The Seventh Ecumenical Council: Nicaea II
The Seventh Ecumenical Council was the second one held in Nicaea, Bithynia. It convened during the reign of Constantine and his mother Irene, A.D. 783. Of the Fathers attending it, 350 were Orthodox, but seventeen others joined it who had formerly been iconomachs, but who later repented and were accepted by it. So that in all there were 367. Outstanding and distinguished ones among them were Tarasius the Patriarch of Constantinople, Peter the Archpresbyter of Rome, and Peter, he too another presbyter and the abbot of the monastery of St. Sabbas in Rome, all of them acting as representatives of Pope Adrian. Thomas the Syncellus and hieromonach and John the hieromonach, filling the places of the Apostolic thrones, or, more explicitly, acting instead of Apollinarius of Alexandria, Theodoret of Antioch, and Elias of Jerusalem. The monks also exercised great influence in this Council, seeing that there were 136 of them present as archimandrites of monasteries. This Council was assembled against the ungodly iconomachs who used to disparage the Christians. The Council anathematized them, and especially Anastasius, Constantine, and Nicetas, the pseudopatriarchs who held office during the time of the iconomachs, on the ground that they not only refused to kiss and bow down in adoration before the holy icons, but they even called them idols, and burned them up, and trod them underfoot, and dragged them about in the streets, and in every way treated them insultingly and contemptuously. After abrogating (Act 6) the falsely so-called definition of the pseudo-council held in the reign of Constantine Copronymus in Blachernae, with deacons Epiphanius and John reading it; and after proclaiming St. Germanus, and John Damascene, and George Cyprius Orthodox and Saints, it issued a definition in its Act 7 worded as follows: “We define the rule with all accuracy and diligence, in a manner not unlike that befitting the shape of the precious and vivifying Cross, that the venerable and holy icons, painted or mosaic, or made of any other suitable material, be placed in the holy churches of God upon sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, houses and streets, both of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and of our intemerate Lady the holy Theotokos, and also of the precious Angels, and of all Saints. For the more frequently and oftener they are continually seen in pictorial representation, the more those beholding are reminded and led to visualize anew the memory of the originals which they represent and for whom moreover they also beget a yearning in the soul of the persons beholding the icons. Accordingly, such persons are prompted not only to kiss these and to pay them honorary adoration, what is more important, they are imbued with the true faith which is reflected in our worship which is due to God alone and which befits only the divine nature (worship is defined by St. Basil the Great as being an intense and continual and non-avolating culture respecting the object worshiped: see his Epitomized Definitions, p. 850). But this worship must be paid in the way suggested by the form of the precious and vivifying Cross, and the holy Gospels, and the rest of sacred institutions, and the offering of wafts of incense, and the display of beams of light, to be done for the purpose of honoring them, just as it used to be the custom to do among the ancients by way of manifesting piety. For any honor paid to the icon (or picture) redounds upon the original, and whoever bows down in adoration before the icon, is at the same time bowing down in adoration to the substance (or hypostasis) of the one therein painted. For thus the doctrine of our Holy Fathers, it was the tradition of the universal Church. The 7th Ec. C. is recognized by the c. of Holy Wisdom and all interpreters of the c. The proceedings of this 7th are found in vol. 11 of the Synods, pg. 719.
 Spyridon Milias, in his Collection of the Councils, vol. II, says that this Council was held in the year 783. Others say in the year 788. The most accurate chronologers, however, say that it was held in the above-mentioned year.
 Epiphanius, the Deacon of Catana, in the eparchy of Sicily, attending as the legate of Thomas, the archibishop of the island of Sardinia, in his wonderful encomiastic speech (page 890 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records) says that that was the number of Fathers attending it. Psellus says so too. Photius says that there were 367, in his letter to Michael the King of Bulgaria. The same number is recorded in the menologion of Emperor Basil.
 These legates, according to Theophanes, became the Metropolitan of Thessalonica and the Patriarch of Alexandria, respectively.
 Photius calls him Apollinarius; but the report of an anonymous writer concerning the seven Councils calls him Politianus, with whom Ignatius, a modern author, agrees.
 These Patriarchs were unable at that time to attend the Council in person, because of the incursion of the Hagarenes. For the Patriarch of Jerusalem (whom Dositheus calls Theodore, I know not why) had been exiled by them a thousand miles away from Jerusalem. Worse woes were suffered by the Christians in Alexandria and Antioch, and consequently their Patriarchs suffered along with them (Dositheus, page 631 of the Dodecabiblus).
