Icon of the Holy Trinity

classic Classic list List threaded Threaded
8 messages Options
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Icon of the Holy Trinity

Hieromonk Enoch
Administrator
A Pretty Good Article, i think

THE ICON OF THE HOLY TRINITY

By: Vladimir Moss

In recent years, the icon of the Holy Trinity in which the Father is portrayed as an old man with white hair, the Son as a young man, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, has been characterized as "deception" and "cacodoxy" by some Orthodox writers, especially the Greek-American George Gabriel.

The arguments Gabriel brings forward are essentially three:-

1. It is impossible to see or portray the Divine nature. Only the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, can be portrayed on icons, for He took on visible, tangible flesh in His Incarnation. Therefore the portrayal of the Father, Who has not become incarnate, is forbidden and speedily leads to the heresy of the circumscribability of the Divinity.

2. The icon of the Holy Trinity in question is supposed to portray the Prophet Daniel's vision of "The Ancient of Days", the old man with white hair being a depiction of the figure called "The Ancient of Days" (Daniel 7). However, the Ancient of Days, according to the Tradition and hymnology of the Church, is Christ, not the Father. Therefore the icon is based on a false interpretation of the prophetic text.

3. The icon of the Holy Trinity in question is a western invention, and has been forbidden by the Councils of Moscow in 1666 and Constantinople in 1780. These councils are authentic witnesses of Holy Tradition. Therefore their decisions should be respected and the icon condemned.

In this article I propose to show that these arguments are false and should be rejected. In doing so I shall rely largely on the excellent work, The Holy Trinity in Orthodox Iconography, produced (in Greek) by Nativity skete, Katounakia, Mount Athos. The present article is essentially a synopsis of the main arguments of this work together with a few observations of my own.

(The Rest Here)
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

Paradosis
Yes it is a good article.

It should also be pointed that the Kursk Icon features an Iconic representive of God the Father.

http://holycross-hermitage.com/pages/Orthodox_Life/kursk_icon.htm

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

Paradosis
The problem also is that those who fight against these Holy Icons use semi-Arian agruments that the Father has somehow a different Nature to the Son in that the Son could appear to the Old Testament righteous but not the Father.

Again God communicates to man through His energies and not His essence; the energies of course being common to the all Three Persons.

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

ofaelan
In reply to this post by Hieromonk Enoch
ISTM Moss is conflating Person and Energies, as if they were one and the same thing.  Do God's Energies appear as a person?  Doesn't that sound ridiculous?

One thing he says tho, gives me an idea:

Christ as an old man symbolically signifies His antiquity, the fact that He has existed from the beginning. Christ as a young man is a realistic image of His Incarnation as a man and a symbolic image of His agelessness as God. These images together teach us that Christ God passes unchanging through all ages from the beginning to the end.

Can't we simply ask, Who should we Orthodoxly, piously understand that it is Who is depicted in certain paintings as the white-haired old man?  Instead of "philosophising" about possibilities and impossibilities, can't the Theosed, or even those who have the Spirit of God praying constantly in them, tell us Who is that a picture of?

Just thinking,

Leo Peter O'Filon III, M.A.
Pennsylvania
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

Paradosis
ofaelan wrote
Can't we simply ask, Who should we Orthodoxly, piously understand that it is Who is depicted in certain paintings as the white-haired old man?  Instead of "philosophising" about possibilities and impossibilities, can't the Theosed, or even those who have the Spirit of God praying constantly in them, tell us Who is that a picture of?</i>
The Fathers supply the answer;

"Let us, however, resume once more our theme. The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand. Do you see the equality of status? Where there is a throne, you see, there is a symbol of kingship; where there is one throne, the equality of status comes from the same kingship. Hence Paul also said, “He made his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire. But of the Son: Your throne, O God, is forever.” Thus, too, Daniel sees all creation in attendance, both angels and archangels, by contrast with the Son of Man coming on the clouds and advancing to the Ancient of Days. If our speaking in these terms is a problem for some, however, let them hear that he is seated at his right hand, and be free of the problem. I mean, as we do not claim he is greater than the Father for having the most honorable seat at his right hand, so you for your part do not say he is inferior and less honorable, but of equal status and honor. This, in fact, is indicated by the sharing of the seat."

