Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time, Space, Matter, and The Eyes - Iconography

I have heard the Anglican Bishop, N. T. Wright tell a story of his experience as the chaplain in one of the ivey league schools in the UK. In that story he recounts a common event during his chaplaincy; it was his job to interview every student that came under his care when they enterd the school. Inevitably he would ask the question, "do you believe in God?"  The great majority of the students answered this way: 'Oh no, I don't believe in some angry old man, who sits in the clouds, and sends down misfortune upon anyone who doesn't please him."  To that the Bishop would answer, "Thank God, I don't believe in that God either."  After this response, most students would go into temporary shock, after all he was a bishop, he was expected to believe, and this was the only god they knew.  They knew only of a non material god, outside of time and space, who had no real inter-connection with his creation. They had no idea which god it is that Christians have claimed throughout the ages to be the God of creation.

I dont' know what bishop Wright said after that, I hope he said: "I belieive in the God of Israel, who was present with them, the God of the apostles who took on flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the God of the church fathers who was present with them while they were being tortured and burned at the stake, the God we find revealed in the bible and experienced within ourselves by way of His Spirit, the God who is first and foremost love, mercy, and compassion, and who made that love known in the peson of Jesus Christ."

Whatever else might be noted in the two different views here is that we believe in God that is both beyond us, and yet with us, & even in us. Moreover, we believe that God is forever connected to our matter.  It is for this reason that the church from its earliest days determined to employ icons as visual presentations of both the bible, and the life of the church.  Since God took on matter, He has forever sanctified it, and made  holy.

Nevertheless, as a visual representation, iconography is not static, it too has been translated into forms more understandable by the cultures where the icon seeks to materially present God.  Below are some contemporary translations of ancient iconography.

   If one views and meditates on these Americanized icons, it is very difficult  not to expereince God's presence, it is very difficult not learn something of God, and even more importantly, not expereince something of God.

More to come......

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