 An idol is one thing, a statue is another thing, and an icon (or picture) is a different thing. For an idol differs from an icon in that the icon is a likeness of a true thing and its original, whereas the idol is an image of a false and inexistent thing, and is not the likeness of an original, according to Origen and Theodoret — just as were the idols of the false and inexistent gods of the Greeks. We call those images which embody the whole figure statues and carved or sculptured figures in general. As for this kind of images, namely, the statues, the catholic (Orthodox) Church not only does not adore them, but she does not even manufacture them, for many reasons: 1) because in its present definition this Council says for images to be produced with paints (or colors), with mosaic, or tesselated work, and with any other suitable material (which means with gold and silver and other metals, as Theodosius the bishop of Amorion says in Act 4 of the same Council) upon the sacred utensils, and robes, including sheets and cloths; upon walls and boards, and houses and streets. It did not mention a word about construction of a statue. Rather it may be said that this definition of this Council is antagonistic to statues; 2) because neither the letters written by patriarchs in their correspondence with one another, and to emperors, nor the letters of Pope Gregory to Germanus and of Pope Adrian to the present Council, nor the speeches and orations which the bishops and monks made in connection with all the eight Acts of the present Council said anything at all about statues or sculptured figures. But also the councils held by the iconomachs, and especially that held in Blachernae in the reign of Copronymus, in writing against the holy icons, mention oil paintings and portraits, but never statues or sculptured figures, which, if they existed, could not have been passed over in silence by the iconomachs, but, on the contrary, they would have been written against with a view to imputing greater blame to the Orthodox; 3) because although the woman with an issue of blood made a bronze statue of Christ in memory of and by way of giving thanks for the miracle and the benefaction which it had conferred upon her; and she set it up in the Panead, at the feet of which there sprang up a plant, or herb, which cured various ailments; and, as some say, that statue was smashed to pieces by the Emperor Maximinus, before Constantine the Great, and the bronze was seized by him; or else Julian the Apostate seized it, and put in its place the statue of Jupiter, as an anonymous writer says. Though, I say, the woman who had an issue of blood did make this statue (which the Christians took into the Church and honored; and people went to see it out of a yearning for the original of it, as Philostorgus the Arian historically records), yet, as a matter of fact, that work of the woman who had an issue of blood was a concession from God, who, for goodness’ sake accepted it, making allowances for the imperfect knowledge of the woman who set it up; and because that was an embodiment and mark not of the grace of the Gospel, but of the old Law, as Pope Gregory II says in writing to St. Germanus (for the old Law had the two Cherubim, which were gold statues and sculptured figures containing all the body of the angelic powers, according to ch. 38 of Exodus, which Cherubim, according to an unknown expositor, had the face of a calf, and adored the Ark of the Covenant (here called the Ark of the Testimony, and by this adoration separated the Israelites from the idolatry of the Egyptians, who used to adore the calf. For the Jews learned from this that if a calf adored the Ark, it followed that the Egyptians were wrong in adoring it as a god). Not only the old Law, but also the custom of the Greeks fostered the erection of statues and sculptured figures, as St. Germanus writes in a letter to Thomas of Claudiopolis which is to be found in Act 4 of the present Council, and which says: “It being obvious that the Savior leveled His own grace to condescension with the faith of the woman, and showed what has been made evident to us above, namely, that it is not that what is performed is in general the object, but that it is the aim of the one performing it that is being reduced to experience . . . ." And again: “We do not say this, so that we may find an excuse for exercising the art of making bronze pillars, but merely in order to make it plain that the Lord did not discard the national custom at this point, but, instead, availed Himself of it to exhibit therein for a considerable length of time the wonder-working and miracle-working efficiency of His own benevolence; on which account it is not devout to disparage the custom of a somewhat more pious nature which has prevailed among us.” You see here three things as plainly as day, to wit: 1) that the erection of the statue of Christ was moral, and that the Lord accepted it as a matter of compromise with the times; 2) that statues ought not to be manufactured; and 3) that it is more pious and more decent for the venerable images to be depicted, not by means of statues, but by means of colors in paintings. For the same saint said above by way of anticipation that in historically recording the facts concerning the statues, he historically recounts the fact that the icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul, painted in colors, were still extant . . . Canon LXXXII of the 6th, moreover, says that we ought to perfer the grace of the Gospel to the legal form, and ought to set up the human character, or figure, of Christ in icons instead of the olden lamb even in oil paintings. So that from all that has been said it is proved that the Westerners are acting contrary to the definition of this holy and Ecumenical Seventh Council, and contrary to the tradition of the Church in making statues and sculptured figures and plaster of paris replicas, and setting them up in their churches. We said hereinabove those representations which