Dimitrije M. Kalezić

Theological meaning of icons

pages: 46-59


The author defines the meaning of the notion »ieon«, reducing it to the image of a person and differentiating in the icon (as well as in any other picture) a type and arche-type. These are the first two aspects of the icon. Between them there exists certain identity, however not in the sense of the formal logics, but in the perspective of the metalogical antinomies. The mystical presence of the evading iarhetype in the framework of the limited icon is made possible exclusively by the depicted hypostasis on the basis of the antinomical Christian dogmatics — that is the third aspect of the icon. According to this aspect the icon is identipal with the person depicted on it, however this is not essential but hypostatic identity; the icon remains in essence an impersonal thing, whereas the represented God or Saint is personal being, and futhermore, God is an uncreated being. In addition to these three aspects, the Orthodoxy knows the fourth aspect of the icon — its ecolesiality: the unooonsecreated icon is only a project of an icon, hence, only the consecrated icon is an icon in the full sense.

Icons have their specific function in the consciousness and life of the Orthodox Church. They are a form of the Revelation, even as the Holy Scriptures. For that reason, the icon is not only instructing the faithful about the Revelation and its truths, but makes possible the dialogue between the created and the transfigured world: in front of the loan man prays to God, and God answers by sending him His Grace. Hence, the basic characteristics of the icon is the metaphysics of light, of course, of the light uncreated. Therefore, the icon represents, so to say, a window through which one looks from the limited world into the infinite one where the reversed or growing perspective is only fit for the contemplation of the created world destined to the endless development in beauty.

In its deepest meaning the icon is Christological; the icon is the immediate consequence of the Incarnate God. The Incarnate Saviour has been a really visible theandric Person although His Divine Nature remained invisible, and on the icon His Divine Person is depicted in human form, as He was seen on Earth. In this way, the icon is an illustration of the dogma of Chalcedon. This understanding of the icon has lived in the Tradition of the Church, among the Holy Fathers and received its authoritative definition at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

At last, the icon is a constitutive part of the cult. As such, it is a living and sacred object, and not a dead ornament of the temple. Therefore, its placing into a museum means its dedconization, because the museum is not its proper context, but a profane surrounding in which the icon does not fulfil its function: here naboby prays in front of it. It is merely an object of admiration and study. That means that the icon is not satisfying man's religious needs, but only his aesthetical and scientific impulses.





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