The Connection in between Old Glory and Icons


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Christ is born! Glorify Him! Merry Christmas!
Our loved ones has enjoyed a amazing Christmas, spent with extended loved ones and pals, celebrating the birth of Christ and enjoying each and every other’s warm corporation whilst the cold winds blew outdoors.
These of us who are converts or who married converts, will have spent some of the time through the holidays with loved ones members who are not Orthodox. These beloved persons will have come into our properties and eyed our icons nervously, hunting vaguely uncomfortable when we crossed ourselves and blessed the meals.
A lot of of us come from Protestant traditions exactly where icons and crossing oneself and speaking about Mary are pretty considerably taboo. We had been raised with a suspicion that holy pictures and gilded grandeur have distracted nicely-which means Christians from Christ Himself, replacing faith in Him with empty idol worship.
This year, my mom (who remains Protestant), stayed with us for a amazing week and we had a terrific time operating about with the youngsters and relaxing in the living space and catching up on a million terrific stories. We also had a extended conversation about icons, which in all these years of obtaining an Orthodox daughter nevertheless difficulty my mom.
Why do we kiss them? Why do we appreciate them so considerably? Are not we afraid that somehow the icons and the Saints and (yes, of course) Mary herself will take up so considerably of our consideration that we will overlook Christ altogether?
When I very first saw an Orthodox church, I admit that I also believed, “wow — appear how interested they are in all of the Saints and all of these creepy faces on the wall. They are not fortunate like me to sit in an empty white space exactly where I can contemplate Christ and Christ alone.”

It really should be quite apparent that by now I’ve not only come about to accepting icons, but in reality I appreciate them. My property has an icon in every single space, and attributes a beautiful prayer corner complete of beloved icons. My mom nevertheless is not very positive what to make of it all.
As we sat on my couch one particular evening soon after Christmas speaking, our foreign exchange student from Montenegro (an Orthodox girl from an Orthodox nation) asked us about Protestantism and what that is like, attempting to comprehend what her classmates in her Texas public college would be considering and undertaking and believing, and in the conversation I noted that they didn’t have any icons. She actually had never ever heard of Christians who didn’t appreciate icons.
She was utterly confused. Why no icons? I told her that they’re concerned that you could appreciate the icons much more than God — to which she gave an incredulous gasp, completely unable to envision how any person could even come to such a suggestion. Not obtaining grown up about a multitude of Christian denominations, she was attempting to operate it out in her head but the thought was definitely completely inconceivable.
My mom and I had been speaking the subsequent day, and she believed it was odd that this girl couldn’t even envision such an argument. I attempted to clarify it about 100 diverse methods. These of you who are converts have been there, and have most likely also attempted quite a few methods to phrase the similar factor, often hunting for a door in.
We all most likely have fantasies that our households will recognize the 1 Accurate Church and be joyfully baptized or chrismated into the faith, but it is not just about conversion. It is tough when your loved ones is Christian and they raised you to be Christian and they just do not comprehend or approve of the way that you are undertaking it. It is pretty painful to have discovered the pearl of terrific price tag, only to uncover that your loved ones can not see it at all. A lot of of us invest a lot of power attempting to express the holy ancient faith to our parents and siblings.
In the course of the conversation, I hit upon a metaphor that I definitely appreciate and which I assume can be helpful, each for defending the faith against critics and for teaching our youngsters about icons.
Old Glory, the American Flag
(or any nation’s flag, certainly)
My mom is an immigrant to this nation, and like quite a few persons who braved hardships to acquire citizenship in this terrific nation, she is an avid patriot. You really should see my mom on the Fourth of July. She waves the flag like nobody’s small business, and she tears up at every single sentimental patriotic tune, from God Bless America to The Star-Spangled Banner. My mom loves the USA.
So I asked her,
“Mom, anytime you see an American flag do you salute it? Do you cringe when it is treated disrespectfully? Do you take offense when it is burned in the square or desecrated? You adore it so considerably that you sing songs about that flag: Old Glory and The Star-Spangled Banner and Stars and Stripes Forever. You adorn oneself in the red white and blue. What would you say if I asked you, are not you afraid that you are so in appreciate with that flag that you have forgotten America? Could that query ever make sense to you?
When you pledge your allegiance to the flag are you pledging your allegiance to cotton and grommets, or are you pledging your allegiance to a nation? Are you honoring the brave guys and females who gave their life for your freedom, or have you forgotten them and come to appreciate merely a quite piece of fabric as it flies gracefully in the wind? Is it even feasible to salute the flag devoid of saluting the nation?”
Have you ever worried that you loved the flag so considerably that you stopped loving America? That query does not make any sense, due to the fact we are loving the nation by way of its flag. When we hear the patriotic songs and watch the Fourth of July fireworks, our appreciate for the nation is rekindled these patriotic icons are a portion of reinforcing our appreciate for nation.
That is how Orthodox icons are, and then some.
My mom’s not producing an appointment for catechism classes, but I assume she feels a small bit superior about icons nowadays.

