Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Of Icons and Shibboleths

That last post got me wondering....

Dr. Peter Toon insists the veneration of icons is a major pastoral problem clergy must work hard to counteract, since "Idolatry lurks dangerously near this." As Orthodox point out, in practice we've never met anyone who actually believes he is worshipping the piece of wood-and-tempura depicting our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. Somehow, even the newest catechumen seems to absorb the difference between dulia and latreia often dismissed as semantics. If blasphemy is a major temptation, it appears to be one never encountered in fact.

Protestants cannot comprehend that Orthodox venerate icons, we do not worship them. By the same token, Byzantine Orthodox cannot understand that Roman Catholics with a devotion to the Sacred Heart -- and those Western Orthodox who practice it, such as Fr. Edward Hughes -- are not worshipping the pulmonary artery (or should that be "Pulmonary Artery"?) of the Second Person of the Godhead. Despite all alleged dangers and errors "pastoral care" is supposed to forestall, in practice one simply never encounters them.

The greater question is not, "Why are they all so wrong about what we do?" but "Why do we so easily believe these (and other, worse) calumnies about those different than we are?" Is it because we're ignorant of them or their practices firsthand, because we fear the other, or because we prefer believing the worst about everyone different from us? I fear the last may have more of a grip on all of us than we'd recognize.

May God uproot whatever vice causes unnecessary misconceptions.



Blogger William Weedon said...

I would be interested in knowing whether Tool and others of similar mindset hold to the teaching of the so-called "black rubric" and so deny that in the Eucharist the bread and wine are in fact the body and blood of the Savior. Do you know? It seems that iconoclasm and denial of the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist would run hand in glove - at the base of both is denial of the implications of the Incarnation.

6:58 PM  
Blogger William Weedon said...

Oops, I meant Toon!

6:58 PM  
Blogger Steve Hayes said...

The question arises quite frequently, and eventually I wrote a kind of FAQ file on it, which you may see here:

But I would have expected Peter Toon to have known better.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Chris Jones said...

Fr Weedon,

I can't speak for Fr Toon, but I think you are on to something. Anglican evangelicals generally do not teach anything approaching the Real Presence. Traditionally, Anglo-Catholics are embarrassed by the Black Rubric, seeking to explain it away or simply to ignore it (happily, the Black Rubric has never appeared in an American Prayer Bood). Anglican evangelicals have no problem with it.

And you are exactly right that disbelief in the Real Presence and iconoclasm go hand-in-hand. One of the arguments of the original iconoclasts was that only the bread and wine of the Eucharist -- not the icons -- are to be venerated. For the iconoclasts, the Eucharist was the "divinely-approved" icon. But the orthodox insisted that the Eucharist is not an icon worthy of duleia, but the Reality worthy of latreia. Thus the iconoclastic controversy was also the first time the Church faced controversy over the doctrine of the Real Presence; and the iconoclasts were on the wrong side of that controversy as well.

11:43 AM  

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