The Arena
The Arena

Episode 559 · 10 months ago

Imagine Life without Icons | Sunday of Orthodoxy 2022


The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a seven lecture series by Reverend Doctor Kalinique Burgher, entitled the Divine Identity of Christ. The highly esteemed Hiero monk scholar, father Kalinique sets forth the majestic and high Christology of the early church. In these lectures, Father Kaliginique refutes the secular criticisms of Orthodox Christology and reveals that Jesus himself taught his divine identity to his disciples, that the early church both honored and preached this High Christology and that this Christology is codified in the pages of the New Testament and the nicene creed. Along the way, he also reveals the vacuous secular quest for the historical Jesus, unpacks the historical theological witness about Jesus in the pre Nicene Church, through NICEA ephesus and to the fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. Here is a feast of Faith for Christians, sure to illumine our hearts and minds concerning the deity of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. For these and other titles. Please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah trenam in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, a blessed Sunday of Orthodoxy to all of your brothers and sisters, this magnificent Sunday on which we celebrate the triumph of our foot faith over every heresy, as we read the Sino vicon and remember the faithfulness of Christ to his church to preserve her purity, to keep the faith that was once delivered to the saints intact by his might. Two great joy this Sunday. How blessed are all of you who were born and raised in the Orthodox faith, incredible honor that you have in your families to have been raised that way. We who were born outside the church, some of us very, very far away from the Christian faith, some of us in heresies of this or that form. We we cherish what we've been given. Many of us especially like anography, especially the veneration of the sacred images of the church, which on this day we remember. Particularly this week I had the joy of being able finally, after much effort, to obtain a small pass for my mother to spring her from her Rehab Center. I had to have the doctor sign off and figure out all the just ex and...

...after a very long time I was able to get her out for an hour and I brought her here and she came into the church and her smile just went to her ears and she said all the saints, all the saints she saw, all the icons and that she hadn't seen for so long and her heart was refreshed. Her heart was refreshed as a former Presbyterian, and myself as her son, also being raised in the Presbyterian faith. We presbyterians had no time none for ICONOGRAPHY, for sacred images of any kind. We weren't just like some Christians who just didn't have them. Now. We didn't have them intentionally. We didn't have them intentionally we meant not to have them. We had a fully articulated poretical teaching about icons. We thought that the second commandment that shall not make unto thyself any graven image, meant that you could never depict Jesus in human form. The idea is that whatever you drew was obviously the invention of your own mind and therefore it's not really Jesus and therefore you're worshiping an idol and it's forbidden. It's actually in the Westminster Catechism. We had to memorize it growing up. I know from many of you it's impossible to imagine life without icons without the sacred's images of the Lord and his mother and the saints looking at you. I know that. But for some of us it's absolutely possible to imagine life like that. The Banal, the dreary, the UNINSPIRING. ICONOGRAPHY is not a little thing. It's not a matter of just of adorning the church to make it a little bit more beautiful. If you thought it was just a little thing, then it was just a matter of esthetics. Why would so many pious men and women literally give their lives in sacred martyrdom to defend an esthetic? They didn't give up their faith, of their lives for their faith, because they thought iconography was just a matter of making the Churches Look Beautiful. ICONOGRAPHY is a matter of belief. What the Presbyterians articulate, what I articulate it, to my shame, is incorrect. In fact, the church considers it to be heresy. You know, that word can be very scary especially if we use it in an unloving way or we light a fuse and throw that word like a bomb into people's lives. The word heresy, we should be very careful with that word. FF The church is careful with that word, but we do believe in it, especially on this day. The church uses the word heresy because she...

