Honoring the Images of Saints - Copies Are Equally Holy as Handpainted Originals

Editor's Note: This article was generated by machine translation, so our staff cautions the reader about possible inaccuracies that may have resulted from this. However, it was deemed worthwhile to still publish such a piece because of the intrinsic value of the message - which remains evident even in its translated form.

In our time of an overabundance of technical copies of any image, including sacred images, V. S. Kutkova is rightly concerned about the threat to the individual creativity of the iconographer, coming from the replacement of his original work by copies of imitations.

During the iconoclastic crisis of the 8th-9th centuries in Byzantium the theological dispute between Orthodox Christians and heretics had other sore points. For example, the non-identicality of the artificial images (icons) of Christ to each other, which put into question (according to heretics) their truth and the possibility of worshipping One and the Same Lord. The unity of the worship of Christ through the multiplicity of His images (icons). The impossibility of establishing the identity of the image with the First Image, whom none of the artists himself had seen, etc.

During more than a century of intense theological debate, the prayers and writings of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), St. Herman (†754), St. Nicephorus (†828), St. Photius (†891), St. John Damascene (†754) and St. Theodore Studit (†826) have formulated a teaching on icon-venerance, which we hope will help us resolve contemporary problems of icon-worship.

The Content of the Icon and its Copy

According to the teachings of the holy Fathers of Icon-Veneration, the mystical (sacramental) relationship between the image and the sacred original image (which determines the sacredness of the icon) is conditioned by the likeness (external similarity) of the image to its prototype, the unity of the hypostasis and name of the depicted and the represented. In other words, the holiness of the icon is conditioned by the holiness of the hypostasis depicted on it. Let us try to prove it.

The likeness (or similarity of the image to the prototype) in appearance allows us to contemplate the face (hypostasis) of the depicted person on an icon[1]. From the external likeness of the depicted and the represented follows the identity of their names[2]. From the external likeness of the image and the original image and the identity of their names also follows the identity of their honor and dishonor[3]. All the holy Fathers who are iconoclasts agree that both honor and dishonor go back from the image to the primary image. (4) Therefore the persecution of icons is a persecution of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints depicted on them,[5] and the defenders of icons are martyrs and confessors for Christ and His saints.

According to the dogma of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the obligation of veneration (τιμιτικη προσκυνησις) to icons "in the same manner as it is given to the image of the honest and life-giving Cross and the holy Gospel"[7] means that icons are recognized as having a similar sacred status.

However, the Church in all centuries has honored and revered not one single original copy of the Gospel, written by the hand of a particular holy evangelist in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, but the inspired content of the Gospel,[8] regardless of the method of reproduction of the particular copy. So now in every temple we read, kiss and worship a printed paper copy of the original gospel (a copy not even handwritten, not on parchment or papyrus). And every Christian should be in awe of the Bible and the Gospel in his or her home library. The same applies to employees and visitors to church stores that sell "technical copies" of Scripture (and not everywhere piety is respected).

But after all, a circulation copy of an icon (paper or otherwise) has exactly the same content as a handwritten icon, its original and model: the outward likeness and inscription of the name of the same saintly hypostasis (Christ, the Mother of God or saints) worshipped and glorified by the Church, and so the copy of the icon has the same sacred status as all the circulation copies of the Gospel.

According to St. Theodore the Studite, all things holy, including holy images, are necessarily to be venerated and worshipped. Sacred and worshipped are the Gospel, the image of the life-giving Cross, the sacred accessories of the temple, lists the holy father and adds:

"All that is holy, however, is also worshipable... But what is not worshipable is also utterly lacking in holiness."[9]

Therefore if we do not consider a technical copy of a sacred image sacred and worshipable, then for us so too must be any contemporary edition of the Gospel (including the liturgical one), and even its ancient manuscript reproduction (because it is also a copy from another copy).

Accordingly, any dishonoring of a circulating icon also goes back to its original image (including the book cover, which V.S. Kutkovoy particularly objects to).

The Holy Fathers on the multiplication of images

Perhaps the only way to reproduce sacred images in Byzantium was to mint them on coins and make imprints of seals. We shall speak of the coins later. Of the seals, however, the holy fathers write quite respectfully.

