earth.” Shortly thereafter, Orthodoxy became the official religion of Kievan Russia, infusing the lives of peasants and princes, artists and writers, with the Orthodox vision of beauty. Nine hundred years later, the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky penned the famous words, “Beauty will save the world.”

I think her article is well written and worth a read. The tragic separation of the Church into East and West had in many ways more consquences than the reformation. I think both sides have missed out on something. That is basically we are both two important sides to the same coin. There is a whole prayful spirtuality of ICONS that must be delved into by the person. It is not as simple as just hanging it on a wall. At times I think I need to delve into this myself and make it a part of my pray life. Of course right now I am just having problems keeping the Liturgy of the Hours and others parts of our Western Latin heritage a focus. Still I think there is something as to ICONS and the spirituality connected in this most INCARNATIONAL OF ART that I think we Latin Rite Catholics and Protestants are missing. She quotes First Apology of Saint John of Damascus Against Those Who Attack the Divine Images":

It is obvious that when you contemplate God becoming man, then you may depict Him clothed in human form. When the invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw His likeness. When He who is bodiless and without form, immeasurable in the boundlessness of His own nature, existing in the form of God, empties Himself and takes the form of a servant in substance and in stature and is found in a body of flesh, then you may draw His image and show it to anyone willing to gaze upon it.

Good read
I don’t think Prince Vladimir or Dostoevsky had in mind the kind of worldly beauty that today’s fashion and entertainment industries worship, or even the beauty of secular art and architecture. I think they were both swept off their feet by true spiritual beauty—in Vladimir’s case, the beauty of the Orthodox temple (church), adorned with icons.

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