St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Psalm 110

“We must note that since the present Council [the Seventh] in the letter it is sending to the church of the Alexandrians pronounces blissful, or blesses, those who know and admit and recognize, and consequently also iconize and honor the visions and theophaniae of the Prophets, just as God Himself formed these and impressed them upon their mind, but anathematizes on the contrary those who refuse to accept and admit the pictorial representations of such visions before the incarnation of the divine Logos (p. 905 of Vol. II of the Conciliar Records) it is to be inferred that even the beginningless Father ought to have His picture painted just as He appeared to Daniel the prophet as the Ancient of Days.  Even though it be admitted as a fact that Pope Gregory in his letter to Leo the Isaurian (p. 712 of the second volume of the Concilliar Records) says that we do not blazon the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet it must be noted that he said this not simply, but in the sense that we do not paint Him in accordance with the divine nature; since it is impossible, he says, to blazon or paint God’s nature.  That is what the present council is doing, and the entire Catholic Church; and not that we do not paint Him as He appeared to the Prophet.  For if we did not paint Him at all or portray Him in any manner at all to the eye, why should we be painting the Father as well as the Holy Spirit in the shape of
Angels, of young men, just as they appeared to Abraham?  Besides even if it be supposed that Gregory does say this, yet the opinion of a single Ecumenical Council attended and represented by a large number of individual men is to be preferred to the opinion of a single individual man.  Then again, if it be considered that even the Holy Spirit ought to be painted in the shape of a dove, just as it actually appeared, we say that, in view of the fact that a certain Persian by the name of Xanaeus used to assert, among other things, that it is a matter of infantile knowledge (i.e., that it is a piece of infantile mentality or an act of childishness) for the Holy Spirit to be painted in a picture just as It appeared in the semblance of a dove, whereas, on the other hand, the holy and Ecumenical Seventh Council (Act 5, p. 819 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records) anathematized him along with other iconomachs from this it may be concluded as a logical inference that according to the Seventh Ecum. Council It ought to be painted or depicted in icons and other pictures in the shape of a dove, as it appeared… As for the fact that the Holy Spirit is to be painted in the shape of a dove, that is proven even by this, to wit, the fact that the Fathers of this Council admitted the doves hung over baptismal founts and sacrificial altars to be all right to serve as a type of the Holy Spirit (Act 5, p. 830).  As for the assertion made in the Sacred Trumpet (in the Enconium of the Three Hierarchs) to the effect that the Father out not to be depicted in paintings and like, according to Acts 4, 5, and 6 of the 7th Ecum. Council, we have read these particular Acts searchingly, but have found nothing of the kind, except only the statement that the nature of the Holy Trinity cannot be exhibited pictorially because of its being shapeless and invisible”  (The Rudder, pp 420-421).
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

Hieromonk Enoch
Administrator
My whole point is that it seems that, for someone to condemn the Icon of the Holy Trinity with the "Old Man, Christ, and Dove", when these have been venerated, made, and endorsed by saints for centuries, is to call into question the competence of the Church. You'd have to argue that the icons somehow approach the filioque issue in the last 250 years before the Great Schism. Can one honestly say, there have been disturbances analogous to that in the past 500 years or more?

Whether one 'likes' them or not, is irrelevant to the fact that they have been used in Orthodox Churches with little protest for hundreds of years. Yes, the occasional TWO councils, like the 1666 Moscow one (which had other of its edicts overturned), and the 1780 (?) synod in Constantinople. But, the 100 years prior to 1780 in Constantinople had seen the Church reverse its policy on issues far more affecting Christian life (for example, in one Synod, it said that economy could be used for Latin baptism, in another it reversed itself and said it was impossible; etc, etc).

Thus, if we are presented with one council which had a great deal of negative notoriety, and was not accepted, and had many of its decrees overturned; and, we are presented with a decision by Constantinople in the late 1700s, a lone decision out of no where, it seems, and, its decision was never followed by the other Churches, and even churches under the Church, what conclusions can we draw? Can these two, above mentioned councils, overturn what the Church had done for ages past, and continued to do for the ages to come, despite their negative appraisal?
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

Hieromonk Enoch
Administrator
"Also, I was wondering, why there is so much  discord over this? I understand that The Holy Spirit looks neither like a dove nor a tongue of flame but there is no contention when He is depicted as such."

I wonder what the discord is over as well!
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Icon of the Holy Trinity

Lukianos
In reply to this post by Hieromonk Enoch
For those interested, you can find a more complete opinion on The Holy Trinity in icons below (too long to post it here):

https://godisreason.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/on-the-holy-trinity-icon