Blessed Elder Amvrosios Lazaris the Athonite and the Dread Judgment Day

Picture 038

“The Dread Judgment “Day” will last as long as the Six Psalms last, a few minutes.  At this time, while we will be judged, the Angels will chant the Six psalms. …

All the people who will be alive at this moment, they will instantly experience death and then be immediately resurrected. Our bodies will be immaterial, space-less. We will be able to see each other’s body and we will all be 33 years old.

Christ Icon on Iconostasis

Our Lord will hold the Book of Life, the Gospel, open, and immediately, each one of us will go on our own either to the right or to the left, because we will know in our hearts whether we are for Paradise or not.

Christ icon on Bishop's throne

This is exactly why in the Bishop’s throne, the Book in the icon of Christ is open and there is no candle over this icon–this indicates that there will be no Mercy in the Second Coming. While in the Iconostasis, the Book which Christ is holding is closed and there is a candle lit over the icon because there is still Mercy. “

✝️ Blessed Elder Amvrosios Lazaris the Athonite (21/12/1912 – 02/12/2006)  ☦️

geron-amvrosios-071

The Hieromonk Amvrosios (born Spyridon Lazaridis) departed this life on 2 December 2006 (New Calendar), at the age of 92. He was the spiritual father of the Holy Monastery of Our Most Holy Lady Gavriotissa, Dadi, and of thousands of Christians from all over Greece.

During a chat, I [Archimandrite Ephraim, Abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery] once had with the late Elder, he told me that after his military service, he wanted to go to the Holy Mountain, but he didn’t know how or where to go. Then a young man of about 25 appeared and told him: “I know the place, come with me”. And so he went.

They set off together, went down to the harbour and embarked on a boat. “He gave me bread, as well”, he said, “and we ate together all the days I was with him. He didn’t tell me his name, though, and I didn’t ask. So we arrived at Dafni and from there walked on, further up the Holy Mountain.

When I was with him, I felt very safe. As we went along, he showed me the Monastery of Xiropotamou, where they honour the Forty Martyrs. He asked if I would like to pay my respects and I agreed to do so. We went into the katholiko, the main church of the Monastery, and when I kissed the icon, forty men appeared and surrounded us. The young man turned to me and said: “They’re the Forty Martyrs and they’re happy that you’re going to be a monk”.

From there we continued on our way and reached Karyes, and from there went to the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi. The young man stopped, pointed out the monastery to me and said: “You’ll stay here, Spyro. You’ll become a monk. You’ll be patient and obedient to the Elder”. And he disappeared.

It would seem that this was an angel of the Lord, Spyridon’s guardian angel. Spyridon remained at this monastery as a novice, and, at the age of 25, became a monk with the name of Hariton.

… Elder Amvrosios was always in communion with the Saints. Once,  “When I was in bed, in pain, I [Elder Amvrosios himself says] could see the chapel of the Holy Unmercenary Doctors opposite, and I asked them to help me. Two doctors appeared in white smocks and they tried to set my leg. ‘Pull, Kosmas’ said one. ‘Hold it here, Damianos’, said the other. In five minutes, the pain had gone and I was well again”. When the brethren in the monastery saw him completely well, they praised God and the Holy Unmercenary Doctors.

ger-amvrosios-kai-ger-porfyrios-oi-agioreites-kai-alloi

The blessed Elders Porfyrios Kavsokalyvitis († 02/12/1991) and Amvrosios the Athonite (†02/12/2006) together with some lay pilgrims on a visit.

 

Read more about Elder Amvrosios’ life, here

The Monastery of Hosiοs Loukas

monastery of hosios loukas.jpeg

IMG_1554

From Steiri, through the prayers of Saint Luke, whose presence is tangibly felt in his monastery.With all best wishes for the forthcoming New Year, and Theophany, and to those still awaiting the celebration of the Nativity. 

*

On the western slope of mount Elikonas, opposite mount Parnassus, after the village of Steiri, at a distance of approximately 30km from Livadeia, is the famous Monastery of Osios Loukas (St Luke), the largest and best-preserved monastery complex of the Middle Byzantine Period, with exceptional architecture and excellent decoration of mosaics, wall paintings and sculptures. With the Nea Moni of Chios and the Monastery of Daphni, the monastery of Osios Loukas is included in the list of world heritage monuments of UNESCO since 1990. Hosios Loukas is a breath-taking Byzantine monastery in a picturesque green and golden valley full of flowering almond and olive trees, near the town of Distomo. The landscape surrounding the Monastery of Hosios Loukas may not be as breath-taking as Meteora, but is still spectacularly blessed in beauty, even in wintertime when we visited it. As to the exquisite, stunning Beauty inside the monastery complex, and especially the katholikon, the main church, I hope these photos and videos can capture some of it.

 

IMG_2713IMG_3363IMG_9700IMG_9813

IMG_0324

IMG_1109

Saint Luke

Hosios Loukas Monastery meaning “Blessed Saint Luke” was not built in honour of Luke the Evangelist, but was established by the Greek monk Loukas. He was buried in the crypt of the monastery when he died in AD 953. I am still puzzled at the spelling of the word “Hosios”, as I have never encountered it before, but that is the official English ‘translation’ and the spelling adopted by UNESCO.

Saint Luke, born in AD 896, abandoned his home when he was an adolescent in search of spirituality. In the following years, he became a healer and was renowned for healing ailments that were practically impossible to cure.