...loves people and truth matters and error has terrible consequences. Heresy Does Not Save Truth, says Jesus. Christ says I am the way and the truth and the life. The problem with heresy is that it separates people from him, who is the truth. We use that word carefully to help people take truth seriously and to stir them up so that they themselves will explore, they'll examine what we consider to be improper or heretical assertions and teachings. It's the same reason that we guard the Holy Chalice. It's the same reason that we don't invite people who are not Orthodox Christians to come and receive holy communion in the Chalice. Some people think, why are you so unloving? Why are you so uninviting? Shouldn't you be more friendly and invite anyone who is a believer to come and receive holy communion. My answer is only if you hate them. Why would anyone do that? As soon as someone receives holy communion here do they lack anything. They have received everything. To unite someone who, in his own belief or her belief system, has many the significant errors, theological lies, heresies that separate from Christ and then to commune them as though they are trivial, is not an act of love. We Guard The Chalice for the same reason that we use the word heresy carefully, because we love people. Of course we want every person to drink from the chalice and have eternal life. Of course we're praying for it constantly. We're engaged in the work of getting it done, which you'll see in just a minute when our catechumans come up to be prayed for. But we know that that takes instruction. Not Giving someone could holy communion who wants it, who is coming from an unorthodox background, is meant to lead them to the question why? Well, if I'm not worthy at this moment to receive what do I need to do so that I can receive communion? Yes, that's the question we were hoping that you'd ask, and that would be to embrace the faith one's delivered to the saints to confess the faith that we have been confessing, the truth that upholds the universe, the Christian faith articulated by our fathers at the Council of NICEA icons are not small. As we've been all thinking and praying so...

...much for peace in Ukraine, I thought I would share a word about the heavenly or origin of iconography from a saint of the most revered monastery in the Ukraine. It's a monastery called the lava of the Kiev caves. It's a very ancient, beautiful and revered monastery full of wonders. In fact, one of the great saints of that monastery is a saint named Olympius, and he was an iconographer. In fact, he's known in the our tradition as Saint Olympius the iconographer. Let me read you a story from his life. Seeing Olympius the iconographer was already near the end of his life when he received in order to paint an icon of the dormission of the most holy mother of God. As the feast drew near, the man returned several times who had commissioned it, to see if the icon was finished, but it was not even begun on the eve of the dormission, when it should have been completed and placed on an Analogean in the church. When the man saw this, he went home, the one who commissioned it. He went home in despair. A young man suddenly appeared in Olympius's cell, sat down and began to work on the icon. He worked very quickly and with great skill, and when the icon was ready, it shone like the sun, showing it to the amazed Olympius. The young man took the icon and went to the Church for which it had been ordered. And on the following day, the man who had ordered it came to the Church and, in sheer astonishment, saw the icon in its place. The man went then to the monastery and, together with the Abbot, went to Olympius's cell. How was this icon painted and by whom, asked the Abbot. The very sick Olympius replied it was painted by an angel, and he's standing here waiting to take me and thus saying he breathed his last. What a beautiful story, what a beautiful story that reveals the origin the heaven, the origin of our sacred art, the true master painter in this story was an angel himself. Dear ones, iconography brings faith, iconography communicates truth, it brings heaven to Earth. ICONOCLASM, the great heresy that we anathemized to day at the end of the service, is theological blindness, and to be theologically blow up blind is the tragedy of tragedies.

Just think how much we feel for people who can't see the glory of God in nature. People who can't see. We can tell them about the beauty of the mountains and what the snow on the top of the mountains looks like, but if they've never been able to see, what can they imagine? What can they think? We feel for them. Last night I visited my son in law and he was in the middle of watching the most incredible nature documentary of the Arctic and the process through speed photography. I couldn't believe what I was seeing with my own eyes, the process of the thaw, the winter thaw, and the camera was fixed on a little tiny frog who had been frozen in the ice for six months. It's blood had frozen and the cameras were so effective you could actually see its veins and the blood frozen inside of the body of the frog. It was so cold that it's heart had stopped beating for six months. And the cameras caught the sun coming up and it would shine for six months without night at this point in the Northern Hemisphere. And you see through the fast speed camera the ice melting and the water dripping and then you see the blood that was frozen like ice in the veins of the frog begin to move and then begin to run. And then all of a sudden the cap the camera catches the heart that hasn't beat for six months. It starts beating and then his eyes pop open and then he jumps, he jumps forth. I was just dumbfounded, just absolutely dumbfounded. My heart saying, which is what the natural world does for us, the gift of sight, of seeing the natural world, is a great gift from God that leads to praise. We joined the chorus of the birds to seeing the praise of God because of it. What a tragedy is not to see it. ICONOGRAPHIED their ones, gives us a window into spiritual reality. We don't have any concern for addressing icons simply as works of art. That's interesting. It's not an illegitimate study the history of ICONOGRAPHY, but that's not our approach. We interact with holy icons in a spiritual way. We don't have sympathy for artists who wonder why perspective and dimensionality are so untraditional and ICONOGRAPHY,...

