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Figures have consistent facial appearances, hold attributes personal to them, and use a few conventional poses. Colour plays an important role as well. Gold represents the radiance of Heaven; red, divine life. Blue is the color of human life, white is the Uncreated Light of God, only used for resurrection and transfiguration of Christ. If you look at icons of Jesus and Mary: Jesus wears red undergarment with a blue outer garment God become Human and Mary wears a blue undergarment with a red overgarment human was granted gifts by God , thus the doctrine of deification is conveyed by icons.

Letters are symbols too.

Most icons incorporate some calligraphic text naming the person or event depicted. Even this is often presented in a stylized manner. In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition there are reports of particular, Wonderworking icons that exude myrrh fragrant, healing oil , or perform miracles upon petition by believers.

When such reports are verified by the Orthodox hierarchy, they are understood as miracles performed by God through the prayers of the saint, rather than being magical properties of the painted wood itself.

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Theologically, all icons are considered to be sacred, and are miraculous by nature, being a means of spiritual communion between the heavenly and earthly realms. However, it is not uncommon for specific icons to be characterised as "miracle-working", meaning that God has chosen to glorify them by working miracles through them. Such icons are often given particular names especially those of the Virgin Mary , and even taken from city to city where believers gather to venerate them and pray before them.

Islands like that of Tinos are renowned for possessing such "miraculous" icons, and are visited every year by thousands of pilgrims.

Role of Christianity in civilization

This is because icon painting is rooted in the theology of the Incarnation Christ being the eikon of God which didn't change, though its subsequent clarification within the Church occurred over the period of the first seven Ecumenical Councils. Also, icons served as tools of edification for the illiterate faithful during most of the history of Christendom. Thus, icons are words in painting; they refer to the history of salvation and to its manifestation in concrete persons.

In the Orthodox Church "icons have always been understood as a visible gospel, as a testimony to the great things given man by God the incarnate Logos" [33] In the Council of it was stated that "all that is uttered in words written in syllables is also proclaimed in the language of colors". Eastern Orthodox find the first instance of an image or icon in the Bible when God made man in His own image Septuagint Greek eikona , in Genesis — In Exodus, God commanded that the Israelites not make any graven image; but soon afterwards, he commanded that they make graven images of cherubim and other like things, both as statues and woven on tapestries.

Later, Solomon included still more such imagery when he built the first temple. Eastern Orthodox believe these qualify as icons, in that they were visible images depicting heavenly beings and, in the case of the cherubim, used to indirectly indicate God's presence above the Ark. In the Book of Numbers it is written that God told Moses to make a bronze serpent, Nehushtan , and hold it up, so that anyone looking at the snake would be healed of their snakebites. In John 3, Jesus refers to the same serpent, saying that he must be lifted up in the same way that the serpent was.

John of Damascus also regarded the brazen serpent as an icon. Further, Jesus Christ himself is called the "image of the invisible God" in Colossians , and is therefore in one sense an icon.

Orthodox Christian Medicine

As people are also made in God's images, people are also considered to be living icons, and are therefore "censed" along with painted icons during Orthodox prayer services. According to John of Damascus, anyone who tries to destroy icons "is the enemy of Christ, the Holy Mother of God and the saints, and is the defender of the Devil and his demons. Basil of Caesarea , in his writing On the Holy Spirit , says: "The honor paid to the image passes to the prototype". He also illustrates the concept by saying, "If I point to a statue of Caesar and ask you 'Who is that?

Thus to kiss an icon of Christ, in the Eastern Orthodox view, is to show love towards Christ Jesus himself, not mere wood and paint making up the physical substance of the icon. Worship of the icon as somehow entirely separate from its prototype is expressly forbidden by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Icons are often illuminated with a candle or jar of oil with a wick.

Beeswax for candles and olive oil for oil lamps are preferred because they burn very cleanly, although other materials are sometimes used. The illumination of religious images with lamps or candles is an ancient practice pre-dating Christianity. Of the icon painting tradition that developed in Byzantium, with Constantinople as the chief city, we have only a few icons from the 11th century and none preceding them, in part because of the Iconoclastic reforms during which many were destroyed or lost, and also because of plundering by the Republic of Venice in during the Fourth Crusade , and finally the Fall of Constantinople in It was only in the Comnenian period — that the cult of the icon became widespread in the Byzantine world, partly on account of the dearth of richer materials such as mosaics, ivory , and vitreous enamels , but also because an iconostasis a special screen for icons was introduced then in ecclesiastical practice.

The style of the time was severe, hieratic and distant. In the late Comnenian period this severity softened, and emotion, formerly avoided, entered icon painting. Major monuments for this change include the murals at Daphni Monastery c. Panteleimon near Skopje The Theotokos of Vladimir c.

The tendency toward emotionalism in icons continued in the Paleologan period , which began in Palaiologan art reached its pinnacle in mosaics such as those of Chora Church. In the last half of the 14th century, Palaiologan saints were painted in an exaggerated manner, very slim and in contorted positions, that is, in a style known as the Palaiologan Mannerism, of which Ochrid's Annunciation is a superb example.

After , the Byzantine tradition was carried on in regions previously influenced by its religion and culture—in the Balkans, Russia, and other Slavic countries, Georgia and Armenia in the Caucasus, and among Eastern Orthodox minorities in the Islamic world. In the Greek-speaking world Crete , ruled by Venice until the midth century, was an important centre of painted icons, as home of the Cretan School , exporting many to Europe.

Crete was under Venetian control from and became a thriving center of art with eventually a Scuola di San Luca , or organized painter's guild, the Guild of Saint Luke , on Western lines. Cretan painting was heavily patronized both by Catholics of Venetian territories and by Eastern Orthodox. For ease of transport, Cretan painters specialized in panel paintings, and developed the ability to work in many styles to fit the taste of various patrons.

