Head coverings

February 9, 2012

I have been asked to write a post on the wearing of headscarves. The better terminology would be the wearing for head coverings of which a head scarf is one particular form of head covering.

According to St Paul men and women each have an iconic function that is: man is the image and glory of God and woman is the glory of man. This iconic function is seen in the manner of the roles of each, the appearance of each and in the relationships between them. The purpose of the iconic function is to manifest the relationship of God to man and make this relationship tangible in our daily lives. The male iconic image is to portray the governance of God over man and the female is to portray the obedience of man to God. Both govern and both obey since this is the relationship of all with God but between themselves a certain order is maintained that we may participate tangibly with God through such relationships and not merely abstractly with the unseen God. This order is manifest within the different levels of relationship between men and women. Mostly notably within the relationship of marriage where we clearly see elsewhere in St Paul the distinct roles of husband and wife in terms of Christ and the Church. However, there is also a public face in terms of permission to exercise public authority and teaching within the Church, the function of the hierarchy, which is permitted to men but not to women because it is God who governs and teaches us and we do not do these things to each other at a merely human level. Thus the male icon is appropriate for the hierarchy because it portrays the divine but the female icon portraying humanity learns in quietness and remains silent in the congregations. Women can govern and teach in private at home or among other women in a convent because man too shares in the governance and teaching of God to men. A married women is expected to exercise these roles in relation to her children. Women can serve the Church as deaconesses but this is a quiet role for ministry to women and it does not perform the same function as a male deacon in leading the congregation and exercising authority over minor orders.

Head coverings are the principle iconic form in terms of establishing ourselves as icons. This is because the main relationship aspect between God and man is in terms of governance and headship. Thus, the head is covered or uncovered to demonstrate this. Head coverings are asked of women to go with long hair as a free expression of obedience to God. Obedience is not forced of man to God but freely given by man hence long hair in itself, as a natural aspect, is not sufficient but a head covering is asked to be added in addition to show the free submission of man to God. The head covering is not merely for the wearers humility and obedience, it quietly bears testimony before all to lead all to obedience and humility. Because obedience to God is due at all times head coverings are also worn at all times, particularly in the presence of others, even in the home. Head coverings are most important though in relation to God seen when praying and also if prophesying. In these activities men uncover their heads to show the authority of God and also that mankind will reign with God in synergy. Women though remain covered to show the need of our continuing obedience to share one will with God. The symbolism of head covering is also used by male monastics to show their life of obedience, although they at times uncover their heads in recognition of the male iconic role that they also convey. The symbols and actions are also for the angels who also look upon us.

A head covering is supposed to cover the head fully as being completely under obedience to God. Thus, head scarves are appropriately wrapped around the head as are also many eastern forms of head coverings as used in Muslim, Jewish or even Hindu cultures. A small hat on top of the head, particularly one that is decorative, is not as appropriate although better than being without, which in terms of its symbolism is a sign of rebellion against God and of self-will, setting oneself as ruling like God if not done according to the will of God. Just as the relationship between God and man is true in all cultures so too is the requirement of head coverings. The only variation being in the type of material and the cut and shape of the coverings but the use of and minimum extent of the covering is to be applied in all cultures as a uniform aspect of Church culture.

Iconic functions are not merely symbolic as signs to teach of something else but there also establish the appropriate form within which Christ becomes present. Because humanity has form in its material aspect then a particular form is required to ensure the true presence of Christ in an incarnate and tangible manner to reflect the reality of our material condition. The material aspect truly participates in our life and existence and this is confirmed that specific material forms are required for mysteries to be manifest, so that the mystery encompasses both spiritual and material aspects of our existence.


Deification through icons

June 15, 2011

I have come to be aware that the theology of icons may go much deeper than the painted icons that are chiefly associated with the Orthodox Church. I am beginning to see that the theology of the icon goes to the very heart of our path to salvation (that is deification or union with God) in that we are saved through participation with and in icons. What does this mean? It means that man’s union with God is effected through icons both portrayed by other things, persons and by himself.

Here is a brief overview of how I am coming to see this. Read the rest of this entry »

Picking Cherries

June 12, 2010

In the history of Christianity, there has never been a century or so where there has not been some kind of theological controversy. In any given controversy it is usually the case that there is a spectrum of positions that occupy some place on the argumentative field. Caution is therefore required in data selection to establish points about who taught what and how widespread a given view in fact was.

Such is the case with the Iconoclastic controversy. Iconoclasm came in a variety of forms and varied over time. Initially iconoclasm in the East identified images of persons and biblical figures as idols while preserving the use of decorative images such as the Cross. Representational (though not necessarily figurative) images of Christ and images of the saints were prohibited. Due to their material composition they could not convey the resurrected glory of the saints. Such was the position around the 750’s. 

By the early ninth century in the East iconoclasm became more moderate even under the favorable impetus of imperial backing. Gone were the arguments by and large that icons were equivalent to idols, along with the Christological arguments that to make an image of Christ implied a major Christological error.