...or why human anatomy is so unrealistic. Those kind of questions are only asked by those who have no concept of the spiritual nature of iconography. If you look at the sacred icons, if you look at how they're depicted, they're depicting and bringing heaven to us. ICONOGRAPHY GRABS US and it pulls US right into the act of worship. It takes us from the falling world and it communicates transcendence to us. Just think of the incredible Nimbus on all the saints. This is the most obvious message to everyone who's looking. Look at this person. In our reality, do you often look at a person and see the radiant light around their heads? Some of you may see that sometimes, God bless you, but you see it in the saints. Every saint is depicted as belonging to Christ, as penetrated by Christ. The light of the world has come into them and so dominated their existence that it's coming out. This is why ICONOGRAPHY has no shadows. There's no exterior light in an icon coming from the outside hitting the figure then casting a shadow. It doesn't exist. It's communicating to spiritual truth that these people live forever because Christ, the light of the world, is inside of them, radiating through their face. Look at the movements of the hands. Sat Helen, the God crowned Queen, is a great example. They're looking at me. Look at the movements of the hands, how they're often presented in the AURON's position. They're in an act of praise. They're an act of communication to God in worship and to the person before whom the icon is depicted. Depicted calling after prayer, teaching us about what human life is. Human life is communion with God. Humans are created to live in prayer. Some of the ascetics their hands like saying ethemals, are in this position. The hand is communicating a very important moment. They're they're saying, look, this is my message to the world. I draw a line. The saints drew a line and they tild the world. You can come to that line and no farther and no farther. Look at the eyes. They're fixed, not in daydreaming, they're fixed on you. The icons are presented as living beings, brothers and sisters who make up that cloud of witnesses now, who have already run the race, have received the reward and they're fixed upon our success. They're cheering US, they're praying for us, they're waiting to collapse liberate with us. This is the...

...message from the faces of the saints. This is why they look at you. They're hoping you'll look at them, that there will be an interaction. The eyes are large, the mouths are small because they're so careful with words which are so powerful. The ears are often larger than life because they listen to the word of God so carefully. The refinement the gaze. We don't depict them in D for a reason. We don't want you to see them and think earth. We want you to see them and think Heaven, heaven. Their message to us, when we can see, is that God so love the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life. This is the message of the icons. They're proclaiming the Gospel to us. Say John of Damascus says, together the scriptures and the iconography form the whole voice of the Church to proclaim the victory of God over our enemies. He says that even those who can't see and read with literacy can understand the Gospel simply by gazing at the icons. A person can come who's ignorant of the life of Christ and a fully icon to church, a fully painted church. I thought of doing his Schema today, but it's premature because we have to finish these vaults. When these vaults are done, we have two years, you know, more of iconography to do. When these vaults are done, I promise you I'll give you a sermon from St John of Damascus's counsels on how you can preach the entire Gospel just from the icons, starting there in the south choir, with the birth of Christ and the incarnation and ending after his resurrection, with his glorious ascension and pentecost. The icons are preaching the Gospel. They're saying the Christ has come for the world, for us. They're saying that your destiny is union with God, that you too will be transfigured, that the Kingdom of God is here and we are surrounded by the saints, and they're saying to you run, run, the race that's set before you. Fix Your eyes, as we did, on Christ and you will not regret. You will not regret the effort that you invest in seeking Christ. This is what can take place in an icon if you learn to read it, if you venerate it with faith. You know that wonderful shrine in the back dedicated to Saint Catharine.

Don't forget her entire life was completely changed, turn right side up. She was completely evangelized and one to God in front of an icon. The Entire Gospel won her by standing in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. And Remember the interaction that she had with Christ from that icon. So hold on to this, dear ones. Celebrate to day the triumph of Holy Orthodoxy over the heresy of ICONOCLASM and over every heresy. Cherish your faith, open your eyes, listen to the voice of the icons and respond to them. Blessed feast. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's W W W DOT PATRISTIC NECTAR DOT ORG.

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