For example, St. Theodore Studit often uses the seal and its multiple "mechanical" imprints as an example to explain who is worshipped in an icon. His main thesis is that the image is in the original image even before it is imprinted on a material with which it has no connection, but that it can always be reproduced on any substance, just as an image from a seal ring can be imprinted on resin, wax, or clay.

Since the Venerable lived during the 2nd Iconoclastic period (after the Seventh Council), he gives as an example the seal of the king: if the ring with the image of the king is stamped on different materials, the seal will be the same,

For the seal, "as having nothing in common with the materials..., separated from them by thought..., remains on the ring. In the same way, the likeness of Christ, whatever substance is inscribed (κεχαρακτήρισται), has [nothing] in common with the substance on which it appears, remaining in the hypostasis of Christ to whom it belongs. And in brief, it is not the icon of Christ that receives divine veneration, but Christ, who is worshipped in it; and we must worship it for the sake of the identity of the hypostasis of Christ, despite the difference of the essence of the icon (with the primary image. - V.N.)"[10] (and thus also the way of creating the image on the substance, we add for ourselves, because the hypostasis on the copy of the icon is depicted the same).

Elsewhere St. Theodore writes:

"...the image is on the seal and before the imprint. The dignity of the seal is proved when it is used for imprinting on many and varied substances. Likewise, although we believe that in Christ, as having a human form, there is also His own image, yet when we see Him depicted in various ways on a substance, we praise His greatness many times more" [11].

St. Nicephorus also gives examples with the seal:

"...as Christ is one, so His icon is also one in appearance, and His images are the same, coming always from one original image, just as, for example, from one seal many imprints are made. And though by the difference of time and conditions of place they differ somewhat in appearance and form and are multiplied, the seal remains the same"[12].

That is to say, the inevitable difference between an icon and its prototype, and thus also the difference between different icons of one original image and another, i.e. the multiplication of non-matching images (the creation of original characters according to V.S. Kutkov), instead of the reproduction of absolutely identical repetitions (one single image-character), is not a virtue of artists (their creativity, talent), but only excusable in the eyes of the saint, because of human frailty. It is the talent and skill of the painter that determines only the degree to which the image is similar to the prototype, not at all the sacred status of the icon.

Another fragment of the same work also points to the correctness of such an understanding. St. Nicephorus writes that the painter's talent and skill in painting influence only the degree to which the image is given a likeness to the prototype and not, as V. S. Kutkov asserts, the sacral status of the icon (its holiness, graces, etc.). The saint objects to the iconoclasts:

"Why, then, is not the inscription so called [an icon of Christ] worthy of veneration and glorification? There is nothing incongruous in calling it Christ... <...> On it those who look upon it read the name 'Christ'; it has the likeness of His form, in so far as the painter's hand submits to his talent and the means of fine art."[13]

The famous philosopher, culturologist, expert on Byzantine culture V.V. Bychkov, expounding the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, writes that the reproduction by artists of the appearance of Christ was an important argument for proving the truth of the Incarnation of God:

"The image in this case played for the iconoclasts practically the role of a documentary photograph, and therefore in their understanding it had to be extremely photographic. Since there is a photograph, therefore, there was also a material original imprinted on it. It is no coincidence that the Christian tradition begins its countless series of images of Christ with "non-handmade images" made, according to tradition, by Jesus Himself by putting a cloth board to His face, on which His exact image was imprinted, that is, an almost mechanical imprint, similar to a photograph. The subsequent pictorial tradition has only reproduced this documentary image."[14]

In Byzantine art the dogmatic truth was more important than the artists' creative self-expression, and the requirement of the exact reproduction of the image of Christ cancelled any striving for the artistic uniqueness of the image on a particular icon.

On Spirituality and Creative Inspiration

Since in the ideal case an icon is painted by an artist in synergy with the Holy Spirit, in order to understand the source of the sacredness of an icon, we should consider the concept of "synergy" in more detail.

Let us return to the inspiration of Scripture. It must be distinguished from the gracious inspiration that aided the holy fathers in their writing of treatises and liturgical texts.

