Friday, May 14, 2010

St Theodore the Studite on Sacred Images

Whenever I write about icons it always provokes a flurry of responses from people who have strongly held views about the subject. Most comments relate to the following three issues and so it is these that I thought I would try to address here:

First, how is the image related to the saint depicted in the image? Is the icon, for example, a grace-filled vessel in which there is a personal presence of the saint in question?

Second, how does the status of icons relate to sacramentals such as crosses or rosaries?

Third, what is the status of what we recognize today as the iconographic form? How does it compare to other styles in Christian art (for example those styles referred to by Pope Benedict XVI as authentically liturgical also – the baroque ‘at its best’ and the gothic)? Is the icon a higher art form than any other?

What I am hoping to provide is the traditional Catholic understanding of these matters. Accordingly it is to the theology of Theodore the Studite (d 826AD), Abbot of the Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople and great opponent of iconoclasm that I am looking to resolve these questions. I would like to acknowledge the great help of Dr Caroline Farey of the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham in writing this.

The 7th Ecumenical Council and St Theodore the Studite on Holy Icons

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