The Icon of the Divine Heart of God the Father – 5

Brief History of God the Father in Iconography and Iconology: Post-Iconoclasm

Subsequent to the first iconoclastic persecution that occurred in the 7th century, the Quinisext Council of the universal Church addressed the issue of depicting Christ as a lamb, in venerable icons (Council in Trullo, 692/1969). Specifically, in the 82nd canon of the Council, the members formally decreed that Christ would be better depicted in His human form rather than as a lamb. So that the enormity of meaning of the humiliation, Passion, and death that He had suffered for the redemption of humankind, would be more easily comprehended by all people. Icons depicting God the Father were not addressed.

Following the second iconoclastic persecution that occurred throughout the 7th and 8th centuries, the Seventh Ecumenical Council of the universal Church addressed the issue of the veneration of icons (Second Council of Nicaea [Nicaea II], 787/1969; The Seventh General Council, 787/2007). Such a matter of focus was especially significant, because the iconoclastic persecutions had occurred precisely due to the suspicion that worshipping sacred images was idolatry.

Specifically, in Nicaea II, the Council members formally decreed that iconoclasm constituted heresy and that venerating icons was legitimate (Second Council of Nicaea, 787/1969; The Seventh General Council, 787/2007). They defined that, “In the same manner as the holy and life-giving cross, so shall holy images . . . be set forth in all the holy Churches of God . . . on walls and on doors, in houses and by the highways . . . For, in proportion as these are continually seen in images and pictures, so are the minds of the beholders aroused to the remembrance of and affection for their prototypes.” The Council members reached this conclusion based on Gn 31:34, Ex 25:19, Ez 41:18, Heb 9:5, Nb 7:89, and various writings of the Church Fathers.

A declaration of faith was made, regarding the veneration of sacred images (Second Council of Nicaea, 787/1969; The Seventh General Council, 787/2007). The Council members confirmed that the adoration and absolute worship of latreia was reserved for God alone, whereas the veneration and relative worship of proskynesis could be paid to any sign representing its prototype. They declared, “For he who worships an image worships in it the person of him who is represented thereby.” Such veneration was, according to the members, “agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the Church” (Gibbon, 1890, p. 400). In Act 6 of Nicaea II, the Council members also defined icons themselves as, “not like the original with respect to essence, but with respect to hypostasis” (Second Council of Nicaea 787/1969; The Seventh General Council, 787/2007).

Moreover, in Nicaea II, the Council members explicitly condemned those who would refute the aforementioned visions as theophanic (Second Council of Nicaea, 787/1969; The Seventh General Council, 787/2007). They specifically declared, “Eternal be the memory of those who know and accept and believe the visions of the prophets as the Divinity Himself shaped and impressed them . . . Anathema to those who do not accept the visions of the prophets and who reject the iconographies which have been seen by them, even before the Incarnation of the Word.” With regard to the veneration of sacred icons, the outcome of Nicaea II resulted in the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy becoming established. A feast that is celebrated to this day, in both the Orthodox Church and the Eastern (Byzantine) Rite of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, it should be noted that Nicaea II was the last ecumenical Council that was both held and recognized by the undivided, universal Church.

References

  • Council in Trullo. (692/1969). In The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church: Their canons and dogmatic decrees. Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Vol. XIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Gibbon, E. (1890). Introduction of images into the Church. Chapter XLIX in Decline and fall of the Roman Empire. London: Gibbings.
  • Second Council of Nicaea. (787/1969). In The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church: Their canons and dogmatic decrees. Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Vol. XIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • The Seventh General Council: The second of Nicaea, held A. D. 787, in which the worship of images was established (787/2007; J. Mendham, trans.). Whitefish, MT: Kessinger.