“translate” their faith, conveying it by their talent.
This should be done in the spirit of the traditional Canons,
which they must take to heart to enrich and revive.
The following words from a contemporary iconographer, Mrs Fortunato – Theokretov, are of particular interest here and enlighten us about present possibilities in iconography:
The icon is a window through which people of God, the Church, can contemplate the Kingdom; and for this reason, each line, each color, each feature of the face has a meaning.
The iconographic Canon established over the centuries is not a prison depriving the artist of creativity; rather it is a defender and protection of that authenticity -“orthodoxy”- of what is represented.
And that is precisely what iconographic Tradition is all about!
When we paint St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John Chrysostom, St. Seraphim, and all the other Saints, we want to be sure to paint them according to Church Tradition, just as the Church knows and preserves them in Her living memory. On that ground then, there is no reason for us to change the face of a Saint, one of his or her attributes, or clothing or its colours. Nor is there the least reason to change the manner of their representation, just as long as
we have not found a better technique
to express in painting a body,
which has become the instrument of the Holy Spirit.
Byzantium succeeded in discovering the perfect formula that
we still recognize today,
and to this very moment every other attempt
to express and represent the idea of a transfigured body has failed
…As long as the Orthodox liturgy is fundamentally Byzantine,
it would be inconceivable that its visual art assume
a different manner of expression."
Holy Tradition: The Source of the Orthodox Faith
"Guard the deposit" (1 Tim. 6:20)
Orthodox are always talking about Tradition. What do they mean by the word? A tradition, says the Oxford Dictionary, is an opinion, belief, or custom handed down from ancestors to posterity. Christian Tradition, in that case, is the faith which Jesus Christ imparted to the Apostles, and which since the Apostles’ time has been handed down from generation to generation in the Church (Compare Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3). But to an Orthodox Christian, Tradition means something more concrete and specific than this. It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the Service Books, the Holy Icons — in fact, the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages. The Orthodox Christian of today sees himself as heir and guardian to a great inheritance received from the past, and he believes that it is his duty to transmit this inheritance unimpaired to the future.
Note that the Bible forms a part of Tradition. Sometimes Tradition is defined as ‘the oral teaching of Christ, not recorded in writing by his immediate disciples’ (Oxford Dictionary). Not only non-Orthodox but many Orthodox writers have adopted this way of speaking, treating Scripture and Tradition as two different things, two distinct sources of the Christian faith. But in reality there is only one source, since Scripture exists within Tradition. To separate and contrast the two is to impoverish the idea of both alike.
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