"In the case of the creation of sacred books the true author is God Himself, He determines their dogmatic and moral content, and man only embodies, though not automatically, but creatively, the plan of God, acting as co-author. Accordingly, "in the works of the holy fathers or in the hymns of worship, the human being acts as the author, the subject of creation, and God only inspires and helps him" (15).

If we draw an analogy with iconography, then perhaps the most complete analogy of Holy Scripture would be the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin, created by God Himself ("co-authorship" of man consisted in the act of burial and wrapping the body in shrouds). As V. V. Bychkov, the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council confirmed that the images of Christ "originate from the image created by Jesus himself "not made by hand", sent by him to the governor of Edessa Abgar (Mansi XII, 693)"[16]. Most experts believe that this image is identical to the Shroud of Turin. As believe sindologov (from Greek "sindon" - shroud) and art historians, the face of the Savior, miraculously imprinted on the canvas, became a model for our familiar canonical image of Christ from the middle of IV - early V centuries[17] (other data transition began in the III century[18]).

Компьютерное совмещение лика с Туринской плащаницы c ликом иконы «Христос Пантократор», VI в., монастырь св. Екатерины на Синае, Египет. Источник: Чегодаева М.А. «Я с вами до скончания века…» URL: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/5858.html
Computer combination of the face from the Shroud of Turin and the face of the icon "Christ Pantocrator", 6th century, St. Catherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. Source: Chegodaeva M.A. "I am with you until the end of the age..."

This pattern as an iconographic type has for many centuries been creatively reproduced by artists on icons, mosaics, frescoes, metal vessels, fabrics and coins. Undoubtedly, church artists created by inspiration, but did it give sacredness to their works?

Сравнение лика с Туринской плащаницы с ликом на иконе «Христос Пантократор» (VI в., монастырь св. Екатерины на Синае, Египет)
Comparison of the face of the Shroud of Turin with the face of the icon of Christ the Pantocrator (6th century, St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, Egypt)

Иисус Христос. Фрагмент росписи катакомбы Петра и Марцеллина в Риме. Ок. 400 г. (Из энциклопедии: Мифы народов мира. Т. 1. – М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1980. С. 502).
Jesus Christ. Fragment of the painting of the Catacomb of Peter and Marcellinus in Rome. About. 400 years. (From the encyclopedia: Myths of the Peoples of the World. Т. 1. - Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1980. С. 502).

In his new monograph V. S. Kutkovoy studies in detail the origins of creativity in general and artistic creativity in particular[19]. The author fairly asserts that a true artist of church should be a prayerful person and a God-seeker (as well as a true theologian, according to the opinion of the holy Fathers, we will add). Then in his work he reaches a state where he finds himself "in front of an intelligible, speculative reality. And this reality, according to St. Maximus the Confessor, is "the eternity of the creation - the proportions, the truths, the unchangeable structures of the cosmos, the geometry of ideas that govern the creational world, the network of mathematical notions."[20] In synergy with the Holy Spirit, this reality is accessible to the artist without the danger of falling into the charm (spiritual error). At the same time, "graceful speculative reality is a kind of screen, on the back side of which fall the reflections of Absolute Reality," i.e., of God. "The presence of God in the human creative process can be direct, but it can also be exercised through the saints and "through a hierarchy of intermediate being which Dionysius calls the 'angels.'"[21] It is from there that the mysterious logos-symbol appears, which the artist reads and through which he tries to tell others about what he has seen."[22]

As a result (as we understand the author) the iconographer creates a handwritten icon with the unique character required for a church shrine (as V.S. Kutkov believes), but the most important question remains: "How exactly is the presence of God and heavenly powers in the creative act? There is no answer. It is a great mystery. The main thing is that as a result a sacral image is born", writes V. S. Kutkovoy[23].

