The Nativity Icon

From another blogger:

A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons

Modern Icon of the Nativity

The most wise Lord comes to be born,
Receiving hospitality from His own creatures.
Let us also receive Him,
That this divine Child in the cave may make us His guests
In the paradise of delights!

The Birth of Christ has always been celebrated and hymned by Christians in some way or other, as it is central to the Faith. The Word of God in past times may have appeared as an angel of the Lord, or the divine fire of the burning bush, but now, from this time onwards, He has become one of us; and not just as a fully-grown man descended from Heaven, but in humility God is born of a woman, and comes to us as a tiny, speechless, infant. This is what is shown in the Nativity Icon, and around this central historical event other stories surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ are depicted.

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Book review: Le Regard du Ressuscité, une autre approche de l’icône

Le Regard du Ressuscité

Le Regard du Ressuscité :
une autre approche de l’icône,

by Archimandrite Gabriel.


The book intends to be a unique approach, in between the Orthodox and Catholic approach to icons.

In a first movement, the author starts from biblical theology to make us understand the language of the icon, while dealing with the icon as what it is: a painting, with a support, a drawing, colors and light. He corrects here the erroneous opposition between the before the Enlightenment and after it, in the treatment of space and light, and emphasizes the spiritual reason for the modernity of the artistic approach of the icon.

According to Archimandrite Gabriel, it is important to apply the rules of biblical exegesis to the reading of icons, while deepening in the same way the double perspective, both human and divine (level of faith, of inspiration, but also of art and historical milieu). The archimandrite illustrates his ideas with the example of the Sinai icon of Christ.

Against iconoclasm, he explains how the second commandment of the Mosaic Law is not contradictory to the icons. In fact, the icon complements admirably the teaching of the Old Testament (study of Exodus 20: 4-5 in Hebrew and Greek). The Johannine theology reveals best the link between the theology of the icon and biblical theology. The author proposes a new translation of John 20:5-8, a key moment, and offers a reinterpretation of the scene, in connection with what the shroud of Turin could tell us, thus opening the possibility of links between the Shroud and the icon.

Starting in Chapter 7, in a second movement, the author demonstrates how the icon sheds light on Scripture as a complementary teaching, with two examples: the icon of the Ascension and the icon of Pentecost.

He even turns to the realm of the imaginary world (l’imaginaire) and psychology, to understand more deeply the meaning and role of the icon. The strength of the icon is to be “a mixture of visible and invisible” (p.176), a visual support helping our imagination to approach the mystery, a link that reinforces the hearing of the Word.

L’aboutissement de l’icône n’est pas de susciter un sentiment d’évasion dans l’esprit du spectateur qui va entrer dans l’image, mais de suggérer une présence, jusqu’à ce que le spectateur ait l’impression d’être regardé par l’icône, de la même manière qu’il va écouter la Parole de Dieu comme une parole qui lui est adressée directement par Dieu.
page 46

Chapter 9 offers very concrete recommendations on the painting of icons today. Why and how, both in terms of the essential interior disposition and all the technical aspects: symbol of each color, choice of varnish.

The perfect illustration of the approach of the book is found in Chapter 10, where the archimandrite demonstrates that it is possible to create a new icon model (example of the Virgin of Montserrat), from traditional elements, in a mixture of fidelity and freedom.

In conclusion, one can only admire the richness of such a work. Rooted in solid biblical theology, even if it proposes new translations for some key passages, it dares to use a fresh and original language on the icon, and does not hesitate to call into question remarks too often heard, such as for instance the “writing” of an icon. The most original contribution is undoubtedly the links between the Shroud of Turin and the icon. But to develop a sensitivity to beauty is to develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit (chapter 11), and He blows where He wills.

Archimandrite Gabriel, Le Regard du Ressuscité : une autre approche de l’icône. — Le Coudray Macouard, Saint-Léger Éditions, 2017, 260 p.