As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has illumined, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has triumphed; this we believe, this we declare, this we preach: Christ our True God, and His Saints we honor in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in Temples, in Icons, on the one hand bowing down and worshipping Christ as God and Master, on the other hand honoring the Saints as true servants of he Master of all, and offering to them due veneration.
This is the Faith of the Apostles! This is the Faith of the Fathers! This is the Faith of the Orthodox! This is the Faith which has established The Universe!
(―The Synodikon‖ from the Sunday of Orthodoxy)
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be.
As we are about to embark on the first phase of the completion of the hagiography of the church of Saint Andrew I would like to explain the significance of it according to our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition.
The Tradition of the Church is expressed not only through words, not only through the actions and gestures used in worship, but also through art- through the line and color of the Holy Icons. An icon is NOT simply a religious picture designed to arouse appropriate emotions in the beholder; it is one of the ways whereby God is REVEALED TO US. Through icons the Orthodox Christian RECEIVES A VISION OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Because the icon is part of Tradition, icons painters are not free to adapt their own aesthetic sentiments but THE MIND OF THE CHURCH. Artistic inspiration is not excluded, but it is exercised within certain prescribed rules. It is important that iconographers should be good artists, but is even more important that they should be sincere Christians, living within the spirit of Tradition, preparing themselves for their work by means of Confession and Holy Communion.
The Purpose of this Sacred Art
"Thus we say that each vessel, animal, and plant is good, not from its formation or from its color, but from the service it renders" (St. John Chrysostom). The same is true with this sacred art; it is good, not on account of it being "art of the Church," but on account of the service it renders to the Church. As such it is interwoven with the life, the evolution and the whole Tradition of the Church.
Mr. Constantine Kalokyris, in his work entitled Orthodox Iconography, suggests that the character and fundamental significance of Orthodox Iconography is:
- Art of Spiritual Service: The content of Orthodox Iconography has been determined directly by the needs and the profound spiritual purpose of the Church. It serves to INSPIRE, TEACH, GUIDE, AND ENCOURAGE THE FAITHFUL IN THEIR QUEST TOWARDS SPIRITUAL PERFECTION. ICONOGRAPHY EXPRESSES HOLINESS AND THE MORE SUBLIME MEANINGS OF ORTHODOXY IN ITS SACRED CONTENT: THE SAVIOR, THE THEOTOKOS, THE APOSTLES, THE ANGELIC POWERS, AND THE MARTYRS OF THE FAITH.
- Liturgical Art: The Mystery of the Holy Eucharist is the center and the ESSENCE OF THE DIVINE LITURGY (the work of the people). From its inception, iconography was concerned primarily with this highest purpose of the Church. As such, it has attempted to contribute with its own means to the believers‘ UNDERSTANDING OF THE GREAT MYSTERY OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST AND OF THE WHOLE LITURGICAL DRAMA. This is illustrated in the earliest of sacred drawings: the fish, the bread, the sacrificial lamb, the Sacrifice of Abraham etc. As iconography evolved, liturgical themes of the Communion of the Apostles, the Liturgy of the Angels, the self sacrificing one, the co-celebrant hierarchs are depicted. Simply, iconography has attempted to make understandable the SUBLIME CONTENT OF THE DIVINE LITURGY AND ESPECIALLY THE PROFOUOND LITURGICAL ACT OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST.
- Art of High Theology: This art is not simply religious as in the West, but theological. Its themes are not simply related to religious history, but are organized according to the high Theology of the Orthodox Church. As such, Orthodox Churches are filled with not simply images of the passion, but with art depicting the life of our Lord (the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church); the Theotokos; the Saints, the Evangelists; the Angelic powers; all under the blessings of the Lord. Additionally, those depicted are ―represented‖ in a manner that suggests their true nature: in communion with the Saints, earthly, or deprived of the Spirit of Grace.
- An Art of Depth: Orthodox iconography is an expressionistic art form that seeks to convey a profound life-experience that possesses the soul. Byzantine art therefore uses intense animated features (i.e., big eyes, small mouths, large ears), bright colors, and postures (i.e., frontal posture of Saints who are in direct communion with God) to suggest the true ―spirit‖ of the one depicted. Difference between the sacred art of the West and the East are illustrated in both the icons of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
I ask you to support this holy effort and to participate as individuals and as families by donating one of the holy icons either on the First, Second or Third Phase of the Iconography. The First Phase of the Iconography will take place approximately at the middle of October. Mr. Papastamatiou is very close to completing the holy icons on canvas that will be attached to the Narthex, the Nave and the Holy Altar. The placement of the holy icons is a holy offering to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and only for His Glory and in turn He blesses us and our parish.
Saint John of the Ladder says, "There was an ascetic who, whenever he happened to see a beautiful person, whether man or woman, would glorify the Creator of that person with all his heart, and from a mere glance his love for God would spring afresh and he would pour out on his account a fountain of tears. And one marveled, seeing this happen, that for this man what would cause the soul of another to stink had become a reason for crowns and an ascent above nature. Whoever perceives beauty in this fashion is already incorruptible, even before the dead shall rise in the common Resurrection."
May Our Lord continue to bless us and our beloved parish.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God