The Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council gathered the church experience from the first times and formulated the dogma of icon-worship for all times and peoples who profess the Orthodox faith. on an equal footing with Him. The dogma of icon-worship emphasizes that the veneration and worship of the icon does not refer to the material, not to the wood and the paint, but to the one depicted on it, therefore it does not have the character of idolatry.
It was explained that icon-worship was possible because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ in human form. As far as He Himself appeared to mankind, His depiction is also possible.
An important testimony is the non-manufactured image of the Savior – the imprint of His face on the towel (tablecloth), so the first icon painter became Jesus Christ himself.
The holy fathers emphasized the importance of the image as a perception and influence on man. In addition, for illiterate people, icons served as the Gospel. Priests were tasked with explaining to the flock the true way of worshiping icons.
The decrees also say that in the future, in order to prevent the incorrect perception of the icons, the holy fathers of the Church will compose the composition of the icons, and the artists will perform the technical part. In this sense, the role of the holy fathers was subsequently performed by the iconographic original or erminia.
Better a poor horse than no horse at all. What must the icon be to reveal the God of man in the 21st century? – What the Gospel communicates through words, the icon must express through image!
The icon by its nature is called to be the eternal, which is why it is so stable and unchanging. It does not need to reflect what belongs to the current fashion, for example, in architecture, in clothing, in make-up – all that the apostle called “a transitional image of this age” (1 Cor. 7:31).
In the ideal understanding, the icon is called to reflect the meeting and unity of man and God. In all its fullness, this union will be shown to us only in life in the age to come, and today and now we see “as if through a blurred glass, divining” (1 Cor. 13:12), but we still look into eternity. Therefore, the language of icons must reflect this union of the temporal and the eternal, the union of man and the Eternal God. Because of this, many features in the icon remain unchanged. On the other hand, we can talk a lot about the variability of styles in icon painting in different epochs and countries. The style of the epoch characterizes the person from one time or another and naturally changes when the characteristics of time change. We do not need to look for the style of our time on the way of any special works, it comes organically, naturally it is necessary. The primary search must be to find the image of man united with God.
The task of modern ecclesiastical art is to feel again the balance that the fathers of the ancient councils wisely established. On the one hand, not to fall into naturalism, illusoryness, sentimentality, when emotionality dominates, wins. But even if it does not fall into a dry signification, built on the fact that certain people have agreed on a certain meaning of this or that image. For example, the understanding that a red cross in a red circle means a parking ban only makes sense when one has studied the road signs. There are generally accepted “signs for visual communication” – road, orthographic, but there are also signs that it is impossible for the uninitiated to understand… The icon is not like that at all, it is far from the esoteric, it is Revelation.
Excess in the external is a sign of defect / poverty of spirit. Laconism is always higher, nobler and more perfect. Through asceticism and laconicism, greater results can be achieved for the human soul. Today we often lack true asceticism and true laconicism. Sometimes we go beyond nine lands in the tenth, forgetting that the Mother of God sees and hears always and everywhere.
Each icon is miraculous in its own way. Our faith teaches us that both the Lord and the Mother of God, and each of the saints, hear our address to them. If we are sincere and turn to them with a pure heart, we always get an answer. Sometimes it is unexpected, sometimes it is difficult for us to accept it, but this answer is given not only in Jerusalem, not only in the Rila Monastery.
Orthodoxy can triumph not when it anathematizes those who sin, those who do not know Christ, but when we ourselves, including through the Great Canon of the Venerable Andrew of Crete, remember the abyss that separates us from God. And, remembering this, we begin with God’s help to overcome this abyss, “restoring” in ourselves the image of God. Here we must ask ourselves not the styles, but the image of God, which should be reflected within each of us. And if this process takes place in the depths of the human heart, then, in one way or another, it is reflected: by the icon painters – on the boards, by the mothers and fathers – in the upbringing of their children, by everyone – in his work; if it begins to manifest itself in the transformation of each individual person, society – then only Orthodoxy triumphs.