embody the whole of that which they represent are called statues and sculptured work and plaster of paris figures in general, whereas those representations which do not embody the whole of the person or other object which they are intended to represent, but at most merely exhibit them in relief, projecting, that is to say, here and there above the level and surface of the background, are not called statues or sculptured work or plaster of paris figures or any such name, but, instead, they are called holy icons (or, if they are not holy, simply pictures). Such are those which are to be found engraved or stamped or otherwise delineated upon the sacred vessels, on divine Gospels, and other holy books, on precious crosses, of silver and gold, according to Dositheus (p. 656 of the Dodecabiblus); to the same class are assigned also images cast in wax and more or less in relief, that is to say, projecting at various points above and receding at other points below the plane surface of the image, concerning which divine Chrysostom (in his Discourse wherein he argues that one and the same Lawgiver is the author of both the Old and the New Testament; and in Discourse 307 on the vesture of priests, the origin of which is to be found in the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ) says the following: “I myself have loved the images cast in wax as a matter of piety. For I beheld an angel in an image driving back hordes of barbarians. I saw barbarian troops being trodden underfoot, and the words of David coming true, wherein he says: ‘Lord, in thy city Thou wilt do their image havoc’ (p. 852 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records, in Act 6 of the 7th C.; and p. 647 of the sixth vol. of Chrysostom). Oecumenius, too, accepts and approves this kind of image which is cast in wax in the manner above described (in his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews). Hence, in writing to Symeon the bishop of Bostra, Anastasius the Patriarch of Antioch says: “though, as a matter of fact, an image is nothing else than a piece of wood and colors mixed and mingled with wax” (p. 845 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records). In the same class with these images are placed also the images which are carved in wooden crosses (crucifixes) and medallions. They, too, likewise are wrought in relief and project above the plane of the level surface, and do not compromise the whole body of the person or thing represented. The reason and cause why statues are not adored or venerated (aside from the legal observation and custom noted hereinabove) seem to me to be the fact that when they are handled and it is noticed that the whole body and all the members of the person or thing represented are contained in them and that they not only reveal the whole surface of it in three dimensions, but can even be felt in space, instead of merely appearing as such to the eye alone, they no longer appear to be, nor have they any longer any right to be called, icons or pictures, but, on the contrary, they are sheer replications of the originals. Some persons, though, assert or opine that the reason why the Church rejected or did away with statues was in order to avoid entirely any likeness to idols. For the idols were statues of massive sculpture, capable of being felt on all sides with the hand and fingers.
 Hence, in Act 5 of the present Council, after the reading of the speech delivered by John of Thessalonica, wherein he pointed out that angels ought to be depicted (in icons) as they have many times been sensually seen by many men and women with the veritable shape of their own bodies, Tarasius replied that this Father had pointed out how angels ought to be painted, since they are circumscribable and therefore capable of being described, and since they appeared to many men and women like human beings. The Council agreed to what Tarasius said in his opinion of the matter. But certain modern theologians explain that the bodies naturally belonging to angels are those bodies which are transitory, or (in English perhaps we had better say) extemporaneous, and which they assume in order to make themselves visible to human beings, such bodies having been developed out of ectoplasm, or an airy essence. The said John, on the other hand, in the same Act 5, says that the reason why angels can be depicted in icons is that they really possess exiguous, or extremely tenuous, bodies, and he cites as witnesses to this fact St. Basil the Great, St. Athanasius the Great, and divine Methodius. “For, according to them,” says he, “even angels are possessed of a tenuous body, and are not utterly and altogether incorporeal like God.” For St. Basil the Great actually does say in the sixth chapter of his discourses concerning the Holy Spirit, concerning Angels: “Wherefore they are also in space, and become visible, and in the veritable shape of their own bodies proper they actually appear and become visible to the eyes of worthy men and women.” And divine St. Hilary asserts that whatever has been built (or created) must needs also possess a body (ch. 2 on the Gospel according to St. Matthew). Besides, even Origen took the Angels to be possessed of a tenuous body (Concerning Principles and Origins, Book I, ch. 7, and Book II); and Tertullian, too, in many places, and especially in his discourse concerning the body of Christ (ch. 6), and St. Justin, and Clement of Alexandria (otherwise known as Clement Stromateus), in his Book III of Stromata, and Athenagoras in his Apology, and Cyprian (concerning the dress of virgins), and St. Ambrose (in his book concerning Noah and the Ark), and Eusebius (Book V concerning Evang. Prep.), and Sulpicius Severus (concerning Ecclesiastical History), and Lactantius (Book II of the Institutes), and St. Augustine, all avouch the same truth. But in addition to all these authorities Macarius the Great also testifies to the same truth. And see ch. 67 of Symeon Metaphrastes, on page 720 of his work entitled Philocalia.
