Friday, October 18, 2013

In the bosom of the Father

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John 1:18 King James Version

θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε ο μονογενης υιος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο

This post is about an ikon.

Ikons are painted, two-dimensional images which have been used by the Church for centuries. They say that the first ikons were painted by holy evangelist Luke, using the encaustic method which was contemporarily used to paint images of the dead on their coffin lids in Hellenistic Egypt. This is certainly a possibility. Others like to point at the images painted on the walls of the catacombs and say that those were the first ikons.

If it were a matter of simply painting a picture of Christ, or a saint, the catacomb art might be considered ikons, but they also painted mere symbols there as well. What ikons are considered today is something different. It is said they are written, not painted. They are supposed to depict only what is historically true, though they can mix elements anachronistically in the same ikon. They are meant to be "windows into heaven," and a graphic equivalent of the Bible, which is why they must adhere to very strict rules.

The ikon of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Triad of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is supposed to be depicted only from what is explicitly or implicitly revealed in the Bible. As such, the two most common ikons of the Trinity are (1) the hospitality of Abraham, and (2) the baptism of Christ. In the first, the Triad of angels that visited Abram and Sarai at the oak of Mamre are the Trinity in a mystery. In the second, the baptism of Christ depicts the Triad as the Voice (the Father, sometimes shown by His hand), the Dove (the Spirit) and Christ Himself.

Today, as I was hunting for an ikon of Mark the Evangelist to use in my Greek New Testament blog Η Καινή Διαθήκη, I ran across a Chinese website that had a large selection of ikons, some of which are very unique. Though I did not find the ikon I was searching for, I did find two others that I saved, and I added the site to the Christian Art link list in the side bar, as 正教圣像 Orthodox Ikons. If you go to this site to view the ikons, at the bottom of the page, clicking on a small flower image will take you to the main page with additional links. Everything is in Chinese!

Back to the topic, a certain ikon, in fact, the ikon at the top of this post.

The name of this ikon at the website is Paternitas, which is Latin for Fatherhood, I think. This is actually an ikon of the Holy Triad, but not in the traditional, scriptural form. It really impressed me, nonetheless, and then the word came to me, "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." This unusual ikon really is a depiction in visual form of this bible verse, John 1:18. The Dove for the Holy Spirit is borrowed, of course, from the baptism ikon, and the surrounding of seraphim, from the ikon of the vision of holy prophet Isaiah, but everything is still biblical.

One other ikon from the site is a massively detailed ikon of the Resurrection of Christ and His Descent into Hades. It is an excellent example of how an ikon can depict a theological panorama (> Greek, pan = everything, orama = view), provoking questions and suggesting answers, drawing our attention always to the scriptures, and through them by the Holy Spirit's leading, to the living Christ, thus completing the cycle of illumination. An ikon never causes us to stop and stare. A true ikon drives us into the wilderness to seek the Truth.

Yes, I am making a road in the wilderness,
paths in the wilds.
The wild beasts will honour Me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I am putting water in the wilderness,
rivers in the wild,
to give My chosen people drink.
The people I have formed for myself
will sing my praises.
Isaiah 43:19b-21 Jerusalem Bible

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