The Icon of the Divine Heart of God the Father – 9

Critical Review: Part 1

As previously shown, icons of God the Father were originally depicted based on the prophetic theophanies of Daniel (7:9-15), Ezekiel (1:26-28, 8:1-5), Isaiah (6:1-5), and Moses (Ex 24:9-11, Nb 12:6-8). Such icons were both symbolic as well as Biblical and traditional, according to Florensky’s (1996) typology of icons. The Father was also commonly depicted according to the various manifestations of His divine energies to Elijah (1 Kgs 19:9-13), Ezekiel (10:1-5), and Moses (Dt 5:25-27, Ex 3:2-6, 19:9-25, 24:16-18). The practice of depicting the Father on venerable icons was legitimate in the early universal Church, both through its common use by the people (laypersons and iconographers alike) and its accepted use by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. However, after the two iconoclastic persecutions of the seventh and eighth centuries – persecutions derived from the rationalistic conflation of images with idols (Bingham, 1995; Fortescue, 1910; Ouspensky, 1992) – and the last Ecumenical Council of the undivided, universal Church (Nicaea II; Second Council of Nicaea, 787/1969; The Seventh General Council, 787/2007), strong differences emerged both among members of the hierarchy and the people themselves, in relation to depicting God the Father iconographically. Such differences persist to this day.

Specifically, insofar as both the Quinisext Council (Council in Trullo, 692/1969) and Nicaea II (Second Council of Nicaea, 787/1969, The Seventh General Council, 787/2007) were concerned, neither of them, implicitly or explicitly, forbade depictions of God the Father in terms of His energies (energeia), rather than His essence (ousia; Basil the Great, P.G., XXXII; P.G., XXIX; P.G., LXXV; Dionysus the Aeropagite, P.G., III; Gregory of Nyssa, P.G., XLIV; Gregory Palamas, 69, P.G. CL; P.G. CL; Lossky, 1944/1997; Symeon the New Theologian, Hom. LXXIX). In fact, in Quinisext no mention was made of icons of the Father, whereas in Nicaea II it was decreed that holy images should be widespread to arouse affection, remembrance, and proskynesis for their prototypes in the people (Second Council of Nicaea, 787/1969, The Seventh General Council, 787/2007). Icons per se were defined as signs pointing toward the divine hypostases, not essence.

Hence, despite the attempts of certain authors (e.g., Bingham, 1995; Ouspensky, 1992) to forcefully and speculatively interpret otherwise the proceedings of said Councils; and especially given that Nicaea II was the last Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church, it should be noted that the decrees of Nicaea II both were and remain binding on both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, irrespective of personal-religious bias. The decrees of any Councils held afterward perforce cannot contradict those of Nicaea II itself, in order to be valid, irrespective of the apostolic Church they may emanate from (i.e., Roman Catholic or Orthodox). Furthermore, since after Nicaea II the Great Schism occurred, the full subsistence of universality as understood in the early undivided Church has persisted in the Roman Catholic Church, precisely because of its unbroken Petrine succession (Paul VI, 1964).

As shall be manifested, no impediments exist in the Roman Catholic Church with regard to both depicting and worshipping God the Father on venerable icons, in terms of energeia and proskynesis. In fact, the precedent for such an icon was already set in 2oo4 through the enshrinement of the very first revealed (Florensky, 1996) icon of God the Father (Ravasio, 1932/1989) in the Roman Catholic Church, with the blessing of John Paul II (Armata Bianca of Our Lady, 2007-2008; D’Ascanio, 2002): specifically, in the ‘Jubilee’ Pro-Cathedral of the Father in Zaporozhye, Ukraine (ibid., Padewski, 1998; Roman Catholic Church of God the Merciful Father). It will similarly be shown that, in fact, no true impediments exist in the Orthodox Church regarding depicting the Father on venerable icons, despite claims to the contrary. So for the sake of greater clarity and fairness all around, the decrees of both the Council of Trent (1545-1563/1848) and the three Councils of Moscow (Acts of the Council of Moscow of 1666-1667, 1893; Anatolius, 1945; Bodianskii, 1858; Council of Moscow, 1551; The Great Council of Moscow, 1666-1667) shall be closely examined forthwith, to determine the validity of said decrees in relation to both Nicaea II and the writings of the Church Fathers, with regard to depicting God the Father iconographically.


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