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Funny: Professor Explains Why Russians Kiss Saints' Pictures (Video)

His 1-minute answer is intelligent, and witty

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It is well known that Protestants find the fact that Russians and other Orthodox Christians, venerate (respect and kiss) icons very bizarre and, worse, 'idolatrous.'

An icon is an image (usually two dimensional) of Christ, the Saints, Angels, important Biblical events, parables, or events in the history of the Church.

Here's Professor Osipov's 1 minute answer to a Protestant who wouldn't stop insisting that 'kissing icons is idolatry,' 

Alexei Osipov is one of the most articulate, most popular Russian theologians and a tenured professor at Moscow Orthodox Theological Seminary. He has been lecturing and debating for decades, and yet he never gets old. 

His answer is intelligent, but it's also just hysterical.

More about Orthodox veneration of icons here: 

An Icon is an image (usually two dimensional) of Christ, the Saints, Angels, important Biblical events, parables, or events in the history of the Church.

St. Gregory the Dialogist (Pope of Rome ca. 590-604), spoke of Icons as being Scripture to the illiterate:

"For what writing presents to readers, this a picture presents to the unlearned who behold, since in it even the ignorant see what they ought to follow; in it the illiterate read" (Epistle to Bishop Serenus of MarseillesNPNF 2, Vol. XIII, p. 53).

To those who would suggest that this is no longer relevant in our enlightened age, let them consider the rather large functional illiteracy rate we have, and the fact that even the most literate societies always have a sizable illiterate segment... their young children.

Icons also lift up our minds from earthly things to the heavenly.  St. John of Damascus wrote,  "we are led by perceptible Icons to the contemplation of the divine and spiritual"  (PG 94:1261a). 

And by keeping their memory before us through the Icons, we are also inspired to imitate the holiness of those therein depicted.  St. Gregory of Nyssa (ca 330-395) spoke of how he could not pass an Icon of Abraham sacrificing Isaac "without tears"  (PG 46:572).   

Commenting on this, it was noted at the Seventh Œcumenical Synod, "If to such a Doctor the picture was helpful and drew forth tears, how much more in the case of the ignorant and simple will it bring compunction and benefit" (NPNF2, Vol 14, p. 539)

Orthodox Christians do not worship Icons in the sense that the word "worship" is  commonly used in modern English.  In older translations (and in some more recent translations in which the translators insist on using this word in its original sense), one finds the word "worship" used to translate the Greek word proskyneo (literally, "to bow").

Nevertheless, one must understand that the older use of "worship" in English was much broader than it is generally used today, and was often used to refer simply to the act of honoring, venerating, or  reverencing. 

For example, in the old book of common prayer, one of the wedding vows was "with my body I thee worship," but this was never intended to imply that the bride would worship her husband in the sense in which "worship" is commonly used now.

Orthodox Christians do venerate Icons, which is to say, we pay respect to them because they are holy objects, and because we reverence what the Icons depict.   

We do not worship Icons any more than Americans worship the American flag.  

Saluting the flag is not exactly the same type of veneration as we pay to Icons, but it is indeed a type of veneration. 

And just as we do not venerate wood and paint, but rather the persons depicted in the Icon, patriotic Americans do not venerate cloth and dye, but rather the country which the flag represents.

The Jews understand the difference between veneration and worship (adoration).

A pious Jew kisses the Mezuza on his door post, he kisses his prayer shawl before putting it on, he kisses the tefillin, before he binds them to his forehead, and arm. 

He kisses the Torah before he reads it in the Synagogue.  No doubt, Christ did likewise, when reading the Scriptures in the Synagogue.

The Early Christians also understood this distinction as well. In the  Martyrdom of Polycarp (who was St. John the Apostle's disciple, and whose  Martyrdom was recorded by the faithful of his Church, who were eyewitnesses  of all that it recounts), we are told of how some sought to have the Roman magistrate keep the Christians from retrieving the body of the Holy Martyr

"'lest,' so it was said, 'they should abandon the crucified one and begin  to worship this man'—this being done at the instigation and urgent  entreaty of the Jews, who also watched when we were about to take it from the fire, not knowing that it will be impossible for us either to forsake   at any time the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those that are saved—suffered though faultless for sinners—nor to worship any other.  

For Him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs as  disciples and imitators of the Lord we cherish as they deserve for their  matchless affection towards their own King and Teacher.... The centurion therefore, seeing the opposition raised on the part of the Jews, set him in the midst and burnt him after their custom.  

And so we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than  refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place; where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day [i.e. the anniversary] of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in the contest, and for the training and preparation of those that shall do so hereafter" (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 17:2-3; 18:1-3).

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