A sacral image is "not only by its original origin, but also by the sacramental way of its reproduction", writes V. S. Kutkovoy much higher than the above-mentioned arguments[24]. This means that the artist, with the mysterious help of the Holy Spirit, contemplates the mysterious images of another reality serving as his prototype. In support of this assertion V.S. Kutkovoy refers to St. John Damascene, who in turn quotes Dionysius the Areopagite:

"It is necessary, therefore, for us also... to treat[25] in a manner befitting the sacred [i.e. sacredly splendidly] within the sacred symbols (συμβόλων), and not neglect them, which are traces [outlines, images] (χαρακτήρων), imprints (ἀποτυπώματα) and manifest [visible] images (εἰκόνας ἐμφανεῖς) of unspeakable and striking [supernatural] divine visions (θεαμάτων)."[26]

According to the interpretation of V.S. Kutkov, this implies the removal "by the Holy Spirit from human eyes of the veil produced by sin, the opening of the veil over the mystery" and the "prayerful experience" by the isographer of "divine forms (χαρακτήρων)" with brush in hand, rather than their mechanical reflection. "The guarantee for the iconographer in the fidelity of the picture seen" lies in the close cooperation of "the holy fathers (bearers of the grace of the Spirit) and the iconographers."[27]

Note that V.S. Kutkovoy erroneously attributes this quote to St. John himself, who in fact quotes Areopagitus in a collection of quotations from the saints in favor of iconoclasm with his brief commentary (scholia): "You see, he said, it is impossible not to honor images of that which is worthy of veneration."[28] The general context of Areopagitus' letter to Titus (full title: "...to him who asked with a message what is the house of Wisdom, what is the cup and what is its food and drink") is an interpretation of the non-fiction material images and symbols from the famous fragment "Wisdom makes her house..." (Proverbs 9:1-6). In other words, the Areopagite is talking about a mysterious understanding of the words of Sacred Scripture.

The main thing, however, that the iconoclastic Fathers borrowed from the Areopagite was the idea that the artist, when creating an image, creates a likeness of the original image, in which the image (as an inner eidos) resides even before it is represented by artistic means, but differs from it in essence. Thus N.S. Grosso[29] gives a fragment of the Greek text of Areopagit from his treatise "On Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" (Eccl. H. 4. 3), to which St.Theodore Studit and all iconoclasts often refer (we give this fragment in the translation of G.M. Prokhorov):

"And just as - in the case of images perceived by the senses (εἰκόνων) - if he who draws steadily looks at the model [first image] (ἀρχέτυπον εἶδος), without being distracted by anything else visible..., then he... creates the represented (γραφόμενον) as it is, and shows truth in likeness [likeness] (ἐν τῷ ὁμοιώματι) and pattern [first image] in image (ἀρχέτυπον ἐν εἰκόνι), Whereas the one differs from the other in substance [essence] (ούσίας)."[30]

In summary - "the truth is in the likeness, and the first image in the image apart from the difference of essence" - the words of Areopagitus are mentioned many times by the iconoclastic Fathers.

None of the defending fathers of icon worship teach that the threefold relationship of image and first-image (external likeness, name, hypostasis) depends on the way the sacred image was created, the personal contribution of the artist, his piety, holiness, co-laboration with the Holy Spirit, or on the substance of the icon

As far as we know, none of the defenders of iconography teach that the threefold relation between the image and the prototype (external likeness, name, hypostasis) depends on the mode of creation of the sacred image, the personal contribution of the artist, his piety, holiness, collaboration (synergy) with the Holy Spirit or on the substance of the icon (image) on which the result of the artist's personal work is inscribed (because the synergy materializes in the substance).

The only exception is St. Photius, who speaks of an "inspiration from on high", but in his mind this inspiration influences the beauty of the artist's work, not the sacral status of the icon (note that V.S. Kutkovoy neither cites nor comments on these words of St. Photius in his reflections on the work of art).

Let us turn to the thought of the sainted fathers. In the 17th Homily St. Photius says about the icon of the Virgin Mary: "So precisely the art of the artist as a response to inspiration (ἐπιπνοίας)[31] from above has transformed imitation into nature."[32] The saint says the same thing in the Tenth Homily on the Icon of Christ: "So precisely has the artist, as I think, by the action of inspiration (ἐπίπνους), in lines and colors imprinted the Creator's care for us."[33]

The translator and commentator of St. Photius, Protodeacon Vladimir Vasilik, believes that "inspiration" should be understood as the action of Divine grace (ἐπίπνοια) on the artist[34] or architect. The saint speaks of this in clearer terms elsewhere in the Tenth Homily. Praising "the temple of the Virgin and the Mother of God," St. Photius exclaims:

"You will say, when you look at it, that it is not the work of human hands, but that this beauty was given to it by some divine and surpassing power."[35]

The following observations also confirm the aesthetic, not dogmatic, understanding of the cited quotations.

