Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tomas Spidlik: Thoughts on Iconography and the Church Building

I was taken by the desire to share some further brief thoughts from the Christian East, picking up from our consideration of last week on the holy Icon and the depth of theological meaning to be found there in its various regards. I turned to a set of books published as part of the Cistercian Studies series, The Spirituality of the Christian East by Tomas Spidlik, SJ.

I began with a consideration of various paragraphs and sections, but I determined to simply instead present a few very brief quotations from those books, that might serve as a point of some brief reflection and consideration.

"The icon is one of the manifestations of the holy Tradition of the Church, just the same as the written and oral tradition.' Following Basil, the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787) compared painting to the proclamation of the faith..."

"It is not a mere painting... one venerates and contemplates icons. The aim of the art of iconography is to give witness to the presence of God in his visible image... the composition and the perspective, the colors and the light, the decorative elements: everything takes on a spiritual meaning..."

* * *

"The church [building] is 'heaven on earth', where the presence of God becomes somehow visible in the beauty of the rituals and the symbolism of the building."

Speaking further on this in the Spidlik's second volume, Prayer: The Spirituality of the Christian East:

"...the Fathers defended the richness of [liturgical] worship. The beauty of the house of God should give the faithful a foretaste of the beauty of heaven. The 'sweetness of the church' should be transparent in the liturgical functions to create an impression of 'heaven on earth'..."

[Expanding on beauty in its various forms] "...Basil had already adopted the stoic view of the beautiful as a harmony that appeases the soul. Along these same lines, Pavel Florensky identified beauty with the unity of the Holy Trinity and its reprecussions in the christian life. Beauty, then, is the natural ambience of someone who, while praying, understands the full spiritual wealth of the Church. Various elements should contribute to the splendor of the liturgy: the building, icons, vestments, candles, incense, bells and chanting."

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