Sunday, February 25, 2007

Triumph of Orthodoxy

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Eastern Church celebrates a feast that commemorates the Church's official approval of holy images.

Holy images have been a part of Christian worship and spirituality since the earliest times. St Luke, in fact, is thought to be the very first iconographer.

But in the 8th century, the followers of the new religion of Islam invaded the Middle East--conquering, subjugating, and killing Christians. The formerly Christian lands of the Middle East and north Africa fell under the control of Islam. The Emperor of Byzantium, Leo, thought that perhaps this was befalling the Christians because of their use of holy images. Maybe God did not approve of them.

Thus, a heresy sprang up in the Eastern Church called iconoclasm - literally, "icon-smashing." Churches were whitewashed, and writing or owning icons were illegal. Icons were destroyed.

But defenders of the holy images, especially St John of Damascus (675-745), bravely wrote treatises explaining why veneration of icons was proper. St John argued that in the Old Testament, images of God were forbidden because He was invisible, but that Jesus was the image, or "icon", of the invisible God; the invisible God was now visible, and thus it was proper to make and venerate images of Christ, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints.

Finally, at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, the Church officially approved and encouraged the use and veneration of holy images. This day, which is on the first Sunday of Lent, has ever since been called the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

[via Karen]

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2 Comments:

Blogger Karen said...

Thanks for the "hat tip", Constantine!

Mon Feb 26, 10:14:00 pm 2007  
Blogger Deo Juvante said...

Iconoclasm... interesting. At least now this topic won't appear like Greek (no pun intended) to me.

Do you have any good links to St John of Damascus's writings defending the veneration of sacred images?

Have a good and Holy Lent!

P.s. Perhaps you may like to share how the Eastern Church commemorates Great Lent.

Fri Mar 02, 12:38:00 am 2007  

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