First, according to St. Photius, the same "inspiration from above" gathers the church assembly in the temple. The saint speaks of this at the very beginning of the 10th Homily:

"I see that the assembly of the present day is resplendent and that it could not have come together by human effort alone and without divine inspiration."[36]

Obviously, the assembly of Christians is assisted by the grace of the Holy Spirit, but their deification, that is, their transfiguration into saints (into holy hypostases), occurs individually as a result of their vital effort and participation in the Church's Sacraments. In other words, the grace that gathers the faithful into a church gathering does not provide a person with "sacred status," i.e. personal holiness, just as the "inspiration from on high" received by an artist does not give sacred status to an icon he has painted.

Secondly, continuing the holy fathers' analogy of the visual and verbal images by which Christ is described, it can be argued that the works of the holy fathers (their treatises and sermons) were undeniably created with the assistance of "inspiration from on high," in synergy with the Holy Spirit. However, these writings are not Sacred Scripture, i.e. sacred texts, although they are very authoritative works in the Church, which do not lose their significance when replicated. All the more so, the same can be said of ordinary authors of theological monographs and articles. Accordingly, icons created by both saints and non-canonized iconographers, written by "inspiration from on high," by virtue of this very inspiration, are no more sacred than theological texts, but, like the latter, do not lose their significance in circulation.

The Seventh Ecumenical Council on the Sanctity of the Icon

According to Vladimir Kutkov, icons are sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the prayer and artistic collaboration of the iconographer with Him (this is if we discount the absurd notion that the iconographer sanctifies the icon himself). In the Church, the prayerful invocation of the Holy Spirit by a priest sanctifies, for example, Baptismal water ("great hagiasm", i.e., holy water), water for the Sacrament of Baptism, and the oil for the Sacrament of Holy Unction. In this case, the artist (usually a layman, a monk, less often a clergyman, in general case not a saintly ascetic) becomes either a full sacramental confessor, or at least equal to the priest who consecrates water at the Blessed Sacrament (small hagiachma). Assuming, however, that it is not the artist himself who brings the grace of the Holy Spirit to the icon, it must be done by a priest, and therefore a special prayer, read by a priest (and not by an iconographer without a priestly rank), has long been used to consecrate icons in the Church.

Recall that the iconoclasts denied the sanctity of icons, claiming that neither the artist communicated their sanctity nor any special prayer:

"...neither is there a sacred prayer that sanctifies them to make them of ordinary objects holy; but they constantly remain ordinary things, having no special significance except that which the painter has communicated to them."[37]

The Fathers of the Seventh Council did not object to declaring that the work of the iconographer did not affect the holiness of the icon. On the contrary, of cultic images (icons) "the Council concluded that their "invention" was the work of the Church Fathers, not of the painters. The latter "belong only to the technical side of the matter, and the very institution depended on the holy Fathers" (Mansi XIII 232 C)," quotes V.V. Bychkov[38].

The absence of the prayer, however, the Fathers of the cathedral explained its redundancy due to the sanctity of the name depicted:

"Over many such objects, which we recognize as holy, no sacred prayer is read, because they by their very name are full of holiness and grace."

Nor is a prayer recited over the consecration of the image of the life-giving cross:

"It is the same concerning an icon: by designating it by a known name we relate honor to its original image; by kissing it and worshipping it with reverence we receive sanctification."[39]

According to the teaching of the Council fathers, the sanctity of an icon is communicated by the name and likeness of the one depicted on it. The artist in synergy with the Holy Spirit or by "inspiration from on high" does not endow an icon with holiness, but only creates the most accurate likeness of the prototype - the image of the hypostasis, whose holiness grants the icon its sacred status. And this holiness belongs to the icon not by nature, for the artificial image differs in essence from the original image. The Fathers of the Council decreed:

"The properties of the original image will never be sought in an icon by any prudent man. The true mind recognizes in an icon nothing more than its resemblance in name, not in essence itself, to the one depicted in it" (Mansi XIII 257D)[40].

