My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
"Let Us make man in Our image" (Kat’ Eikona")
The purpose of hagiography ( or iconography) in the Orthodox churches was, from the very beginning, one: service to the Church. Iconography appeared as art not for its own sake, but for the Faith. Thus, its content was determined directly by the needs and the profound purposes of the Church. These purposes, of course, were not material but spiritual, purposes which our Holy Church had to proclaim by every possible means. "The foundation of faith in the spiritual reality, in the immortality of the soul and in the blessedness that is in God was always primary. The pursuit of blessedness in the present temporal and in the future Eternal Life was to be achieved by participation in the Mysteries and by the life the faithful would go through in observing all that Holy Scripture and its official interpreter, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church commanded."
The Orthodox Christian believer had to be taught in every way possible that in his journey toward perfection in Christ, he would have to struggle against the powers of darkness, against his passions, the manifold evil, and even to reach martyrdom, as did our Savior Jesus Christ, the holy Apostles, Confessors, and the countless Martyrs of the Faith.
Our Holy Orthodox Church sought the assistance of painting. Thus, the contest of the iconography was interwoven with "life, the evolution", and "the whole tradition" of the Church. "Orthodox Christian art, the beautiful, is not determined from the natural formation of the objects, but from its "sublime content." That is, from the power of serving the truths of the Faith."
Orthodox Byzantine iconography is not simply a religious art as the Latin West, but is also theological. Its themes are not simply related to religious history, but are organized according to the Theology of the Holy Orthodox Church. Orthodox theologians believed that holy icons, with their symbolic content, were to illustrate the Divine Liturgy and, being in agreement with the texts of Holy Scripture, add details to them and make the Gospels more comprehensible. While working on an image (eikona) theologians and iconographers used all available sources; the Gospels, hagiographies, verbal hymns, prayers, words of prophets, and commentaries of eminent Holy Father of the Church.
Painting or ‘writing’ an icon was a great spiritual ascesis. Hagiographers go through a vigorous spiritual preparation: prayer and fasting. "The hagiographer had to be a virtuous person, humble, pious, and strong believer. A person not given to idle talking, and laughing, nor quarrelsome; not envious, not a drunkard, not a thief, but someone who kept his chastity of spirit and body." From my own experience with an iconographer who, as he painted the icon of a specific Saint, would invoke or ask the aid of the Saint so that his image would be true to his likeness.
As Orthodox Christians, we believe that all the people on earth are the children of the same God and Creator. Therefore, every one of them, approximately seven billion or so, possess the image of God the Holy Trinity. All were created in His image. We know of course that all believe in the same God and many do not even believe at all. This does not change the reality of the existence of God. Since man has no power to change his own reality, how then can he contemplate changing anything pertaining to the Almighty, Who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end of everything?
When we investigate deeper the fact that we were created by the same God, the Holy Trinity, in His Divine image, we must admit and aknowledge that we are all related to each other spiritually. That we all have the same Father and therefore belong to the same brotherhood and human family. We need to see finally the image (eikona) of God in one another and be inspired and revere one another. By acknowledging this very fact and loving one another, we would eliminate instantly any bias and antagonism. There would exist mutual respect, mutual faith in God, mutual purpose and a mutual path. Wars between peoples and nations would cease and there would be unity among us. Ethnicity, skin color, language, culture, wealth, power, and government would be of no importance.
God’s Divine image in all of us would unite us with our Creator and with one another. His image in us is more than an image, it is His presence in us and in our hearts. God is the One Who is the same creative force that unites us forever. Everything from God leads to unity and to eternal Life. The problem is mankind, which is too blind to see God’s Divine plan for us. God is AGAPE (LOVE) and His Divine grace is the power that, with man’s synergy, His will be fulfilled and manifested for all to see.
We must not obscure or attempt to hide the Living Image of God within us. There can be nothing more glorious, spectacular, magnificent, most beautiful, than this Holy Image (eikona) within us. When we truly look at each other, we ought to see and acknowledge that sacred beauty. No person would ever be considered ugly physically or otherwise. Ugliness would not exist any longer. We would only see God’s great beauty in ourselves.
As imperfect people and people who possess free will, the decision to adhere to the commandments of the Lord is ours. However, a life of disobedience to God’s will, a life of vice, of unrestraint and wicked passions, of absence of faith, of hostility, of hatred, of pride, of deception, of corruption, of arrogance, of greed, of the absence of love for God and our fellow man, will obscure, blur, darkened, and even distort our perceptions. God forbid! The image of God within us must be protected at all cost and presevere. The way to make sure that it stays as bright and beautiful, is to abide by the Lord’s Commandments, to be obedient, to be loving, to be forgiving, to love our enemies, to live a virtuous life, to see each other as brothers and sisters and not as opponents or competitors.
Another ancient art form is mosaics. Mosaics have been a popular art form in several cultures around the world. The earliest know mosaics date back to the 3rd millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia. They are made up of ivory, seashells, stones, and tessera (small pieces of glass or other nature-based materials). When made out of glass, these pieces are typically cut into squares or shaped using special tools. Byzantine mosaics were produced from the 4th to 15th centuries.
What if all humanity was represented by the most beaituful and colorful mosaic icon (image) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? This sacred icon of the Lord is made out of pieces of colored glass. Each piece of glass represents a human soul. Every piece of glass, whether it’s gold, brown, green, blue, white, yellow, purple etc., is necessary, indispensable, to the holy icon. If any one of the pieces is missing, the icon would be incomplete and so would be the figure of the Savior. Therefore, every piece of glass, every human soul, is needed to complete the image of Christ. Every soul is priceless in God’s Divine plan and desires all souls to be saved and to enter His Heavenly Kingdom. Amen
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the Love of God and Father, and
the Communion of the Holy Spirit be
with you all. Amen
A BLESSED HOLY AND GREAT LENT TO ALL OF YOU!
"Glory Be To GOD