Why an icon not a painting? – 3

The symbolic language of the icon is “incomprehensible to the sated flesh, to the heart full of longings for material things. But it becomes the very fabric of life when these longings collapse and an abyss opens at our feet. Then we need a firm foothold at the edge of the abyss, we need to feel the motionless calm of the icon above our tribulations. And the joyous vision of a sobor, a church of all creation above the bloody chaos of our existence becomes as necessary as our daily bread. We need to be sure that the beast is not all in all; that above the beast’s kingdom there is another law of life and that it will prevail.

“Biologism is consciously elevated into the principle that must rule the world. Any suggestion that the right to kill could be limited by some higher principle is swept aside as sentimental and false. Here we have something worse than living like beasts. We have conscious veneration of the image of the beast, suppression in principle of all human charity and compassion. We have here an enslavement of the spirit unparalleled since the beginning of time, bestiality elevated into a principle and a system, renunciation of all human values that have until now existed in culture. A victory of this evil principle may lead to the total extermination of entire peoples.

“The spiritual struggle that lies ahead for us is immeasurably harder and more important than the armed struggle. Man can no longer remain merely a man: he must rise above himself and become godlike or become a beast . . . Dostoevsky has said, ‘Beauty will save the world’ . . . icon painters had seen the beauty that would save the world and had immortalized it in colors. The thought of the healing power of beauty has been alive for a long time in the idea of the miraculously revealed and miracle-working icon! Amid our present manifold struggle and boundless sorrow, let that power console us and give us courage. Let us affirm and love that beauty. It embodies the meaning of life which will not perish. Nor will the nation perish that ties its fate to this meaning. The world needs that nation to break the dominion of the beast and save humanity from grievous bondage” (E. Trubetskoii, 1973, Icons: Theology in Color, p. 36-39).