Lukas developed a great talent as a prophet and predicted that Romano II would liberate Crete from the Arabs after his death. When the emperor defeated the Saracen Arabs, he commissioned a church to be built in his honour. [For  a more detailed Life, go to the bottom of the page]

IMG_1320

IMG_9353IMG_7695IMG_1397IMG_6542

Exploring the monastery

One of the most striking aspects of the monastery is found at the entrance. If you look up, you will see a spectacular gold mosaic of the saint. Attached to the abbey is a large church, Katholikon, which in its turn is attached to a smaller temple, or Theotokos, erected between 997 and 1011 to honour the Virgin Mary.

The temples are beautifully decorated with numerous frescoes and mosaics, all perfectly preserved.  Underneath the Katholikon is the crypt where the remains of the saint lie.

 

IMG_1399IMG_8754IMG_8752IMG_8075IMG_2910IMG_2378IMG_1167IMG_3117IMG_9637IMG_9093IMG_0640IMG_5636IMG_1396IMG_6355IMG_1197IMG_1398

Although Hosios Loukas is smaller, the building reminded us of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

 

 

This monk is the one who did the guided tour for our group (St. Arsenios monastery, Chalkidiki). There are only three monks, all hieromonks, in this monastery complex, and they are all so full of His Grace!

Luke of Steiris, Luke Thaumaturgus, Luke the Younger, Luke of Hellas, or Luke the Wonder-worker (896 — 953 AD) was a Byzantine saint of the tenth century AD who lived in the themes (provinces) of Hellas and Peloponnese in Greece, and who founded the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (Venerable Luke) on the slopes of Mount Helicon, between Delphi and Levadia, near the coast of the Gulf of Corinth in Boeotia, Greece. 

The principal source for Luke’s life is an anonymous Life written by a monk of Hosios Loukas who had been one of Luke’s followers. His feast day is commemorated on February 7,and the translation of his relics on May 3. His relics are preserved in his monastery of Hosios Loukas.

Early Life

Saint Luke was born in 896 to pious parents who came from Aegina but were forced to settle on the Greek mainland due to Saracen raids. Luke was the third of the seven children of Stephen and Euphrosyne. From his earliest years, he showed a desire for a life of ascesis and contemplation usually only found in seasoned elders. He abstained from all flesh, cheese, eggs, and delicacies, drank only water, and kept a total fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. While herding cattle or tilling the family fields, he would often give away his food and even his clothing to the poor, returning home naked. He once gave away almost all the seed which was needed for planting in the fields. The Lord rewarded him for his charity, and the harvest gathered was greater than ever before.

When his father died, he abandoned farm work to devote himself entirely to prayer, making such progress that he was often witnessed by his mother lifted above the ground while praying.[3]

Monasticism

As a child Luke tried twice to leave home to seek a solitary life of prayer. The first time, he attempted to withdraw to Thessaly, but was captured by soldiers lying in wait for escaped slaves and was returned home.[4] The second time he had more success, meeting two monks journeying from Rome to Jerusalem[5] who took him to a monastery in Athens where he received the small habit.[6][note 3] At this point he was only fourteen years old (910 AD), and Luke’s mother who was very concerned for him, prayed for her son’s return. After seeing his mother in a dream, tearfully calling for her son, the abbot sent him home.

He returned home for four months, and then with his mother’s blessing he set out again upon the monastic life, going to a solitary place on a mountain called Ioannou (or Ioannitsa). Here there was a church dedicated to the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, where he lived an ascetical life in constant prayer and fasting for seven years.[7] The Life records with suspicious symmetry that during this time Luke received the great habit[note 4] from two monks[note 5] travelling from Jerusalem to Rome (presumably the same two from whom he had received the small habit on their outward journey).[8] After this, St Luke redoubled his ascetic efforts, for which the Lord granted him the gift of foresight.

Luke’s fame spread and a number of miracles are ascribed to him during this period, such as revealing to two brothers the location of their dead father’s buried treasure.[9]Numerous proofs of Luke’s holiness are also given, such as sleeping in a trench to remind himself of death,[10] or being visited in a dream by an angel who let a hook down Luke’s mouth and “drew out a certain fleshly member therefrom”, freeing him from the temptations of the flesh.[11]

After a seven years on Ioannou, the saint moved to Corinth because of an invasion of the Bulgarian emperor Symeon (which Luke had predicted).[12] Hearing about a certain Stylite at Zemena (Gimenes) near Corinth, he went to see him, and remained for ten years to serve the ascetic with humility and obedience.

Afterwards, ca. 927 AD, the saint returned again to Mount Ioannou to build his own community and again pursue asceticism. Often he would be forced to move by the number of visitors who learned of his holiness, and came to him for prayer or a word of counsel or prophecy, no matter how secretly he tried to live. Luke drew so many followers that he found the distractions unbearable and decided to retreat further into the wilderness, with the blessing of his Elder Theophylactus.[13] Three years later, however, Luke was displaced again, this time by a Magyar invasion.

Luke retreated with the local villagers to the nearby island of Ampelon.[14] Once there, Luke found the desert island to be a suitable place to pursue his solitary ascetic life, and stayed for three years, enduring terrible thirsts.[15] His sister would occasionally bring him some bread, but he gave much of it away to the needy or to passing sailors.