V. V. Bychkov writes that the distinction of the image from the original image in essence does not deprive the icon of sanctity:

"Firstly, its holiness is given to it already by the very naming it with the name of a saint... and all the more with the name of Christ. This is why the inscriptions on icons ... are a sign of the holiness of the icon. Secondly, the Council affirmed that it is not His human nature ... but His person in the unity of His two natures (divine and human) that is represented in the icon which conveys the appearance of Jesus."

The Church believes that Christ's "flesh is deified and confesses it to be one with the Godhead" (Mansi XIII 344A), and "hence the holiness of the icon, which shows the divine-human image."[41]

According to the teaching of the Seventh Council, writes V. V. Bychkov,

"the pictorial image, having nothing in common ontologically with the essence of the prototype, but transmitting only its external appearance, expresses its spiritual essence by the very transmission of this external appearance (by the very likeness, mimesis) and thereby sacralizes the holiness of the archetype too"[42].

Through the likeness (μιμησις) the icon receives the name of the original image, "is in communion with it, worthy of veneration and holy" (Mansi XIII 344B).

Since the reproduction of an icon preserves the same likeness and name of the original image, the reproduction of the icon is also a holy image. It follows from the teaching of the Council fathers that since the reproduction of an icon preserves the same likeness and the name of the holy hypostasis (prototype), the reproduction of the icon is also a holy image. However, V.S. Kutkovoi resolutely rejects such arguments:

"One might object: the original image-original was created by spiritual experience... However, it is naive to believe such a thing about a paper copy. Spiritual experience cannot be relayed by a printer. An icon without a handwritten character is simply a reproduction", insists the philosopher. But then it turns out that it is not the holy hypostasis that is worshipped, but the "spiritual experience of the isographer," embodied in the unique character of a particular icon. For this reason it is time to deal with the character.

Which Character the Church Pays Adoration to in an Icon

Let us repeat: according to the words of V. S. Kutkovi the manual work of the iconographer gives to the icon "a unity of features, indicating the uniqueness of the object", i. e. a character which guarantees the uniqueness and singularity of the icon, necessary for the holy icon. From this it follows logically that veneration is NOT due to the POWER of the image on the icon, but to that character, even if not as the substance of the icon (which V.S. Kutkov asks him not to suspect), but as the uniqueness of the objectified "spiritual experience of the isographer" or the grace rendered through him, which is contained in the icon as an object. In such a case, the Church does not honor in the icon WHO is the holy hypostasis (person), but WHAT is something sacred.

The latter contradicts the teaching of the Church as formulated both by the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and by theologians who wrote before and after the Council.

V. S. Kutkovoy himself in his monograph gives a clear definition of what kind of χαρακτήρ is depicted in the icon of Jesus Christ. The author quotes the words of St. Theodore Studitus:

"In every depiction it is not the nature [of the object] that is depicted, but [its] hypostasis (ὑπόστασις)"[44].

V.S. Kutkovoy explains, "The hypostasis of the Word has taken the universal human nature, and along with it the χαρακτήρ of the individual man. With the Greeks, χαρακτήρ was "a unity of features, indicating the uniqueness of a person's personality, with 'uniqueness' meant as a natural distinction." Therefore the Divine Hypostasis of the Son is portrayed "according to the characteristics of a certain unrepeatable person, and the characteristics became intrinsic to Her after the incarnation and were forever united to Her. Χαρακτήρ of the Son of Man from the moment of the incarnation becomes a sign of the Second Person of the Trinity. And henceforth mankind was enabled to represent Jesus Christ."[45]

For our part, we affirm that it is this inimitable human image of Christ as His χαρακτήρ that throughout the two thousand years of Christian history has been reproduced in various ways on various materials (wood, stone, metal, cloth, paper, etc.) and in various substances (paints, smalt, threads, etc.), including the way of technical copying - ancient and modern (engraving, engraving, photography, typography, etc.).

Orthodox Christians honor and worship the hypostasis of Christ as the First Image of His sacred images (on written icons, frescoes, mosaics, embroidered church shrouds and shrouds, printed icons in multiple copies) by honoring the Χαρακτήρ (Image) of Christ, not the χαρακτήρ of the icon as an object, i.e., its man-made uncreated image. i.e., its man-made uniqueness and uniqueness according to V.S. Kutkoff, and therefore irrespective of the presence or absence of this uniqueness in the particular image. In other words, the Church honors WHO, not WHAT (the character of V.S. Kutkovoy is precisely the latter).

