In one of his most well-known novels, The Idiot, the author Fyodor Dostoevsky has the hero of the work, Prince Mishkin, inform the depressed and cynical character Hippolite, “Beauty will save the world.”
Prince Mishkin, who, like Dostoevsky, had epilepsy, is a kind of Christ-figure who represents the values Dostoevsky deemed the best and most noble: altruism, meekness, kindness, concord, and sweetness. Dostoevsky is implying the broader level that God isn’t solely skilled with the thoughts, in articulated ideas, however might be powerfully encountered and extra absolutely skilled in and thru magnificence.
Seeing his world begin to crumble of its values, Dostoevsky is satisfied that if the deep craving for the great, the true, and the attractive disappeared, if humanity had been disadvantaged of a way of “the infinitely great and beautiful,” women and men would die of despair. Beauty speaks on to the human coronary heart alone—the remaining of the animal kingdom can by no means expertise it. It is perceived by instinct, it’s skilled first and analyzed later. It is speechless, it’s spontaneous, it comes upon us unawares—and it possesses us.
A chunk of music, a portray in a gallery, a theatrical presentation, a poem or piece of literature, and an ordinary-extraordinary sundown or ocean scene—these presents stir us, transfer us, contact us in methods and dimensions that we can’t clarify to our satisfaction. It was Dostoevsky’s conviction that these experiences of magnificence had been the intrusion of the Transcendent, the stirrings of the Holy Spirit of God.
As the Orthodox theologian, Prof. Paul Evdokimov writes, “It is in holiness, in the Holy Spirit, that human people find again the immediate intuition of true Beauty. It is the healing power that flows from Christ, the Great Healer. Christ unites us and the world to Divine Beauty, God Himself.”
On the Sunday of Holy Orthodoxy, with the conclusion that theological debate and struggling enabled the Church to revive the holy icons to prayer and worship, I need to discover “the other” method of encounter—the icon as an expression of and window into Divine Beauty. The 350 Fathers of the Second Council of Nicea in 787 A.D. had been conscious that they weren’t solely defining an article of religion for all ages, they had been additionally instructing that in wooden, steel, paint, wax, and stone, within the unusual artifacts of human life, God involves man, God reveals Himself a lot in the best way He did to Moses within the burning bush.
In and thru the holy icons, Divine Beauty takes possession of the human soul if we enable it to occur. Towards the top of his life, the 20th century Protestant theologian, Karl Barth, wrote that “the theologian’s work should be wholly governed by the “logic of wonder.”
“There is,” he mentioned, “a persistent danger that theologians, instead, will end up committed to just the opposite—the wonder of logic.”
Beauty is in regards to the coronary heart and fewer in regards to the head. Beauty touches us the place we’re susceptible and the place we really feel issues intensely, not assume issues exactly. Beauty can convey tears, give us goose bumps, create an inexplicable interruption in life right here and now, to share with us a glimpse into life past. Today, we Orthodox Christians carry excessive the holy icons and proclaim, “Here is such magnificence! Here we meet the Creator God who strikes all issues! Here, in human supplies and expression, we stand trying into the very coronary heart of the Divine! What in regards to the icons in my life—have they got true that means for me?”
The Icons Are Touchpoints of Love
Unlike the non secular statues and work within the West, the icons have their origin particularly within the outlined religion of the Church and in the end within the everlasting love of God. They are meant for use not merely hung like some other portray. We ought to go to them within the icon nook of our houses for every day prayer or in moments of disaster and of pleasure, as people and as households. We ought to enter and go away our houses by reverencing the icons. Why do Orthodox Christians do these items?
Our holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor tells us, “This beauty is ecstatic, it moves out of itself to our hearts through its beauty, goodness, and profusion of God’s intense love for everything.”
Our icons are touchpoints of God’s love for us. We don’t worship icons, we take a look at them in a holy gaze and venerate the one represented in it. Think of it as a window on holiness, on therapeutic, on the love of God prepared for our taking. Our icons not solely replicate God Himself, additionally they replicate who we’re deep inside ourselves. St. Gregory of Sinai writes, “We speak of the ‘angelic life’ as one that through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Logos, made our flesh—our natural form of clay—a resplendent and fiery image of Divine Beauty.”
Spend time earlier than your icons in case you want to really feel the enlivening pressure (dynamis) of God’s love in your life. It takes effort and time, however your soul and religious life will draw sustenance from the expertise.
The Icons Are Touchpoints of Truth
Every icon has a reality to convey. In his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” the British poet John Keats wrote, “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty—that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.” The magnificence of the icon tells a religious reality. If the icon depicts a martyr, it speaks of paying the value for discipleship, maybe the final word one. If it’s a monk or nun, it speaks to us of reorganizing our lives in order to make every day time for God, for prayer, for silence and stillness.
If it’s a lay particular person Saint, it tells us that the decision to discipleship belongs to everybody, to all believers. If the icon is of the Holy Theotokos, it calls us, like she, to give up, to humility, to acknowledge that Christ is a very powerful particular person in our lives as He was in hers. If it’s the Lord depicted, the icon shines into our hearts with the therapeutic, compassion, and merciful presence of Him, who for our sakes, was born, lived, suffered, died and rose once more that you simply and I’d stay perpetually!
Icons are a refuge in unsure, complicated, chaotic instances, they usually name to us from the partitions of our icon nook begging us to take shelter in them. As St. Gregory Palamas taught in regards to the Transfiguration, we will belief in regards to the icon: “that this beauty is Christ who manifested to His disciples ‘what He really was’, the True Light, the beauty of Divine Glory, and the beauty of the Age to Come.”
The Icons Are Touchpoints of New Vision
Gazing might be the most effective phrase to the touch the core of Patristic spirituality. Whereas St. Benedict, who has set the tone for the spirituality of the West, calls us first of all to pay attention, the Eastern fathers summon us to gaze. They name us to soak up by our eyes the magical marvel of Divine Beauty and to be modified by it. By creating the observe of prayer earlier than the icons, we’re forming a brand new imaginative and prescient, a brand new method of seeing ourselves, others, and our world, a brand new method of seeing and experiencing God.
St. Theodore the Studite (759-826AD), one of the primary theologians who contributed to the decision of the iconoclastic controversy, emphasised the significance of praying with sacred photographs.
“Imprint Christ…onto your heart, where he [already] dwells; whether you read a book about him, or behold him in an image, may he inspire your thoughts, as you come to know him twofold through the twofold experience of your senses. Thus you will see with your eyes what you have learned through the words you have heard. He who in this way hears and sees will fill his entire being with the praise of God.”
Too typically, Orthodox Christians cling icons all through their houses and, merely, neglect them. They change into mere decorations. Some Orthodox houses don’t have any icon nook in any respect, thus no religious middle of the house linked inextricably to the Temple the place we worship on the Lord’s day. What about your private home? Today is an ideal day to resume your houses and your hearts by establishing the holy icons as the middle of household life and prayer. May the phrases of St. Nikolai of Ochrid remind us of why we do that.
“What, my Christian, do you so fervently reverence when the icon you kiss? Christ, the God and Savior I am kissing, the choirs of angels, the saints, and the Mother of God. Mortal am I, and therefore unable them to touch, but when their images I kiss, my heart is a peace.”
I want all of you to come back to that internal peace by your holy icons!
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