Eventually Luke’s disciples persuaded him to leave, and he returned to the mainland and settled for the remainder of his life in the far more amenable environment of the present Hosios Loukas, where he founded his hermitage ca. 946 AD in the area of Stiris (which may be a corruption of Soterion, or place of healing).[16][note 6]

Here brethren gathered to the elder, and a small monastery grew up, the church of which was dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara. Dwelling in the monastery, the saint performed many miracles, healing sicknesses of soul and of body.

Death

Saint Luke fell ill in his seventh year at Stirion. Foreseeing his end, the saint confined himself in a cell and for three months prepared for his departure. When asked where he was to be buried, the monk replied, “Throw my body into a ravine to be eaten by wild beasts.” When the brethren begged him to change these instructions, he commanded them to bury his body on the spot where he lay. Embracing his disciples, he asked them to pray for him, prophesying that the place where he died would someday be the site of a great church and monastery. Then raising his eyes to heaven, he said, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!” and reposed in peace and joy. St Luke fell asleep in the Lord on February 7, 953.

Myrrh flowed from his holy relics,[note 7] and many healings occurred. His tomb exuded a fragrant oil which was collected and burned in a lamp, and many miracles and healings were wrought at the tomb. The rumour that his relic worked miracles brought great numbers of believers to the monastery to be healed, and the original buildings gave way to more monumental structures.[16] As the Saint had predicted, two churches and a monastery were built there, and the monastery of Hosios Loukas became a great place of pilgrimage, as it remains to this day.[note 8]

Troparion, Kontakion

Troparion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 1[17]
Let us firmly honour Luke the Godbearer with hymns and chants,
the glory of the faithful,
the boast of the righteous,
bright light of Stirion and its true inhabitant;
he brings near to Christ those who cry out in faith:
Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee;
Glory to Him Who has crowned thee;
Glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 8[17]
God in ineffable judgment chose thee before thou wast fashioned according to His good pleasure;
He took thee from thy mother’s womb,
He sanctified thee as His servant.
As the Lover of mankind,
He guided thee to Himself,
before Whom thou dost now stand rejoicing,
O Luke.

(OrthodoxWiki)

 

IMG_1438

The Little Orphan

orphan-sos2

 

The Little Orphan

an autobiographical poem

by St. John Jacob (the Romanian)

Blessed John (Jacob) of Neamts, the New Chozebite

“the child of zero” who “followed the One”*

 

Resurrection Day!

The bells are ringing!

Old men sit at their verandas,

Others are at their doorsteps.

 

The young and the children

Go out in their best clothes

To meet their friends at the church

Of the cemetery.

 

This mystical fragrance

Of the Holy Feast!

They take it in … like incense,

From herbs and flowers.

 

The Fields are robed

In a beautiful dress

And everything looks now

Renewed on the earth.

 

Near the Holy Altar

Of the wooden church

A little child offers

Candles and oil.

 

He kisses the Holy Cross

In front of the fresh tomb

And kneels crying

With sighs.

 

When the bells are ringing

In a jubilant tone

Near the Cross the little orphan

Sheds tears with pain.

 

Suddenly, while absorbed in his tears

And his deep sighs,

At the ringing of the bells

A sweet voice he hears :

 

“Cry Not, my child, today

Feel not sad, because, look!

By your side am I

Christ is Risen!”

 

Was this his mother’s voice

Coming from the tomb

His sadness to dispel

From his broken bosom?

 

Immediately the orphan

Rises and ecstatically looks up,

Searching to find

Who was speaking to him.

 

Then, from the Altar most Holy

By the smoked wall

He sees the Risen Christ

Sweetly smiling to him.

 

His little heart is lit

His face calms

His pain leaves him

And such is his mind:

 

“If I see here

The Risen Lord

Then my mother too

Is risen with Him.”

 

Speaking thus to his mind

Humbly he bows

And kissing the tomb

Returns to his ‘home’!

 

Alone, lonely, he lives

At his earthly lodgings,

His poor father

Died at the war.

 

Often at nights he sleeps

By the tomb with them.

Crying in the morning he returns

Back to the deserted house.

 

But the bells ring!

Again at the cemetery

His mother’s voice

Is heard to say:

 

“Cry not, my child, today

Do not be sad,

Because, lo, I am with you

Christ is Risen!”

 

Since then our little orphan

Stopped sighing.

And whenever the bells ring

His heart is consoled!

 

* A Hermit from the Holy Land with complete Incorruptible Relics at the monastery of St. George Choziba! He was a great ascetic and a poet. He called himself “the child of zero” who “followed the One”. After his all night- vigils, he would briefly rest in the verandah of the monastery and write his so moving poetry, sadly not translated yet in English.
* The painting is by the Serbian artist Uroš Predić, Siroče (Orphan), oil on canvas, 1888. National Museum

Nativity Paintings from Around the World

Christ is Born! Indeed He is Born!

 Χριστός Ετέχθη! Αληθώς Ετέχθη!

nativity1

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Jesus Christ was born for all people of all times. To illustrate this truth, Christians around the world often depict him as coming into their own culture, in the present time. The Italians, whose visual language was predominant during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, did it. In fact, when you think “Nativity,” you probably think of the church art from that age and country—not because it offers the most legitimate representations (they are no more “accurate” than the ones below), but because the Church held particular sway at that time, in that place.

Well, the center of Christianity has shifted; it is no longer in the West. And thus if we were to survey the Christian art being produced today, we would see that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the settings they inhabit, have a much different look. We’d see Mary dressed in a sari or a hanbok; we’d see Jesus wrapped in buffalo skin, or silk. We’d see lizards and kangaroos instead of oxes and asses.