El Greco , who moved to Venice after establishing his reputation in Crete, is the most famous artist of the school, who continued to use many Byzantine conventions in his works. In the city of Heraklion, on Crete, which at one time boasted at least painters, finally fell to the Turks, and from that time Greek icon painting went into a decline, with a revival attempted in the 20th century by art reformers such as Photis Kontoglou , who emphasized a return to earlier styles. Russian icons are typically paintings on wood, often small, though some in churches and monasteries may be as large as a table top.

Many religious homes in Russia have icons hanging on the wall in the krasny ugol —the "red" corner see Icon corner. There is a rich history and elaborate religious symbolism associated with icons. In Russian churches, the nave is typically separated from the sanctuary by an iconostasis , a wall of icons. As a general rule, these icons strictly followed models and formulas hallowed by usage, some of which had originated in Constantinople. As time passed, the Russians—notably Andrei Rublev and Dionisius —widened the vocabulary of iconic types and styles far beyond anything found elsewhere.

The personal, improvisatory and creative traditions of Western European religious art are largely lacking in Russia before the 17th century, when Simon Ushakov 's painting became strongly influenced by religious paintings and engravings from Protestant as well as Catholic Europe. In the midth century, changes in liturgy and practice instituted by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow resulted in a split in the Russian Orthodox Church. The traditionalists, the persecuted "Old Ritualists" or " Old Believers ", continued the traditional stylization of icons, while the State Church modified its practice.

From that time icons began to be painted not only in the traditional stylized and nonrealistic mode, but also in a mixture of Russian stylization and Western European realism, and in a Western European manner very much like that of Catholic religious art of the time. The Stroganov School and the icons from Nevyansk rank among the last important schools of Russian icon-painting.

In Romania , icons painted as reversed images behind glass and set in frames were common in the 19th century and are still made.

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The process is known as reverse glass painting. Athos were gradually replaced by small, locally produced icons on glass, which were much less expensive and thus accessible to the Transylvanian peasants[. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Oriental Orthodoxy also have distinctive, living icon painting traditions. Coptic icons have their origin in the Hellenistic art of Egyptian Late Antiquity, as exemplified by the Fayum mummy portraits. Beginning in the 4th century, churches painted their walls and made icons to reflect an authentic expression of their faith. The Aleppo School was a school of icon-painting, founded by the priest Yusuf al-Musawwir also known as Joseph the Painter and active in Aleppo , which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire , between at least [38] and Although the word "icon" is not used in Western Christianity , there are religious works of art which were largely patterned on Byzantine works, and equally conventional in composition and depiction.

Until the 13th century, "icon"-like portraits followed East pattern—although very few survive from this early period. From the 13th century, the western tradition came slowly to allow the artist far more flexibility, and a more realist approach to the figures. If only because there was a much smaller number of skilled artists, the quantity of works of art, in the sense of panel paintings, was much smaller in the West, and in most Western settings a single diptych as an altarpiece, or in a domestic room, probably stood in place of the larger collections typical of Orthodox " icon corners ".

Only in the 15th century did production of painted works of art begin to approach Eastern levels, supplemented by mass-produced imports from the Cretan School. In this century, the use of "icon"-like portraits in the West was enormously increased by the introduction of old master prints on paper , mostly woodcuts which were produced in vast numbers although hardly any survive. They were mostly sold, hand-coloured, by churches, and the smallest sizes often only an inch high were affordable even by peasants , who glued or pinned them straight onto a wall.

With the Reformation , after an initial uncertainty among early Lutherans, who painted a few "icon"-like depictions of leading Reformers, and continued to paint scenes from Scripture, Protestants came down firmly against icon-like portraits, especially larger ones, even of Christ. Many Protestants found these "idolatrous".

There is some minor difference, however, in the Catholic attitude to images from that of the Orthodox. Following Gregory the Great, Catholics emphasize the role of images as the Biblia Pauperum , the "Bible of the Poor," from which those who could not read could nonetheless learn. Catholics also, however, share the same viewpoint with the Orthodox when it comes to image veneration, believing that whenever approached, sacred images are to be reverenced. Though using both flat wooden panel and stretched canvas paintings, Catholics traditionally have also favored images in the form of three-dimensional statuary, whereas in the East, statuary is much less widely employed.

A recent joint Lutheran—Orthodox statement made in the 7th Plenary of the Lutheran—Orthodox Joint Commission, on July in Helsinki, reaffirmed the ecumenical council decisions on the nature of Christ and the veneration of images:. She looked into the distance with a vacant stare and waved her hand to and fro, senselessly. She did not recognize her family when they came to visit her. She did not remember the parents that raised her, the meal on which she dined that morning, nor the words spoken to her by the nurse only minutes before.

Here, in the assisted living home, Susan spent the last several years of her life a frail, quiet, and for the most part, forgotten person. The final season in life is full of profound changes. In some instances, this is a time of joy, forgiveness, revelation, and wisdom. Unfortunately, old age can also be fraught with losses and diminutions. Many suffer terribly when their body stops working, and are afflicted by multiple disorders and chronic pain. Old age may involve a loss of autonomy, self-respect, or even purpose. In one way or another, these events will affect each of us.

Like so many others, I have felt the impact of dementia in my own family, and grieved with loved ones who suffered severely through each stage. As a former chaplain at a memory care facility in Boston, and more currently, a healthcare professional at an assisted living home in Nashville, TN, I have often wrestled with difficult questions and dilemmas. How can we understand personhood in the light of a fading mind and body? In what way can we nurture a relationship with a person with severe memory-loss?