Icons

Phoicon has joined the team over at Amendment Nine, and his second post takes a shot at this humble blog:

Dan, the author of the blog TDAXP, was a favorite of Federalist X’s. I have no idea why. I’ve visited Dan’s blog often. The vast majority of what he has to say is completely incomprehensible, though there is a good deal of the Catholic guilt thrown in so it isn’t all incomprehensible to me I suppose.

and, more interestingly, at my Easter message


Not religiously correct?

Phoicon’s critique is direct, and well thought out:

The drawing is in fact a mockery of Christ. It is laughing in the face of the resurrection. The artist undoubtedly was amused, like most easterners so cynically are, at the notion that the dead were raised. The Buddha-like hand gestures again show disdain for Christianity and certainly for the Orthodox faith. The whole thing is an abomination. One must wonder whether Dan posted the picture as an insult to Christians intentionally or just naively?

Phicon seems to prefer a more Greek form of iconography:


Icon of The Risen Christ

Writing:

Here is no faceless godhead, but a man. A strong man victoriously lifting the dead from their tombs. He has conqured death and is unblemished. Everyone is beneath him as he lefts the dead from their eternal slumber. This is Jesus, son of Man, winning the fight.

Again, Phoicon chose is thoughts well. He is correct in his condemnation of the Byzantine artwork. But, I think, wrong in his negative criticism…


The reason I chose to go with a work by He Qi was his stunningly beautiful painting of Saint Paul being called on the road to Damascus. The portrait is striking,


The Calling of Saint Paul

More unrealistic even that European renditions


The Conversion of Saint Paul

He Qi captures the moment in a foreign, stylized manner. He gives us not a photograph of what happened (in the manner that the Passion of the Christ gives a photographic account of the crucifixion) but something to remember it by.

And this, something to remember by, is what we mean by “icon.” The cross and crucifixes, the depictions of Mary and the Saints, that the iconoclasts smashed where not powers and principalities apart from God, but rather tools to help us remember the life and death of Our Lord, the Queen of the Angels, and all those who follow him. Likewise, the family is an icon of the Holy Trinity, as the love that connects each person in the family reminds us of the Perfect Love connecting the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as three persons, in one God.

Which brings us back to the icon that so enraged Phoicon


Faux Iconography?

Whether this art is an icon or not pivots on one point: does it help you remember the Resurrection of Our Lord. If yes, then it is an icon. If not, then it is not.

This is true whether or not it embraces & extends Buddhism to its logical completion (indeed, the logical completion of all things): Love.

Hear also: The episode Iconoclasm: What’s that?, from Rock Solid with Mark Shea, a podcast by Catholic Exchange.

7 thoughts on “Icons”

  1. “I've visited Dan's blog often. The vast majority of what he has to say is completely incomprehensible…”

    Apparently he doesn't have a TDAXP Secret Decoder Ring.

    When a transcultural religion like Christianity enters a new culture it is reinterpreted through the aesthetic language and sensibility of that culture. There is no “mockery” or “disdain” in this. The pre-Christian Celts liked to fill space with intricate, curved designs, such as the well-known Celtic knots. Irish Christians used this aesthetic langauge in their illuminated manuscripts and as designs on crosses. No doubt there were some who thought this barbaric, even insulting. But it was just normal people expressing their religious belief in an aesthetic language that made sense to them. He Qi likely is doing the same.

  2. Honestly, this overly structured stuff and weird semantic arguments only serve to remind me why my people ended up dancing with snakes.

    Feinians, please ditch the incense…;)

  3. Dan, I'm wondering how you would distinguish between icons and idols, iconography and idolatry?

    Is it merely this: that idols are worshiped as if they **are** gods, but icons, as you say in this post, merely remind one of a god?

    If so, then I wonder if the outrage from the Jesus statues (chocolate, urine-covered, etc.) is a negative reaction resulting from idolatry, or the feeling that Jesus is getting pissed on or is being made into something sweet and edible. (Nevermind the wafer-eating idolatry….)