Historical accuracy is not the point; the point is to see Jesus as the Savior of your own people, as incarnated very close to you, and relevant to life today.

Here are 19 contextualizations of the Nativity painted within the last century. Each work brings Jesus into a different place, in order to emphasize the universality of his birth.

USA:

nativity1

“Nativity” by James B. Janknegt
James B. Janknegt, Nativity, 1995. Oil on canvas, 57 x 82 cm.

Crow Nation (Montana-based tribe):

nativity2

Native American Nativity
John Guiliani, Mary Gives Birth to Jesus, 1999. From The Crow Series.

Guatemala:

nativity3

Guatemalan Nativity
John Giuliani, Guatemalan Nativity, 1990s.

Nicaragua:

nativity4

Nicaraguan Nativity
Leoncio Saenz, Nacimiento (Nativity), 1983. The banner reads: “I come to tell them that in Nicaragua the new man has been born.”

England:

nativity5

Nativity by Dinah Roe Kendall
Dinah Roe Kendall, The Shepherds Went to See the Baby, 1998.

India:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

China:

nativity7

Chinese nativity
He Qi, Nativity, 1998. Ink and gouache on rice paper.

Tibet:

nativity8

Tibetan nativity
A thangka (sacred wall hanging) given by H.H. the Dalai Lama to Fr. Laurence Freeman and the World Community for Christian Meditation in 1998.

Korea:

nativity9

Korean nativity
Woonbo Kim Ki-chang, The Birth of Jesus Christ, 1952-53. Ink and color on silk, 76 x 63 cm.

Japan:

nativity10

Japanese nativity
Sadao Watanabe, Nativity, 1960s? Stencil print on momigami paper, 58 x 78 cm.

Thailand:

nativity11

Thai nativity
Sawai Chinnawong, Nativity, 2004. Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 37 in.

Malaysia:

nativity12

Malaysian nativity
Hanna Varghese, God Is With Us, 2006. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in.

Indonesia:

nativity44

Indonesian nativity
Erland Sibuea, Nativity, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 31 x 23.6 cm.

Philippines:

nativity33.jpg

Filippino nativity:
Kristoffer Ardena, The Meaning of Christmas, 1995. Oil on canvas, 62 x 46 cm.

Uganda:

nativity15

African nativity
Francis Musango, Christ in the Manger, n.d. Oil painting.

Cameroon:

nativity16

African nativity
Fr. Engelbert Mveng, Nativity, early 1990s. Central scene from church mural. Holy Angels Church, Aurora, Illinois.

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

nativity17

African nativity
Joseph Mulamba-Mandangi, Nativity, 2001. Peinture grattée, 70 x 50 cm.

Australia (Aboriginal):

nativity18

Australian nativity
Greg Weatherby, Dreamtime Birth, 1990s? 51 x 64 cm.

Tahiti:

nativity19

Nativity by Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin, Baby (The Nativity), 1896. Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Posted on December 25, 2011 by Victoria Emily Jones

The Jesus Question

Four years ago on Christmas Day I posted a selection of nativity paintings originating mainly in non-Western cultures. Each year since then that post has ranked as one of the five most-read posts on this site, with over twelve thousand views to date. So I’ve decided to do a part 2.

My friend Scott Rayl shared a quote with me this week by S. D. Gordon: “Jesus was God spelling Himself out in language humanity could understand.” What a succinct summary of the Incarnation!

Today we celebrate the transcendent God made immanent, accessible. We celebrate his new name: Emmanuel, God-with-us. The artists here can aid us in that celebration.

 

Australia (Aboriginal):

First Nations of Canada:

Guatemala:

Nicaragua: 

India:

Thailand: 

China:

Japan:

Korea:

Vietnam: 

Philippines: 

Indonesia:

Nigeria:

Ethiopia:

Kenya:

Tanzania:

South Africa:

(Many of the Asian artworks in this post were found through the Asian Christian Art Association website. It’s a really rich resource…

View original post 3 more words

Why Discipline Our Eyes?

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Walking on Water by David Popiashvili

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western Religious Art

 

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Nikola Sarić , Parables of Christ, The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Popiashvili, Angel and Shepherds on Christmas Day

An Orthodox Aesthetic Counterpoint to a Protestant blog post on Holy Images 

 

This blog post will attempt to highlight the differences between Byzantine Iconography vs. Western Religious Art. It is only fair to point out from the very start that Victoria’s selection of works of Art in the 2nd part of her article,  “Disciplining our eyes with holy images“, is truly inspired.

Enjoy!

“I desire peace—and not just any old peace, but the peace that Christ gives, and not just for myself, but for the world.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

I desire to be an agent of healing,

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Julia Stankova, “The Healing of the Demon-Possessed Man” (Mark 5:2-19), 2010. Tempera, gouache, watercolors, and lacquer technique on wood, 40 x 31 cm.

and reconciliation.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Wisnu Sasongko (Indonesian, 1975–), Zacchaeus, 2005. Acrylic on canvas, 28 × 52 in.

I desire to touch Christ’s wounds.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Right panel of an ivory diptych depicting the Incredulity of St. Thomas, made in Trier at the end of 10th century. Bode Museum, Berlin.

I desire to serve.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Sadao Watanabe (Japanese, 1913–1996), Jesus Washes Peter’s Feet, 1973. Stencil print, 26 × 22.75 in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I desire to feed people,

 

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art
Isaac Fanous (Egyptian, 1919–2007), Jesus Feeding the Multitude.And to help people see.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Anthony Falbo (American, 1953–), The Healing of the Blind Man.