 This dictum is one delivered by St. Basil the Great, as the same Council in its Act 6 says, and as does St. Basil himself in ch. 18 concerning the Holy Spirit. St. Athana-sius also says: “Whosoever pays adoration to the icon, is thereby paying adoration also to the King.” Likewise St. Chrysostom: “Knowest thou not that if thou insult the picture, or icon, of the King, that thou art transferring the insult to the original of the merit?” (page 859, of the second volume of the Conciliar Records). Nevertheless, this honor is paid to the original in a different way, and to the icon in a different way (according to Blastaris): to the former by way of worship; to the latter relatively.
 The word icon is derived from the Greek eoikenai, meaning to “look like,” or, in other words, it is so called because of the fact that it presents a likeness to the eye that recalls the original. But in Greek the word icon means simply a picture of any kind whatsoever, and is by no means confined to the pictures of divine personages, or of persons at all, for that matter, being commonly used by the Greeks in a general way with reference to pictures hung on walls as well as illustrations printed in books, etc. Accordingly, in Greek, one may use it in the sense of “natural image,” as is in fact every natural son in relation to his natural father (that is why divine St. Basil, in his assertion above respecting honor due to an icon in the case of a “natural image” took that of the Son and Logos in relation to God the Father). Another kind of “icon,” or picture, is that which may be called the imitative and artistic, such as is that which is painted with oil colors or other suitable materials, and, indeed, it is this kind that we are discussing here. But a natural picture differs with respect to and in respect of its hypostasis from the cause of it, i.e., from the one who produced or begot it, seeing that father and son are two hypostases; it does not, however, differ with respect to and in respect of its nature, seeing that they are but one in so far as respects the nature of humanity. An artistic picture, on the contrary, with respect to and in respect of its essence differs from the original, because the original is an animate and living human being, whereas his picture (or icon) is inanimate and lifeless matter. That is why the Seventh Council said in its Act 6 (page 836 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records) that: “An icon (or picture) is not like the original with respect to and in respect of essence, but with respect to and in respect of hypostasis, or, more explicitly speaking, in point of imitation of the hypostasis, it is one with the original (i.e., it is of the same hypostasis as the original). For the hypostasis of the picture (or icon) and that of the original (or person whom it represents) is one and the same, as is proved by the fact that the original can be seen in the picture (or icon), while, on the other hand, the picture (or icon) subsists in the original, precisely as does a shadow in the body it portrays, and cannot possibly be separated therefrom: and as is further proved by the fact that it is the hypostasis, and not the nature, that is depicted or portrayed in the picture (or icon). And as is further proved by the fact that in every icon (or picture) there is inscribed, not the name of the nature of the hypostasis, or, for instance, such words as “This is the picture of a human being” simply, but the name of the hypostasis, or, for instance, words stating that it is a picture of Christ, or of John, and so on. Wherefore the present Council, in its Act 6, page 836, ibidem, asserts that an icon or picture resemble the original only in point of name and in point of position of the members therein portrayed. There is, however, also a third kind of picture (or icon), which is called a figurative or symbolic picture. Thus, for instance, the mysteries of the grace of the Gospel and of the truth of the Gospel were originals, while the pictures thereof are the symbols consisting of the old Law and the Prophets. This is proved by the fact that in the glorificative part of the vespers of the Sunday of Orthodoxy it is asserted that the grace of the Gospel, and the Church herself, prescribed beforehand the type, or form, of the Tabernacle of the Testimony. Because the former, being the original and causeless, pre-existed prior to the type, or form, of the Tabernacle; whereas, on the other hand, its type, or form, arose later and subsequently to the grace, though not with respect to time, but because of the fact that any picture is an effect (in that it is not the cause of itself, but is caused by, or is the effect of, that which it represents). And again the things in the future age are the originals whereof the pictures are the mysteries of the grace of the Gospel. That is why divine St. Paul said that having a shadow the Law did not furnish a veritable picture of the facts, where by “picture” he meant the grace, and by “facts” the facts of the future age. In like fashion and with equal aptness St. Basil the Great, in his c. XCI, said that Sunday is a picture of the future age. Hence some Fathers called the divine Eucharist after the sanctification an antitype of the Body and Blood of the Lord, comparing it with the facts to be revealed nakedly and impressively in the future age, though at present it is covered up and hidden underneath the accidents of the bread and wine, as St. Maximus explains). In the case of holy icons adoration and salutation (commonly called kissing) are one and the same thing. For, in the ancient Greek language, the main verb kyno (in the compound verb proskyno, meaning to adore) means “to embrace and kiss.” The preposition pros indicates an intensification of the meaning “embrace and kiss” and implies longing and yearning. Hence, in order to express the full meaning of the Greek word in English we should have to employ some such