The situation in the West was different for a variety of reasons. The West was a hodgepodge of various kingdoms, with certain parts of the old empire still under the control or influence of Constantinople. The most salient party is that of the Franks, who had forged an alliance with Rome. Politically this had its advantages but also presented problems. With an alliance with the Franks, Rome was far more free and autonomous than under imperial rule. The Franks gained the political and religious legitimacy that they so eagerly coveted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Eusebius of Caesarea on ancient images

April 12, 2010

Book 6: CHAPTER 18.
SINCE I have mentioned this city I do not think it proper to omit an account which is worthy of record for posterity. For they say that the woman with an issue of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel, received from our Savior deliverance from her affliction, came from this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there. For there stands upon an elevated stone, by the gates of her house, a brazen image of a woman kneeling, with her hands stretched out, as if she were praying. Opposite this is another upright image of a man, made of the same material, clothed decently in a double cloak, and extending his hand toward the woman. At his feet, beside the statue itself, is a certain strange plant, which climbs up to the hem of the brazen cloak, and is a remedy for all kinds of diseases. They say that this statue is an image of Jesus. It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city. Nor is it strange that those of the Gentiles who, of old, were benefited by our Saviour, should have done such things, since we have learned also that the likenesses of his apostles Paul and Peter, and of Christ himself, are preserved in paintings, the ancients being accustomed, as it is likely, according to a habit of the Gentiles, to pay this kind of honour indiscriminately to those regarded by them as deliverers.
THE chair of James, who first received the episcopate of the church at Jerusalem from the Saviour himself and the apostles, and who, as the divine records show, was called a brother of Christ, has been preserved until now, the brethren who have followed him in succession there exhibiting clearly to all the reverence which both those of old times and those of our own day maintained and do maintain for holy men on account of their piety. So much as to this matter.”

These chapters demonstrate that the historical evidence available to Eusebius (c. 260-339 AD) supports that images (icons) as paintings and also as statutes were set up of Christ, the Apostles and events from the Gospels from the time of the Apostles, indeed by the woman whom Christ healed. Eusebius notes that this practice originates from the Gentile converts and so by implication wasn’t established by the Jewish Christians. Nevertheless, he does not condemn it nor is he surprised by it and he even says that a plant growing on one of the statutes (or images) is a source of miracles. The next Chapter he testifies to the reverence given to the pious men of old and this through the physical keeping of a chair (presumably the episcopal throne, which also supports traditional church furnishing and associated interior architecture as being rooted in Apostolic practice.) Notice also that the setting up of the images is in itself considered as means of honouring or revering the persons.

This evidence fits extremely well with the Orthodox tradition of icons, the honouring of Saints, including the keeping of various relics, and supports that this tradition goes back to the time of the Apostles and was accepted by Christians as a legitimate practice. Miracles are also associated with the images, even as they are today.

Irenaeus and Icons

March 31, 2010

“By the Hand of Nicholas Papas” http://www.facebook.com/Nick.Papas.Studio

Irenaeus is an important father of the church for a number of reasons. His extensive writing and fairly impeccable theology situated in the period which saw the end of the apostolic fathers and apologists. Even though Irenaeus was bishop of Lyon, he was from Asia Minor. He also had direct contact with Polycarp, the disciple of John the Apostle.

Often in discussions concerning the making and veneration of images with Protestants, there is a passage that is adduced to prove that the early church was either iconoclastic or the weaker claim of being iconophobic. The passage is as follows,

“They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles.”

Against Heresies, 1.25.6

This passage is situated at the end of Irenaeus discussion of the Gnostic sect of the Carpocrates and I will give them their due attention in a moment. But first we need to just look at the text itself and see what it bears.

Read the rest of this entry »

Christmass Idols

January 1, 2010

Usually I don’t try to put up Christmass stuff during Advent. Christmass is more than one day which is something that modern American culture can’t seem to fathom. So I was putting up our little creche scene in our home and it kind of struck me. Perhaps it has struck you too, but I suppose it was just so much a normal part of Americana that it never did before. Usually when you think about controversy and nativity scenes you think of some left wing legal group or some atheist with an anoying sense of moral superiority. But then it struck me that many Protestants have nativity scenes too. But why?

It is one thing if you’re Anglican or say Lutheran (maybe Anglican-lite = Methodist). They more or less have a tradition of sorts on retaining images. But why object to icons in church as idolatry if every December you put up your little Chrismass idols in your house or on your front lawn? How is it that I never hear so much as a peep about Protestant idols of the baby Jesus? Why no arguments about how Christmass idols of the baby Jesus imply a Nestorian confusion since it requires a conflating of the divine and human essence in order to depict Jesus? (This is a bad argument when used against icons of Jesus since it views the appearance or prospon as a profuct of the union, which is ironically enough Nestorian.) Why are there no howls of no graven image around Christmass time? Granted, that Protestants who are iconoclasts don’t bow to their plastic or plaster baby Jesus or kiss his feet (let alone Mary’s) but setting up the nativity scene is still a form of veneration or an expression of honor (just as tombstones are incidentally). After all, no graven image means, no graven image period, right?

I am not saying that they are bad things, but I think the Puritans in abolishing Christmass and other holy days altogether were more consistent. I suppose I am asking those who have such things and object to icons to do one or the other.

Things That Make You Go, Hhmmm…

November 5, 2009

“The absurdity of the whole situation is clear: the Seventh Ecumenical Council forbids the adoration of icons, and the Council of Frankfurt is indignant because it decrees such adoration. But what is most absurd is that the legates of the same Pope Hadrian I, who had signed the decisions of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, also signed the decisions of the Council of Frankfurt.”

Leonid Ouspensky, The Theology of the Icon, Vol. 1, 143.

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