  4. Phil – Perfectly said!

    Catholicgauze – Stonecutters only. Sorry.

    ElamBend – this overly structured and weirdly semantic stuff exists, but it's ultimately superfluous. Faith and Hope remain, but Love does too, and is greater than these.

    Curtis –

    “Is it merely this: that idols are worshiped as if they **are** gods, but icons, as you say in this post, merely remind one of a god?”

    Generally, yes. You can normally replace “icon” with “picture” or “photograph” with no lack of meaning.

    “If so, then I wonder if the outrage from the Jesus statues (chocolate, urine-covered, etc.) is a negative reaction resulting from idolatry, or the feeling that Jesus is getting pissed on or is being made into something sweet and edible.”

    Certainly one shouldn't confuse a depiction with a substance. However, besides being blasphemy, such is cruel. If someone would defecate on a picture of your mother, they are not evacuating on your mother. That does not make it all right.

    Much of this art is a equivalent of mutilating family photos.

    “(Nevermind the wafer-eating idolatry….)”

    The consecrated Host is the body and blood of Christ. The “wafer” is, really and truly, the body and blood of Christ, as the wine becomes, really and truly, the body and blood of Christ. Communion is not an Icon of those events, but rather their Re-Presentation.

  5. “If someone would defecate on a picture of your mother, they are not evacuating on your mother. That does not make it all right.”

    But the difference is: Jesus is not **your** savior, but everyone's in theory. Or say, an image of God, to make it more inclusive. You might say that a person would not piss on an image of his own God, or that it is blasphemy — but perhaps his God, or his concept of Jesus, would permit him to do so, perhaps require him to do so. (For instance, if he thinks Jesus is against idolatry, or the worshiping of symbols as if those symbols are any where near capable of drawing a picture of such an omnipresent, all powerful, HUGE God.)

    From your answer about the wafer, and your agreement that believing the idol means worshiping the idol as if it were god, it would seem that Communion is an idolatrous affair.

    BTW, I'm not trying to disparage your faith, but only seeking a better guidance toward it.

  6. Curtis,

    This reply seems to focus on semantics, so it may not be useful. But nonetheless…

    “But the difference is: Jesus is not **your** savior, but everyone's in theory”

    Well, both, Christ is my personal savior — as He is to everyone.

    “but perhaps his God, or his concept of Jesus, would permit him to do so, perhaps require him to do so.”

    Perhaps. One aspect of the Koran Gitmo/desecration riots was Taliban and Qaedist guerrillas attacking protesters, as they consider it shirk (idolatry) to in any way venerate physical ink-and-paper.

    “(For instance, if he thinks Jesus is against idolatry, or the worshiping of symbols as if those symbols are any where near capable of drawing a picture of such an omnipresent, all powerful, HUGE God.)”

    Indeed. That would be the position of the Iconoclasts..

    “From your answer about the wafer, and your agreement that believing the idol means worshiping the idol as if it were god, it would seem that Communion is an idolatrous affair.”

    No, for the same reason a Christian doesn't consider the worship of the Holy Spirit as polytheism. The Holy Spirit really and truly is God, as the Host really and truly is the Blood and Body of Christ. (Certainly, though, a fundamentalist may charge a Catholic with idolatry — ultimately whether it is or not comes down to the factual question of whether the Host really & truly is the Blood and the Body.)

    “I'm not trying to disparage your faith, but only seeking a better guidance toward it.”

    Of course. And it is appreciated. “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

  7. “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

    –this, I like very much. Even a skeptic can find guidance from the Bible! (I usually go with the ask, seek, knock lines, though…!)

  8. “Is it merely this: that idols are worshiped as if they **are** gods, but icons, as you say in this post, merely remind one of a god?”

    I wonder where the Sudanese Teddy Bear scandal fits into this.

  9. Well, to be honest with you, I was just looking for an excuse to say “Sudanese Teddy Bear scandal.”

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