circumlocution as “to embrace and kiss longingly and yearningly.” That is why the present Council, in its Act 7, said “in all respects to accept and recognize the venerable icons, and to adore them, or, more explicitly speaking, to embrace and kiss them.” Both notions, or what amounts to saying the same thing, is expressed in its above definition by the words “and to bestow upon these an embrace and kiss and honorary adoration.” But the word adoration may be taken in a broader sense, in which case it denotes every honor and prostration and homage that is done to holy icons, as St. John Damascene said in his discourse concerning icons. Most especially to be noted is that fact that what is distinguished as “worshiping adoration” is a quite different matter from that which is termed irrelative adoration and that which is termed relative adoration. Worshipping adoration is rendered only to God and to Christ Himself, and to the bread and wine which are being transessentiated into the Body and Blood of Christ in the ceremony of the divine Eucharist. For whoever pays adoration to Christ, according to Blastaris, is at the same time and conjointly therewith paying adoration to the Father and the Holy Spirit, the one nature in the Trinity; and whoever pays adoration to Christ is paying adoration to Him as a God and Lord Paramount for His own sake, and not for the sake of anyone else, according to the Synod, or local Council, held in the year 1084 during the patriarchate of Nicholas and the reign of Alexius Comnenus (page 981 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records). Since the word worship (or its Greek equivalent latreia) properly denotes slavery, according to St. Augustine (ch. 45, concerning the true religion) and implies faith as a hope for our salvation. But we do not adore the holy icon of Christ worshipingly, in identically the same manner and spirit, that is to say, the image, or icon, with the one imaged or iconized. Nor do we worship the holy icons as gods, or as Gods, as the iconomachs accuse us of doing. Heaven forbid! For this is something altogether alien to the tradition of the Church. That is why this Council said in its definition: “Accordingly, such persons are prompted not only to kiss these and to pay them honorary adoration, but, what is more important, they are imbued with the true faith which is rejected in our worship which is due to God alone and which befits only the divine nature.” And God Himself has said: “Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou worship” (Deut. 6:13; cf. Matt. 4:10, and Luke 4:8). You see that He let adoration be paid also to others, but did not allow worship to anyone else except Himself. Just as Anastasius of Theoupolis interpreted this passage in a most excellent manner. If the word worship is said of anyone else, it is taken in an accidental sense, and not in its proper sense; accordingly, in such a case it means merely honor. Just as is the case in that which is said in a certain troparion with reference to St. Basil: “O Basil, thou wise worshiper of the Theotokos.” (For this reason also the adoration which rendered at the divine Mysteries after the transessentiation, since it is of the “worshiping” kind, ought to be carried out differently from that adoration which is paid to them before the transessentiation, with slavish, that is to say, and groveling prostration.) As for irrelative adoration, that is what is done when one adores merely the one represented by the picture, in the picture, and not also both the picture and the one therein pictured. But this kind of adoration is not paid to holy icons. Because in this way there may be a lot of other pictures unadored, since they are only kept in mind and conceived as memories of certain persons or things (in this sense of the word, in fact, all creatures can be conceived to be pictures of their Creator). Relative adoration, on the other hand, standing midway between worshiping adoration and irrelative adoration, is that which is paid to the holy icons. It is called relative because of the fact that in this case the picture itself is not called such in itself (or by itself) and absolutely, but with respect (or in relation) to something else and relatively. For a picture is the picture of that which is pictured, or represented by it. Hence, on account of this relation and reference which it bears to that which is pictured, with respect to the likeness, that is to say, of the hypostasis, and with respect to the name in the inscription inscribed upon it, it is honored and adored conjointly with the one who is pictured, with a single act of adoration, true enough, yet homonymically and relatively, and not this in all respects and in identically the same respect, as Theodore the Studite (called by some “Theodore of Studium”) says in his letter to St. Athanasius. For, as we have said, we adore the person represented in the picture by paying Him worshiping adoration as Christ, but we adore His picture, or icon, relatively on account of its reference to Him. Likewise as for the Saints and their relics, we adore them as servants and slaves of Christ with servile adoration, that is to say, with slavish adoration, or adoration befitting a slave (as adorer), and not a freeman, on account of familiarity or association with Christ. But as for their pictures, or icons, we adore these only relatively, on account of the reference which they bear to the persons themselves whom they are intended to represent to the eye, by reason of the likeness of their hypostasis, and by reason of the name inscribed upon them, or the title bestowed upon them, just as the above Synod held during the patriarchate of Nicholas decreed. Likewise, as for the Theotokos Herself, we adore Her with super-servile honor, on the ground that She is a superholy Mother of God; while, on the other hand, as regards Her icon, or picture, we accord it relative adoration (and see