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Religious Medals

Mar 28, 2016


     What is an icon ? The word "icon" means "image," but since the early centuries of Christianity, the word "icon" is normally used to refer to images with a religious content, meaning and use.
          Most icons are two-dimensional; mosaics, paintings, enamels, miniatures, but ancient three dimensional icons also exist.  Many people assume an icon must be in a Byzantine or Russian style. Many icons are, but many are not; other Orthodox  Christian cultures have their own traditional styles of  art, and many icons exist painted in a Western style.                        
         It is not style that makes a painting an icon, it is subject, meaning and use. An  icon is always the representation of a religious subject, but not every representation of a religious subject is an icon. The militant atheism of the Communist regimes  produced anti-Christian caricatures of religious themes;   these are obviously not icons. Nor are sentimental or even erotic portraits of models or historical figures masquerading as images of the saints, and unfortunately  such paintings are very common in Western Christian religious  art. An icon is not simply the representation of a religious  subject, it is a representation with a religious meaning, and if it is an Orthodox icon it must have an orthodox  meaning.
          It may seem surprising that an image can be unorthodox.  But consider for a moment: an image represents something  - or it misrepresents something, or perhaps it represents  a mere fiction. An image can mislead and it can lie -  or it can be inadequate. It is for this reason Orthodox   tradition forbids certain kinds of religious image. The Synod in Trullo, for example, which was convened in 692  to complete the work of the Fifth and Sixth Oecumenical  Councils, forbids the depiction of Christ as a lamb, despite  this having been a common image in the past, and insists  He be represented in His humanity. [Canon 82] The reason for this is clearly stated; the image is to lead us to  remember "His life in the flesh, His Sufferings, His Saving Death, and the deliverance accomplished for  the world." The Council of Moscow of 1667 forbade  representations of God the Father as a human being - it  was the Son Who took on humanity, not the Father, and representations of the Father in human form is deeply misleading.