I desire to practice resurrection.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

The Resurrection (detail), ca. 1170–80, Rhine-Meuse region. Champlevé enamel on gilded copper. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

I desire Holy Spirit fire.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Pentecost, from the Benedictional of Archbishop Robert, New Minster, Winchester, ca. 980. Bibliothèque Municipale de Rouen, MS Y.7(369), fol. 29v.

I desire to preach truth.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Azaria Mbatha (South African, 1941–), Sermon on the Mount. Linocut.

I desire to bless.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Alphonso Arul Doss (Indian, 1939–), The Blessing Christ. Oil on canvas, 34 × 24 in.

I desire to suffer with dignity.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Angelo da Fonseca (Indian, 1902–1967), Ecce Homo, 1955. Watercolor, 9 x 6 in.

I desire to stand up for justice.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Alexander Smirnov (Russian, 1947–), The Cleansing of the Temple. Oil on canvas.

I desire to protect.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Kim Young Gil (Korean, 1940–2008), The Woman Caught in Adultery.

I desire to forgive.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Jacques Richard Sassandra (French, 1932–), Father, Forgive Them. Color woodcut.

I desire to weep with those who weep.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Daniel Bonnell, “Jesus Wept.” Oil on canvas, 34 x 46 in. Tags: Lazarus

I desire transfiguration.

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Attributed to Theophanes the Greek, The Transfiguration, 1408. Tempera on panel. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

 

Let me repeat again here, at the end of this selection of works of Art, that Victoria Jones’ choices have warmed my heart and have been a delight to the eyes!

 

BUT

 

Victoria’s rationale for just  “gazing” at “holy (*)  images” in the first part of her essay feels too cerebral to me, limiting and stifling, so ‘Puritan’, so Protestant, if I may add.  Even if she did not mention this so explicitly–which she does–ie. that her attitude to “holy [sic] images” is derived from her “own Protestant theology [sic] of images”, still her Protestant  limitations, again if I may say so, are obvious to anyone with an Orthodox Christian sensibility.

Even the very title of her analysis is revealing: “Disciplining [sic] our eyes“. In my opinion, what we should all be targeting instead, is not to just the disciplining, but the healing, the sanctification of our eyes and all our senses. Indeed, Victoria herself feels the needs for “having right sight and desire restored” but her ‘solution to this problem’ is too cerebral and rationalistic in my opinion, not really a solution in the end, as it fails to embrace the whole of man, body and soul, heart and nous, and perpetuates the torment of a divided, conflicting, fragmented humanity.

 

Consider the following by Victoria:

“I use them [ie. holy images] as an aid to prayer, but I do not reverence them with actions like kissing or lifting—not necessarily because I’m opposed to such displays but more likely because I’m naturally reserved, and also I’m usually interacting with the images digitally. … Part of my private spiritual practice is to spend a little time each day gazing on a holy image. I’m particularly fond of ones of Christ. For me this gazing serves a centering function; it reorders my desires. Sitting still with an image of Christ reminds me of Whose image I bear, and I take that with me as I encounter other images throughout the day that try to tell me otherwise.” (Ibid)

 

No! This is so limiting! It is by far too cerebral, too rationalistic, too ‘mind-centred’, too ‘Western’ … Rather that entering into a Communion with Christ our Saviour Himself, we are limiting ourselves to ideas and concepts about Christ. Hugging and embracing and touching icons may indeed feel strange to those of a Protestant background, more so if “naturally reserved”, but matter is not evil! It was ancient Greek philosophy which believed that the body imprisons the soul, and thus it detested matter. But Christians respect the body and all its senses, since Christ made the flesh a source of sanctification, and matter (water, oil, etc.) a channel of divine grace.

 

In his writings, St. Gregory Palamas affirmed that man, united in body and soul, is sanctified by Jesus Christ, who took a human body at the Incarnation. “Thus the Word of God took up His dwelling in the Theotokos in an inexpressible manner and proceeded from her, bearing flesh. He appeared upon the earth and lived among men, deifying our nature.” … And he significantly adds, “When God is said to have made man according to His image, the word man means neither the soul by itself nor the body by itself, but the two together.” ((A Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary)

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Rublev, Saviour

Conversely, see how Victoria continues:

“Orthodox believers developed the practice of icon writing and veneration to address this question—creating physical images of Christ to mediate his presence and to serve as an anchor in daily life. The Incarnation, they say, renders icons absolutely essential to the task of knowing God.

My own Protestant theology of images owes much to the Orthodox view but deviates from it as well. Although I acknowledge the revelatory potential of images, I do not regard them, as the Orthodox do, as on a par with scripture. Another key distinction is that I admit into my devotional life a range of sacred images, not just those that fall within the rigorously guarded canon of Orthodox iconography.”

I define “holy image” as any image that draws the viewer closer to Christ. The religious background of the artist is, to me, irrelevant, and what functions as a holy image to one person might not for another. You sanctify the image by letting it lead you into communion with God. ” (Ibid)

But specifically, how does all this mental activity lead you into communion with God? Let us study a concrete example, the Resurrected Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene as described in the Gospel of John “Touch Me Not, by  another Protestant scholar/ artist. See how rationalistically he too approaches the whole matter:

“I believe all of these works taken on the whole can help you begin to ask yourself the question, like an artist…”I wonder what it was like to see Jesus in in his newly resurrected form?” “I wonder how Mary felt as she approached the grave?” I wonder what the meaning of this strange encounter?” When you begin to picture the scene in your mind and make it your own, this is when the resurrection becomes real to you. In this way, all of these representations can help you as long as you keep going into your own thoughts.