Dositheus, page 655 of the Dodecabiblus). Note, however, that although it is said in Act 4 of the present Council (p. 780 of the 2nd vol. of the Conciliar Records) that the precious icons are equivalent to the Gospel and to the precious Cross, in that all these things are adored with relative adoration, that is to say, yet, in spite of this, in order of adoration, the holy Gospel is the first to be adored (perhaps, as St. Chrysostom says, because the things said by the Saints are pictures of their souls: p. 852 of vol. II of the Conciliar Records; Act 6 of the 7th; and consequently because even the words of the holy Gospel are pictures of the soul and heart of the Lord — on which account they are entitled to first place); then comes the Cross; then the picture of Christ, the picture of the Theotokos, and following these the pictures of the Saints, as is made plain in the same Act, p. 779, from the speech delivered by St. Maximus, and generally speaking, the order of adoration of their pictures follows the order of the originals and of their merit, or worthiness to be honored. The holy icons are not adored on account of the material, but on account of the likeness which they possess to the ones pictured by them. Hence the Fathers of the present Council in some addresses said that when the wood forming the shape of the Cross in crucifixes becomes decomposed, it is to be burned; and when the paint and outlines of the pictures in the icons become utterly effaced — i.e., so as to be no longer recognizable — the wooden board left is burned as useless wood. Some persons, however, bury such icons out of reverence. It is not necessary to anoint the holy icons with myron (or chrism oil), nor to have them sanctified by the bishop with special prayers: 1) because we do not adore the holy icons because they are anointed or have had prayers said over them, but irrespectively, as soon as we lay eyes on a holy icon, without pausing to examine into the possibility of its having been anointed or having had a special prayer said over it, we at once proceed to pay adoration to it both on account of the name of the Saint and on account of the likeness it bears to the original. That is why in Act 6 of the present Council, the Council of the iconomachs in the reign of Copronymus disparaged the holy icons by asserting that the name of the pictures neither has any sacred prayer sanctifying it, in order that from what is common it might be transferred to what is holy, but that, on the contrary, it (sc. the picture) remains common and dishonorable (i.e., not entitled to honor), just as the painter made it. To these allegations the holy Seventh Council replied through Deacon Epiphanius, by asserting that it did not say that any special prayer is said over the icons, but said that like many other sacred objects they were incapable of receiving (benefit from) any special prayer, but, on the contrary from their very name they are replete with grace and sanctity, in the same way that the shape of the vivifying Cross is, which is entitled to veneration and adoration among us in spite of the fact that it is made without having any special prayer said over it; and we believe that with its shape alone we acquire sanctity, and with the adoration which we pay to it, and the marking of it upon our forehead, and the seal of it which is made in the air with the finger (note that in days of yore the sign of the Cross was not made with three fingers, as it is today, but with one finger alone, which fact is stated by St. Chrysostom in one of his discourses; and see concerning this the Footnote to c. XCI of Basil) in the hope of chasing away the demons. Likewise, in the same way that we have many sacred vessels, and kiss and embrace them fondly, and hope to receive sanctity from them, in spite of the fact that they have not had any special prayers said over them, so and in like manner by fondly kissing and embracing and paying honorary adoration to a holy icon that has not had special prayers said over it we partake of sanctity, and are anagogically lifted up and carried back to the honor of the original through the name of the icon. But if the iconomachs cannot assert that the sacred vessels are dishonorable and common because of their not having had any special prayers said over them for the purpose of sanctifying them, but are just as the weaver, the painter, and the goldsmith finished them, yet they regard them as holy and precious; in the same way they ought to regard the venerable icons as holy and precious and sacred even though they have not had any special prayers said over them to sanctify them (p. 844 of vol. II of the Conciliar Records). The holy icons do not need any special prayer or any application of myron (or chrism), because, according to Dositheus (p. 658 of the Dodecabiblus) it is only the Papists (or Roman Catholics) that perpetrate the iniquity of qualifying pictures with certain prayers and devotions. For they boast that the Pope manufactures pictures from pure wax, holy oil, and water of sanctification, and that he reads marvelous prayers over them, and that because of these special features these pictures perform miracles (just as they lyingly state that Leo III sent such a picture to King Charles of France, and he reverenced it; and that Pope Urban sent another picture to John Paleologus, and this one was honored with a litany in the Church). Do you see that the prayer which is read over holy pictures is a Papal affair, and not Orthodox; and that it is a modern affair, and not an ancient one? For this reason no such prayer can be found anywhere in the ancient manuscript Euchologia. In fact, we have noticed that this prayer is not even found in Euchologia printed only a hundred years ago! 3) It becomes evident that holy icons do not need any special prayer or application of myron (i.e., holy oil), because the pictures painted on the walls of churches, and in their naves and in their