Prt. Theodore Studit states:

"For the image of Christ, on whatever material it is imprinted, is inseparable from Christ Himself, since it is preserved outside matter, in representation. Therefore both [Christ, as well as His image] are to be honored and worshipped in the same way."[46]

This means that reverent worship is befitting of the image of Christ regardless of the manner in which it is applied to matter and of the matter itself.

The same applies to the images (icons) of the Theotokos, angels, and saints. In their icons, the honor and worship of the faithful is given to the named holy hypostases as the first images of the images depicted (χαρακτήρ-os). This is exactly what was very qualified and argued by V.S. Kutkovoi readers in the comments to his article[47], relying, in particular, on the monograph of V.V. 48].

V.V. Bychkov writes that, according to St. Theodore Studitus, "likeness" (παραγωγόν), that is, "appearance as far as it takes place in the original image (III 3:10),"[49] is not material, being the ideal image of the appearance of the archetype, and can be embodied in various materials. "In all material incarnations, however, it remains the same and receives the name χαρακτήρ (imprint, branding)."[50]

V. V. Bychkov suggests that in the term χαρακτήρ of St. Theodore the iconographic type (scheme) of image, and in the words of the holy father the philosophical and aesthetic justification for the canonicity of religious art. If the "likeness" of some thing and, accordingly, its χαρακτήρ are "unchangeable values, then also "all the numerous representations of that thing in various materials must be canonical, that is, must keep the same iconographic type to the utmost."[51]

Moreover, V.V. Bychkov argues that St. Theodore Studit deepens the idea sounded at the VII Ecumenical Council about the documentary-photographic function of the image:

"And in Theodore the icon is thought of as a mechanical imprint, but not of any particular momentary state of the appearance of the original, but of its ideal "visible image", its unchangeable eidos, its countenance."[52]

Of course, "mechanical imprint" cannot be understood literally, the philosopher stipulates, but the aspiration for a maximum likeness of the new icons to the previous specimens in late Byzantium was expressed in the work of "painters on the models and obverse iconographic originals, which contained the drawing of all the subjects to be depicted, whose iconography was formed and established in the process of centuries of artistic practice and at a later stage was fixed in the originals"[53].


In the above examples there is no direct indication that the holy fathers endorsed technical copies of the images of Christ, the Mother of God and the saints, but there is no indication of their degrading or deprivation of their sacral status (holiness) either. From the general theology of the icon and the examples given, we can state the following:

St. Nicephorus and St. Theodore Studit do not degrade the dignity of the technical copy (imprint) in comparison with the image made by the hand of the artist. The Saints Fathers, in essence, compare the copy and the original manuscript image, setting in the first place the image contained in the primary image, the "likeness" (or the "inner eidos"), which is immaterial and therefore not made by hand (remember the frequently quoted words of the Areopagite: "The truth is in the likeness, the primary image is in the image, and one in the other, besides the difference of essence" (54).

According to St. Nicephorus, the skill of iconographers determines only the measure of the likeness of the prototype achieved in an icon. This measure varies with different artists, which leads to an incomplete concurrence of the man-made images of the same prototype. However, this inconsistency in specificity (according to V. S. Kutkov) is not regarded as a merit, but can be explained by human imperfection. The ideal, however, is complete identity in appearance of the image and the prototype, i.e. a perfect reproduction of the "likeness" or "inner eidos" of the prototype.

The sacral status of an icon (any image) does not receive it by virtue of the artist's co-laboration with the Holy Spirit, as a result of which an original work of art appears (i.e. having its own character according to V.S. Kutkov), but by the identity of the appearance, name and hypostasis of the image and the depicted, who deserves holy adoration. In short, by virtue of the sanctity of the hypostasis of Christ, the Mother of God, angels and saints depicted on the icon, or the depiction of the events of Holy history.

Therefore the images of these holy hypostases on any material should be equally venerated (according to the dogma of icon-worship), regardless of how they were created - man-made reproduction or technical copying - "for the sake of the identity of the hypostasis" of the depicted and the depicted.

Source: pravoslavie.ru (Russian)

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