 

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

 

See? Mind and thought, logical thinking, conceptualisation and deduction, the Western curse on Christianity. But Incarnation ‘allows’  an entirely different approach to “images” and “icons” to that of Victoria Jones’ and other Protestant scholars’ ‘guided meditations’.

What we want to avoid is an overemphasis of mind and its rational faculties at the expense of nous and man’s heart. The West, with its rationalistic tendencies, has associated the image of God with man’s intellect. Barlaam’s mind was full of rational arguments, but his heart was cold.

Certainly, life with God is not just information, but also experience. Our living God cannot be conceived and described only by study, but must be spoken about from experience. “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

 

Orthodox Theology is not cerebral, but empirical, and it cannot be acquired through study alone. Books and meditation, reflection may certainly help, but the true knowledge of God is existential. God reveals Himself as Light to the purified, and “through the Holy Spirit they know God and are able to speak of Him”. Philosophers speak reflectively through reason and imagination, which is why it is not possible for them to be higher than the prophets, who see God and speak of Him through the Holy Spirit.

 

See how ‘wholistic’ the Orthodox approach is:

“The Church, through the temple and Divine service, acts upon the entire man, educates him wholly; acts upon his sight, hearing, smelling, feeling, taste, imagination, mind, and will, by the splendour of the icons and of the whole temple, by the ringing of bells, by the singing of the choir, by the fragrance of the incense, the kissing of the Gospel, of the cross and the holy icons, by the prosphoras, the singing, and sweet sound of the readings of the Scriptures.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ 

 

Nikola Sarić, PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON (LK 15:11–32)

 

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

 

 

 

(*) By the way, Victoria’s definition of what is a holy image is not correct in my opinion: “I define “holy image” as any image that draws the viewer closer to Christ. The religious background of the artist is, to me, irrelevant, and what functions as a holy image to one person might not for another. You sanctify the image by letting it lead you into communion with God.” [Bold type mine for emphasis] In my opinion, Victoria’s talking here about religious art in general, not sacred, and certainly not holy, at least for an Orthodox Christian’ understanding of these terms. Of course, anything can be perceived as holy and sacred in God’s Creation, but I do not think that this is how Victoria uses this word in her analysis above.

 

Byzantine Iconography vs. Western-Eastern Religious Art

Popiashvili, Zaccheus

 

For Victoria Jones’ full argument, go here

For an Orthodox Christian understanding as to what makes an image holy (even to, or better, especially to, a ‘convert’, a protestant brought to the Orthodox Church, as opposed to a ‘cradle Orthodox, born and immersed into Orthodoxy), go here

Nikola Sarić studied at the Faculty of Applied Arts of the University of Belgrade and at the Academy of Serbian Orthodox Church for Arts and Conservation in the department of church art, where he graduated in 2014. Nurtured in the practice of church art, his artistic expression is deriving from sacred Greco-Roman art and generally speaking the art of the classical antiquity and the medieval period. In his works, through the immediacy and simplicity of visual elements, he is conveying the intuition of a “transfigured world”. Using different techniques and materials, Nikola is trying to describe this unimaginable world. His interpretations reflect the personal spiritual experience as well as the tradition that breathes and evolves within the concepts of contemporaries.

For a representative sample of Nikola Sarić‘s artworks, go to Parables of Christ, to his website http://www.nikolasaric.de and his latest interview to the Orthodox Arts Journal

*

David Popiashvili studied at the Tbilisi Art School and at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts At faculty of the fine arts.

For a representative sample of David Popiashvili‘s religious paintings, go to London Art  AND  Stories about Jesus Christ, illustrated by David Popiashvili

The Altar and The Portico (I)

EPSON DSC pictureaidan28

altar

Aidan Hart: Embracing a Eucharistic Lifestyle

Liturgical “vs.” Secular Beauty in Life And Art

 

Excerpts (I) from a masterpiece of a talk, given by the renowned iconographer Aidan Hart at Sacred And Secular In Life And Art seminar in Oxford University,  a workshop dedicated to the memory of Philip Sherrard. (Oxford, 14-17 July, 2016).

Analysis of Works of Liturgical and Secular Art — Beauty seen in the light of Orthodoxy’s ‘aesthetics’. Liturgical art exists to help us live our whole lives liturgically. Vignettes from house architecture and decoration, furniture design, hospitality, music etc. to express love for God’s creation in daily life and to live life gently upon His earth, aiming towards a Eucharistic vision of Life: wholeness, harmony, unity.  Culture as the Liturgy of Preparation “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” (Ode on a Grecian Urn, By John Keats). Indeed, Beauty will save the world (Dostoyevski). Needless to point out, both this Eucharistic vision of Life and the importance of Beauty/Truth in Art and Life have been central concerns of this little city hermit’s blog and his journey on the Way.

 *

… In my reflections I would like to regard the term secular not in its pejorative sense, as the bad world outside the Church, but rather in its earlier sense as the larger world in whose midst the Church is planted to transfigure that world.