aisles, and in general in streets and on doors, and on the sacred vessels, are never anointed with myron and never any special prayer said over them, and yet, in spite of this, adoration is paid to them relatively and honorarily by all on account of the likeness they bear to the originals. That is why the erudite Bishop of Campania Sir Theophilus the Saint did not conceal this truth, but stated in the book which he has just recently produced that the holy icons do not need any anointing with myron nor the saying of any special prayer by a bishop. We must note that since the present Council in the letter it is sending to the church of the Alexandrians pronounces blissful, or blesses, those who know and admit and recognize, and consequently also iconize and honor the visions and theophaniae of the Prophets, just as God Himself formed these and impressed them upon their mind, but anathematizes on the contrary those who refuse to accept and admit the pictorial representations of such visions before the Incarnation of the divine Logos (p. 905 of Vol. II of the Conciliar Records) it is to be inferred that even the beginningless Father ought to have His picture painted just as He appeared to Daniel the prophet as the Ancient of Days. Even though it be admitted as a fact that Pope Gregory in his letter to Leo the Isaurian (p. 712 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records) says that we do not blazon the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet it must be noted that he said this not simply, but in the sense that we do not paint Him in accordance with the divine nature; since it is impossible, he says, to blazon or paint God’s nature. That is what the present Council is doing, and the entire Catholic Church; and not that we do not paint Him as He appeared to the Prophet. For if we did not paint Him at all or portray Him in any manner at all to the eye, why should we be painting the Father as well as the Holy Spirit in the shape of Angels, of young men, just as they appeared to Abraham? Besides even if it be supposed that Gregory does say this, yet the opinion of a single Ecumenical Council attended and represented by a large number of individual men is to be preferred to the opinion of a single individual man. Then again, if it be considered that even the Holy Spirit ought to be painted in the shape of a dove, just as it actually appeared, we say that, in view of the fact that a certain Persian by the name of Xenaeas used to assert, among other things, that it is a matter of infantile knowledge (i.e., that it is a piece of infantile mentality or an act of childishness) for the Holy Spirit to be painted in a picture just as It appeared in the semblance of a dove, whereas, on the other hand, the holy and Ecumenical Seventh Council (Act 5, p. 819 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records) anathematized him along with other iconomachs, from this it may be concluded as a logical inference that according to the Seventh Ecum. Council It ought to be painted or depicted in icons and other pictures in the shape of a dove, as It appeared. This same view is confirmed also by Dositheus (p. 655 of the Dodecabiblus). Plato the very learned Archbishop of Moscow notes in connection with the second commandment of the Decalogue in his Orthodox Catechism that one must not think one picture holier than another, nor expect more from one picture than from another, or place greater trust in one than in another. Dositheus, on the other hand, says (p. 658 of the Dodecabiblus) that the holy icons perform miracles either because they have been painted by a certain Saint (but this view is not admitted by the majority of persons), or on account of some other cause (perhaps on account of the reverent state of mind of the persons paying it adoration) and divine economy; and that so far as concerns the fact that the Orthodox Christians are wont to engrave the frames of holy icons, or to hollow out the gold or silver that is in the icon, and thereinto to insert parts of precious wood (i.e., wood taken from the original cross on which Christ was crucified) or of holy relics, and to honor them conjointly and on a par with the icons, that is not prohibited. We ought to pay adoration to the holy icons with trembling, and ought to believe that the divine grace actually attends upon them, which imparts sanctity to us, according to Blastaris. But we ought to become worthy of the privilege of paying adoration to the holy icons, by keeping our five senses pure and clean, and thus acquire the right to pay adoration to them, according to Act 6 of this 7th Ec. C. As for those who only have the holy icons in order to enjoy the contemplation of them, and not in order to embrace and kiss them fondly, are half villains and specious liars, according to its Act 6. There are some six points or favoring circumstances to justify the practice of painting and paying adoration to holy icons: 1) the fact that they adorn and decorate the temples (i.e., church buildings); 2) the fact that they teach letters to those who do not know these, prophecies of Prophets, and struggles of Devouts (i.e., devout monks), and exploits of Martyrs, the sufferings and miracles of Christ, according to St. Nilus, in Act 4 of the 7th Ec. C.3) the fact that they remind lettered persons of things they may have forgotten. Hence the icons are called books of the learned and of the unlearned, as Dialogus says in his book to Secundus; 4) the fact that they increase the longing of Christians who see them; wherefore the Council declared that persons who behold them are led to elevate their minds to remembrance and longing directed towards their originals; 5) the fact that they incite beholders to imitate the works of Saints, according to St. Nilus, and St. Basil the Great in his Encomium of Gordius, and this 7th Ec. C.; 6) because they incite those beholding them to invoke, with faith and hope, on the one