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The Meaning of Icons in East and West

Iconography and the Incarnation, Part 2

By Fr. Mark Perkins

Editor's Note: See Part 1 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, and Part 5 here.

In this session I describe the broader iconographic tradition encompassing not only classic Eastern-style icons but also the way in which architectural and other symbols and images mediate spiritual realities in the Church. I also consider debate over the origins of iconography -- in particular, whether iconographic devotion existed prior to the fourth century -- before outlining the Renaissance-era rupture between East and West of iconographic practice and theology.

A note on sources for those interested in diving deeper: In this particular presentation, I borrow liberally from Fr. Maximos Constas's excellent lecture "The Meaning of Icons." I have also been making use of his wonderful book The Art of Seeing, as well as Vladimir Lossky and Leonid Ouspensky's The Meaning of Icons. In my first session, I also drew on St. John of Damascus's Three Treatises on the Divine Images and, to a lesser extent, St. Theodore the Studite's On the Holy Icons. I also use and quote from Sergius Bulgakov's Icons and the Name of God, which has been helpful in some ways, although I am fairly skeptical of Bulgakov's larger account. I am also shamelessly stealing from Fr. Sean McDermott's series "Icons and Our Lives." (Fr. Sean was also quite helpful in guiding me to many of the sources above.)

Fr. Mark Perkins is Curate at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral in Oviedo, Florida and Executive Editor of Earth & Altar.


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