In considering our subject of sacred and secular we may have the image of a splendid garden city expanding into a wild jungle, rather than a fortress sealed off against siege from the world. This city does indeed have walls to keep bad things out, but it also has gates, and from its heart flows a River that brings life wherever it flows, as the prophet Ezekiel tells us in his vision (Ezekiel 47).

 

Eden within the forest

St Cadmon’s hymn of creation. Aidan Hart, calligraphy Clive Tolley.. Vellum.aidan1.jpg

God creating Adam. Palermo, Sicily. 12th C. Mosaic.aidan2.jpg

God creating Adam. Palermo, Sicily. 12th C. Mosaic.

The sacred as source

The Tent of Meeting.aidan3.jpg

The Tent of Meeting.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has said that one is Priest (Christ);

some are priests (the clergy); all are priests (the priesthood of the laity).

Philip and Denise Sherrard’s Chapel of the Life Giving Spring, Evia, Greece. Aidan Hart. Fresco.aidan10.jpgaidan9.jpgLion, below fresco of St Mary of Egypt. Chapel of the Life Giving Spring, Evia, Greece. Aidan Hart. Frescoaidan8.jpg

Hare, below icon of St Melangell of Wales. Chapel of the Life Giving Spring, Evia, Greece. Aidan Hart. Fresco.

aidan7.jpg

aidan6.jpg

Chapel of the Life Giving Spring, Evia, Greece. Aidan Hart. Frescoaidan5.jpg

aidan4.jpg

 

…And so it is that I believe liturgical art exists to help us live our whole lives liturgically. A church temple, as St Maximus the Confessor affirmed, is an image of the whole world. This splendid earth was created by God to be our temple within which to worship Him.

 

 

… I experienced this “coming together” of heaven and earth personally when I was frescoing Denise Sherrard’s chapel at her home in Evia, the chapel of the Life Giving Spring that she and Philip had built. We wanted to reflect Philip’s affirmation that the material world is an integral part of the spiritual life,[2] so I painted a tree between each standing saint. Some of the saints are also accompanied by a creature associated with their lives: St Melangell with a hare; St Mary of Egypt with the lion which dug her grave; bees with St John the Baptist who ate honey while in the wilderness, and so on.

 

I modelled the frescoed trees on the trees that grew outside the chapel. As I worked many hours each day in the chapel the awareness grew that the world is indeed created to be a temple, designed to inspire us to praise and love its Creator. The vision of paradisiacal trees that began inside that small chapel’s walls continued when I continued my life outside. The sacred transformed the secular, paradise extended into the ‘jungle’.

 

… Importantly, this sense of continuum was supported by Denise’s attempt to express love for God’s creation in her daily life and to live life gently upon His earth. The food we ate was prepared with love, much of it grown in Denise’s own garden. Even the wine was homemade.  The chapel itself had been made of local stone.

Immersion in the paradise of church worship affects the way we design our day-to-day lives outside the services. The architecture of our houses, our furniture design, our hospitality, our music – all aspects of life – can take their inspiration from the Liturgy. The Liturgy is like our tuning fork, helping to keep our daily lives in harmony with heaven’s.

*

Heaven’s music

… Having this inner music we will create a culture that will not only function well but will delight the eye and bring forth the logos or character of each raw material.

…In fact, in these and in the carved wooden columns outside one can see the inspiration for the sculptures fashioned by the father of modern abstract sculpture, Constantine Brancusi.

…This relates to what St Maximus the Confessor wrote some fourteen centuries earlier:

Do not stop short of the outward appearance which visible things present to the senses but seek with your intellect to contemplate their inner essences (logoi), seeing them as images of spiritual realities…

… Once when his friend Petre Pandrea was praising his sculpture, Brancusi replied that all he had done was to set up a branch office of Tismana Orthodox Monastery in Paris.  He saw his sculptures as an extension of the worship and ascetical life of that monastery. The sacred informed the secular.

aidan11.jpg

Rumanian grave posts, 10th c.

aidan12.jpg

‘Endless Columns’, in Brancusi’s studio, Paris.

aidan13.jpg

Tismana Orthodox Monastery, Rumania.

aidan14.jpg

Culture as the Liturgy of Preparation

As we shall explore a little later, this transformative process also works the other way: the art of life lived outside the temple walls should act as a portico, preparing us for entrance to the inner sanctum.

Our daily life can be an extended beginning to the first part of the Holy Liturgy, the Service of Preparation.

aidan16.jpg

The New Jerusalem, on vellum, by Aidan Hart

aidan17.jpg

… Every aspect of our daily living can be seen as this same transformative process, culminating in the Holy Liturgy’s deification of the bread and wine. This is suggested by the etymology of the word culture, which stems from the Latin word colere, which means to inhabit, care for, till, worship. Culture then becomes cult, an act of worship. Culture is both tilling and working and worship.

Any failings in our modern culture are ultimately due to our failure to continue work into worship, to carry the cultivation of the land into the cult of the liturgy.

*

Sant’Apollinare in Classe apse (c. 534 AD). The Transfiguration; Paradise; the Second Coming; The New Jerusalem; Our Priestly roleaidan20.jpg

Sant’Apollinare in Classe

Creation transfigured. Sant’Apollinare in Classeaidan19.jpgaidan18.jpg

Portico and Nave

aidan21

In most of our churches today we have a rather rude transition from exterior to interior. But in most early churches it was not so. Most had a portico, a place colonnaded around, roofless yet walled.

