Skip to comments.Author Frank Schaeffer to speak on his Orthodox faith
Posted on 02/23/2003 12:27:57 AM PST by DestroEdited on 04/13/2004 1:55:56 AM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
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It's a strange country we live in.
Alas, this is too often true. They certainly don't have anything to do with the Catholic faith that I knew.
The Orthodox, fortunately, seem to be immune to this at the moment. Hope they stay that way!
I've toyed with the idea of writing my own book to explain to charismatics why traditional, liturgical worship can be more fulfilling than "praise gatherings."
I'd love to use this occasion to have a dialogue with other Christian FReepers about the merits of traditional, patristic, confessional, (small "c") catholic faith and liturgical worship. Anyone interested?
I was raised Methodist, got born again and "spirit-filled" in the '70s, then became a Missouri Synod Lutheran in the 80s. What I have come to appreciate about historical Christianity since is very profound, IMO. I have a suspicion that many FReepers would, by inclination, really appreciate these truths as well, if only they were exposed to them.
I was into Francis Schaeffer when I was a charismatic, and the last book by Franky that I bought was his Christian Manifesto. Really liked it, but I haven't followed him since. Very cool that he's gone Orthodox! Things aren't going well in the Missouri Synod at present (thanks to the libs,) and, when I become frustrated, I toy with the idea of going Orthodox. Their worship practices are simply stunning. Very deep, engaging and, I would bet, fulfilling. Fortunately, my present church is going in the right direction, so I still have a church home where I and my family are fed and fulfilled.
It came out about the time I was discovering historic Christianity. Amazon.com shows several other related works, Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church, and Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church.
The one exception is a man who converted from Byzantine Rite Roman Catholicism for the same reason St. Alexis Toth led most of the American uniates of his generation back to the Church: the Latins in North America will not honor the terms of the "Union" of Brest, and attempt to Latinize their Eastern Rite coreligionists.
Have there been a new wave of conversions from the Latin church since the clerical scandals broke? I've not heard anything about it. (Though my priest waggishly suggested to me on an occasion when I spoke about Holy Orthodoxy at one of the Latin parishes in our town that I tell the "Your children are safe with us." I did not take the suggestion.)
I'm not trying to put anyone down, maybe somebody out here can answer this:
How is it that a form of christianity that considers itself in "original" form squares the obsession with images (icons) in worship with the the abhorrance of images in worship common among the Jews who were the "founders of christianity?
Most Protestants and Roman Catholics do not know that a tremendous doctrinal controversy once raged over the issue of "images'' in the Church. This subject would be well worth 'their investigation, for Protestants are almost Puritanical in their use of sacred art, and Catholics for the most part still make use of statues--neither of which reflects the Apostolic mind of the Church of Christ.
According to Tradition, as most Orthodox Christians know, the first "images" or icons were painted by St. Luke--and some of these (of the Mother of God holding Christ as a Child) survive to this day and are greatly venerated. In addition, the walls of the Roman catacombs provide a dazzling and moving display of sacred art: these fresco-icons depict Christ and the truths of our Faith from Scripture and Tradition; not surprisingly ,they also show the Mother of God holding the Christ-child, certain early martyrs, and various Sacraments (such as the Eucharist, Baptism, etc.). Some of these date from the end of the first century, when certain Apostles and disciples were still living. It is said that it would be possible for a non-Christian to understand many deep things about Christianity simply by walking through these wonderful underground passageways. One modern scholar has made the interesting observation that these early icons show how the first Christians "were accustomed to consider themselves not so much as individuals but rather as members of the Church." (The Roman Catacombs and Their Martyrs).
And so it was for seven centuries until, in the year 726, a vicious destruction of icons broke out, waged by people (including the Emperor) who did not fully understand the doctrine of Christ and the Christian attitude towards created matter. Icons were burned, frescoes were white-washed, and those that defended them were imprisoned and sometimes put to death. This first phase of persecution was stopped by the Empress Irene in 780, but a new attack which began in 815, did not end until another Empress, Theodore, ended the persecutions once and for all, in 843--an event still commemorated on the first Sunday of Lent as "The Triumph of Orthodoxy."
In between these two great persecutions the Seventh (and last) Ecumenical Council was held, at Nicea in 787. This Council of Holy Fathers not only defended the use of icons in churches and homes, but proclaimed the necessity of having them. Why?
One of the arguments used by the icon-haters (iconoclasts) was that images of any kind were forbidden in Scripture and therefore icons are nothing more than idols. They also tended to believe that created matter was in some way evil or defiled, and holy things could not be represented by matter; to be truly spiritual, they believed, a thing should be invisible, or at least non-representational. This idea was actually a subtle attack on the doctrine of Christ's Incarnation, and therefore had to be condemned as a heresy.
One of the greatest defenders of icons, the Holy Father St. John of Damascus (see "Orthodox America," Vol. II, no. 1), gave an eloquent explanation of icons in three treatises called Against Those Who Attack The Divine Images. Very briefly summarized here, St. John expresses the consistent thought of the Church from the time of the Apostles to the Seventh Council.
First he reminded his readers that "no created thing can be adored in place of the Creator." God forbade the making of idols he says, because "it is impossible to make an image of the immeasurable...invisible God." Yet at the same time, "under the Old Covenant God commanded images to be made: first the tabernacle, and then everything in it"--which included images of angels surmounting the Ark. These images were not idols because they were not worshipped.
Secondly, he explains how God can be portrayed now because He took upon Himself flesh and became man. "If we attempted to make an image of the invisible God, this would be sinful indeed," he writes, and "if we made images of men and believed them to be gods...we would be truly impious. We do neither of these things. But we are not mistaken if we make the image of God incarnate, Who was seen on earth in the flesh, associated with men, and in His unspeakable goodness assumed the nature, feeling, form, and color of our flesh."
Thirdly, he shows that we do not worship icons, for worship belongs to God alone, but we venerate or show honor to them, for the image is one thing, and the thing depicted is another," and he cites the veneration given in Scripture to the rod of Aaron, the jar of manna, and holy places like Mt. Sanai or Golgotha.
Finally, this Holy Father answers those that believe matter is in some way "bad." He begins by quoting Scripture: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It is obvious to everyone that Flesh is matter, and that it is created. I salute matter and I approach it with reverence, and I worship that through which my salvation has come. I honor it, not as God, but because it is full of divine grace and strength."
Icons in our churches and homes are, in the words of St. John "opened books to remind us of God." (indeed ,an icon is a painted image of Christ just as Scripture is a written image of the Saviour.) This is why Timothy (Fr. Kallistos) Ware writes in The Orthodox Church: He who lacks learning or leisure to study works of theology has only to enter a church to see unfolded before him on the walls all the mysteries of the Christian religion. If a pagan asks you to show him your faith, said John of Damascus, take him into church and place before him the icons."
Sincerely yours, Fr. Alexey Young