hand God as a Savior, and the Saints, on the other hand, as intercessors in communication with God, “in order that through their intercession He might be prevailed upon to grant them all requests for salvation.” The iconomachs comprised not only those who became such in the immediate times of the iconomachic emperors, but also the Arians previously, and all the Monophysites subsequently, and nowadays all the Luthero-Calvinists. From what has been said it is shown that the Latins do wrong in failing to inscribe the names of all Saints upon their images (or icons), since according to the definitions arrived at by the present Council and stated in the form of decrees, a picture or icon resembles the original, though it is admittedly sanctified as much by the character as it is by the name of the one depicted. Divine Gregory of Thessalonica declares that the name of Jesus Christ ought to be inscribed even upon the unblazoned crucifixes which are implanted in streets or upon doors or in other places, in order that they may be known from the name to be the Cross on which Christ was crucified, and not either of the crosses on which the robbers were crucified along with Christ. It is also necessary that we add also this to the present Footnote, to wit, that those who carry the holy icons of certain Saints’ feasts and festivals, and go about with them here and there, conducting themselves in a disorderly manner and leaping to and fro, like persons possessed with demons, and who pretend to foretell future events, and who pretend to reveal things hidden, and who make other false prophecies and divinations — those men, I say, ought to be most heavily canonized by the Confessors and holy Bishops, because they are renewing the superstitions of the Greeks and heathens, and they ought to be corrected by the holy and great Church of Christ with stern chastisements. As for the fact that the Holy Spirit is to be painted in the shape of a dove, that is proved even by this; to wit, the fact that the Fathers of this Council admitted the doves hung over baptismal fonts and sacrificial altars to be all right to serve as a type of the Holy Spirit. (Act 5, p. 830). As for the assertion made in the Sacred Trumpet (in the Encomium of the Three Hierarchs) to the effect that the Father ought not to be depicted in paintings and the like, according to Acts 4, 5, and 6 of the 7th Ecum. Council, we have read these particular Acts searchingly, but have found nothing of the kind, except only the statement that the nature of the Holy Trinity cannot be exhibited pictorially because of its being shapeless and invisible. We ought to know, though, that an unpainted crucifix is inferior to an icon of Christ. For St. Nicephorus says (in the ten chapters which he has written about the holy icons, extant in manuscripts) that while on the one hand by the icon of Christ we are paying adoration to Christ Himself, on the other hand by an unpainted crucifix we are not paying adoration to Christ, but to that original Cross on which Christ was crucified. This amounts to an assertion that through the crucifix we are paying adoration to the Cross. And we add the further observation here that since this holy and Ecumenical Council in many places declares that that which the Bible and the Gospel reveal by means of words, the painter represents by means of the icons: on this account painters ought to take great care to familiarize themselves first with what the Bible and the Gospel say, and then paint their icons in accordance with the Gospel and the Bible. Or, if they are not familiar with them, they ought to ask those who are familiar with them and who moreover are well educated, in order to learn what they say, and not go ahead and paint one thing instead of another, and that often contrary to the Gospel and most absurd on the whole. Just as it is, for instance, for them to paint the Lord as a beardless youth teaching in the Mid-Pentecost days, at a time when the Lord was then a full-grown man perfected after baptism. For them to paint Paul the Apostle at the Assumption, and at Pentecost, at a time when St. Paul had not become a disciple of Christ until after the Assumption and after Pentecost, and after the stoning of St. Stephen. For them to paint the Resurrection of Christ, not coming out of the sepulcher of Christ, and with the soldiers standing round the tomb and watching, and the Angel sitting on the rock, just as the Gospel says, but painting Christ, on the one hand, as descending into Hades, while Adam and Eve are being held by His hands, and on the other hand the gates and locks of Hades lie crushed to pieces; and with many dark demons lurking thereabouts, and all the fore-fathers and prophets — which things do not constitute a picture of the Resurrection, but a picture of the Lord’s descent into Hades. The Resurrection and the Descent into Hades are very different things. For in the descent into Hades the Savior’s soul had been separated from His body, and it was only His soul that descended into Hades, whereas His body lay dead in the tomb. In the Resurrection, on the other hand, His soul became united again with His body, and that is the Resurrection itself. In addition, they ought not to paint in the icon of Pentecost a human being underneath the Apostles and inscribe “World” on the picture of him; but, instead thereof, they ought to paint a picture of the prophet Joel saying: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), as seen in some old pictures. These and similar improprieties are ones which painters of icons are prone to commit as a result of ignorance and of bad use and wont. Accordingly, let these men take pains to rectify them, endeavoring further to become capable and good artists and painters, in order that the icons they paint may resemble the originals, just as this Council prescribes, and not be something bizarre and unlike.
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