 

… Walking along the busy street you would spy this little paradise courtyard and be drawn towards its coolness and stillness. Once within this portico, through the open doors of the church you would eventually see hints of some glittering mosaics or wall paintings, and pins of light from oil lamps. So you would be drawn further in.

aidan23

aidan22

Portico with fountain, St Clement’s, Rome — Portico garden, St Cecilia’s, Rome.

 

…Once inside this exonarthex you would perhaps see images of the six days of creation, or the prophets, or, as in Iviron monastery,  the Psalms of Lauds illustrated, where all creation is praising God.

Aidan Hart Liturgical Art "vs." Secular Art Beauty as Truth and Truth Beauty

Exo-narthex, Iviron, Athos, with depictions of Psalms 158-150, all creation praising God

You might also see images of the day of judgement, reminding you that repentance and purification is needed to stand the glory of God’s light which can be experienced further inside.

aidan25aidan24

Narthex, with glimpse through to nave St Nicholas Anapafsas, Meteora.

After looking around these scenes you would see yet another door, and enter the narthex, where you would see perhaps frescoes of standing ascetics.

Eventually you would be drawn even further, into the nave. In this broad yet intimate place you find yourself surrounded by angels, saints, scenes in the life of Christ.

aidan28aidan27

 

 

…. But this journey began with the portico. Portico or threshold beauty draws us like the fragrance of a rose towards the rose. This threshold art and culture participates both in the hubbub of daily life and in the liturgical life of the Church. Culture should cultivate the soul in preparation for the seed of God’s word. …

Excerpts from Orthodox Arts Journal

Three Old Age Vignettes

Written at my refuge, the Mikrokastro monastery, under Our Lady’s Protective Veil . Watching my father die the last two weeks has been very painful and filled my mind with images of old age and decay.

 

Three Old Age Vignettes

 

 

 Terminal, Temporary, Transcending 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 2

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

 

1 Corinthians 3

  1. And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, …

3. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

 

I. Terminal

Three Old Age Death Vignettes orthodox city hermit

 

An Old Man by

C. P. Cavafys (1863-1933)

 

At the noisy end of the café, head bent

over the table, an old man sits alone,

a newspaper in front of him.

 

And in the miserable banality of old age

he thinks how little he enjoyed the years

when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.

 

He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.

Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.

So brief an interval, so very brief.

 

And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,

how he always believed—what madness—

that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”

 

He remembers impulses bridled, the joy

he sacrificed. Every chance he lost

now mocks his senseless caution.

 

But so much thinking, so much remembering

makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,

his head resting on the café table.

 

II. Temporary

 

Three Old Age Death Vignettes picasso old guitarist orthodox city hermit

 

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

 

III. Transcending

An Old Man in Christ

 

The royal doors are open, the great Liturgy is about to begin!

 

In the pouring rain, our fate

In Your hands, Lord brighten,

We make our way to meet you,

Beloved, across massive puddles

Rising with the tide of excitement.

 

“Ah, the blameless in the way. Alleluia”

 

Heart, body, mind and soul

Thoroughly cleansed and washed,

We are determined

To sprinkle Joy on your grey day,

Be your Guardian angels For a while

And hold off dark clouds

Of abandonment.

 

“My soul is worn with endless longing. Alleluia”

 

At the door, your quiet Strength surprises us!

An enchanting infant’s smile, behold!

You Beam our welcome,

Appropriately Toothless!

Are you, old friend, but a year old?

 

“Lord, I am become as a bottle in the frost. Alleluia.”

 

Head bent, hands crossed

The epitrachelion wraps gently

Emasciated shoulders, frail, stooped.

Humbly you whisper to Father

Your Confession, Taste Loyal Servant

The Fountain of Immortality

Invisible choirs accompany our poor hymn!

 

“Call me up to You, O Savior, and save me. Alleluia.”

 

You live alone, at your 93,

Even climb, dear, bedroom’s stairs steep!

Yet Angels and Saints keep you company

In the lonely path to Christ.
 
Christ before wife, mother and child, you put
 
Grace is free but discipleship is not cheap.

 

“The sheep that was lost am I. Alleluia.”

 

World wars have feared

Your Faith’s strong fortress,

Violently, you took the kingdom, by force.

Ravenous wolves failed

To lead you astray, the one pearl of great price

You unearthed, All that you had

You sold and bought.

 

“The Choir of the Saints has found the Fountain of Life.  Alleluia.”

 

What a living icon you are!

Like your faded with candles kissed

In your icon corner, full of Grace and Light

Painstakingly you commemorate,

Day-to-day, a long, tattered names’ list.

 

“Image am I of Your unutterable glory. Alleluia.”

 

You may be old, feeble and frail,

Yet your zeal and bright courage

Shames us all,

Amidst peppermint and cakes

His wonderful acts prophetically you proclaim,

The Spirit lifts you up,

To generations to come.

 

“Though I bear the scars of my stumblings. Alleluia”

 

Old Brother, toothless, we implore you in Christ,

Begging on your knees we sinful, beseech,

Under your roof, unworthy we pray

Just a little more while, abide with us,

Please stay, bless, to Heavens reach!

 

“Lead me back to be refashioned. Alleluia.”

 

Meek Humility, shine upon us,

Grace abundant your poor children enthuse!

What matters is the soul not the sole,

Bless us, Bless us, Guide us in judgment

You have inherited the Earth indeed.

Even if you’re wearing odd shoes!

 

“Into that ancient beauty of Your Likeness. Alleluia.”