The question was asked, “How can we share in the divine life?” Since there is quite a bit that needs to be said to clearly address the topic of partaking in the divine life (2 P 1:4), I will be answering at length about this in a post to follow. Briefly, however, the answer is by becoming genuine friends with the One, True God; His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ and Their Holy Spirit – the Most Holy Trinity.
Icons “show us the contiguity and interaction of two worlds, two planes of being: on the one hand, the eternal peace of the higher regions; on the other hand, a world of sorrow, sin, chaos, but thirsting for God’s peace – a world that seeks but has not yet found God” – E. Trubetskoii, Icons: Theology in Color.
Originally posted in 2012, I am re-posting the above herewith because of the ongoing number of questions that keep coming in on this subject.
According to Saint Nikita Stithatos, the differences between dreams, revelations and visions can be discerned as follows:
- Dreams are “images that do not remain unchanged in the imaginative faculty of the nous,” the heart of the soul. Dreams “present a confused picture with constantly altering scenes and forms . . . [they are seen by] materialistic and sensually-minded people;”
- Revelations are theorias of the mysteries of God, “granted to the purified and illumined soul in a way that transcends normal sense perception . . . [they are granted to those] who are activated by the Holy Spirit, and whose soul is united to God through theology” (theoria). Revelations are associated with inner purity;
- Visions are constant and unchanging. They also “remain imprinted on the nous unforgettably for many years . . . [visions are present in] those well advanced on the spiritual path, who have cleansed the soul’s organs of perception.”
Met. Hierotheos. (2010). The science of spiritual medicine. Levadia, Greece: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery.
The symbolic language of the icon is “incomprehensible to the sated flesh, to the heart full of longings for material things. But it becomes the very fabric of life when these longings collapse and an abyss opens at our feet. Then we need a firm foothold at the edge of the abyss, we need to feel the motionless calm of the icon above our tribulations. And the joyous vision of a sobor, a church of all creation above the bloody chaos of our existence becomes as necessary as our daily bread. We need to be sure that the beast is not all in all; that above the beast’s kingdom there is another law of life and that it will prevail” – E. Trubetskoii, 1973, Icons: Theology in Color, p. 36.
The icon of Saint Martial that I recently completed has now been chosen to be featured at the Catholic Art, Christian Theme Artwork and Women Painters Galleries at Fine Art America.
The icon of Saint Martial has just been completed. It was named on the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Martial was an orphan boy who was adopted by Saint Peter after the intercession of the Virgin Mary with Her Son, Jesus Christ. Martial died in Rome as a martyr as a very young adult before Peter was crucified.
The red tunic Martial is shown wearing and the cross he is holding in his right hand indicate the manner in which he died. The royal purple robe indicates the inheritance he subsequently attained. The lilies on the right indicate Martial’s purity and innocence.
The dimensions of the icon are 9″ x 12″. The materials included wood with natural gesso, silver leaf burnished by hand and natural egg tempera in the Russian-Byzantine tradition. The icon will be varnished with olifa in a few weeks’ time.
In creating a work of art, the psyche or soul of the artist ascends from the earthly realm into the heavenly. There, free of all images, the soul is fed in contemplation by the essences of the highest realm, knowing the permanent noumena of things. Then, satiated with this knowing, it descends again to the earthly realm. And precisely at the boundary between the two worlds, the soul’s spiritual knowledge assumes the shapes of symbolic imagery: and it is these images that make permanent the work of art. Art is thus materialized dream, separated from the ordinary consciousness of waking life – Pavel Florensky, 1996, Iconostasis
To paint an icon is to bring about a transformation of matter that is only real as a result of a transformation of in the inner being of the painter – R. Temple in Doors of Perception.
The painting, the writing, of icons is “an actual spiritualization of matter, a re-enactment of the Incarnation, reflecting actually and not only symbolically the appearance of God at the human and earthly level” (R. Temple, in Doors of Perception).
Through grace we become deified and come to share in the divine life of Holy Trinity – J. Baggley, Doors of Perception.
The divine essence means the unknowable ground of divinity; the divine energies are those aspects of the divine life that are directed away from the Godhead itself, like rays emanating from the sun. It is through the divine energies that the act of creation is accomplished and that God is revealed and known as the Holy Trinity – J. Baggley, Doors of Perception.
“The destruction of images [has] left behind a void, the wretchedness of which we are experiencing in a truly acute way. [It has become] a symptom of the crisis of man’s very existence . . . a blindness of the spirit” (Benedict XVI, The spirit of the liturgy). While “in the period of iconoclasm the Church struggled for the icon, in our time it is the icon that struggles for the Church” (L. Ouspensky, Theology of the icon) because the icon is embodied prayer.
In the icon, we see a divine reality which goes beyond the dimensions of this earthly world, but which, at the same time, respects this earthly world because it is created by God to become transfigured in His Spirit. If the representation loses the character of God’s mystery, if it reduces this mystery to the sensible forms of matter, the icon loses its soul – E. Sendler, The Icon: Image of the Invisible.
Iconic light becomes incarnate grace, materialized, and it must be received as such in contemplation. Contemplation is not simply passive reception but requires all the dynamism of the spirit; the light of God must therefore be assimilated in order to be transmitted to others. Man thus enters into the divine eros. The knowledge of the intelligible light becomes illumination and thereby man moves toward the brilliantly shining darkness of the absolute mystery – E. Sendler, The Icon: Image of the Invisible.
The movement of love which proceeds from the Father spreads out His light on all creatures. By knowledge, episteme, and contemplation, theoria, creatures purify themselves of everything that blocks the realization of the likeness with God and thus elevate themselves to God to become deified – E. Sendler, The Icon: Image of the Invisible.