Likewise, when we see the American flag burning in a protest across the globe, we comprehend promptly that this is an aggressively anti-American statement. Abusing our flag is a signifies of protest and of attack. Do we assume that a individual who burns the flag has burned our nation? Of course not, but we are injured and offended nonetheless. In the similar way, we comprehend that the icon is not really Jesus Christ or the Saint in the image — but these who attack icons are attacking the Church and Christ and His Saints. Although they haven’t harmed a hair on any person’s head, the aggression and the insult is registered. Saying that an icon is basically wood and paint is like saying that the flag is merely cotton and grommet — it is and it is not.
When I was in Holland a couple of years ago, I went to a church in Utrecht that was initially a Catholic Church till the Reformation, when Luther’s followers burst in and violently desecrated it. There had been statues of Jesus and Mary and the Saints and Apostles and a beloved regional bishop, and they came in and hacked the heads off the statues. They smashed them up with chains and with hatchets and hammers and something they could uncover. There is a statue of Mary holding Jesus and each of their faces have been demolished and hacked, but the bodies stay, actually a defaced Jesus in the arms of his defaced mother. In most churches, I envision that the broken statues have been taken away, thrown into the dustbin of history, but in this church the statues stay as a testament to the glory of the Reformation. The persons are proud of them and proud of the way that they slaughtered the statues. It is definitely troubling. Of course, we do not have statues in Orthodox Churches, but we know how to appear at an image and comprehend that it is somehow tied to the individual it represents. When I see an icon of Christ I see Christ, and if a person desecrates the icon I know that they’ve attacked Christ. When these persons beheaded statues, it felt like they had been attacking Christ and His Saints and His Mother. The location looked like a gory battlefield with dead Christians all more than it, like the scene of a massacre (and certainly, quite a few living Christians had been hacked up on that day to be positive.) I abruptly understood: the Reformation was violent.
When it is not the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the feast of our Lord’s Nativity, His Incarnation, is a very good time to contemplate icons — for it is His incarnation that created Him visible in human kind, created Him an acceptable topic for iconography. Certainly, His pretty presence as human flesh sanctifies human bodies and all of the material stuff of creation — which signifies for us that paint and wood can be sanctified, that the stuff of this planet can be created holy.

On the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan web-site ( you will uncover the following text from the Vespers for the Sunday of Orthodoxy:
“Inspired by your Spirit, Lord, the prophets foretold your birth as a youngster incarnate of the Virgin. Absolutely nothing can include or hold you just before the morning star you shone forth eternally from the spiritual womb of the Father. But you had been to come to be like us and be noticed by these on earth. At the prayers of these your prophets in your mercy reckon us match to see your light, “for we praise your resurrection, holy and beyond speech. Infinite, Lord, as divine, in the final instances you willed to come to be incarnate and so finite for when you took on flesh you created all its properties your personal. So we depict the kind of your outward look and spend it relative respect, and so are moved to appreciate you and by way of it we acquire the grace of healing, following the divine traditions of the apostles.”
“The grace of truth has shone out, the issues when foreshadowed now are revealed in perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with beauty not of this planet, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding rapid the Orthodox faith. For if we cling to the icon of him whom we worship, we shall not go astray. Could these who do not so think be covered with shame. For the image of him who became human is our glory: we venerate it, but do not worship it as God. Kissing it, we who think cry out: O God, save your persons, and bless your heritage.”
“We have moved forward from unbelief to accurate faith, and have been enlightened by the light of know-how. Let us then clap our hands like the psalmist, and give praise and thanksgiving to God. And let us honor and venerate the holy icons of Christ, of his most pure Mother, and of all the saints, depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels, setting aside the unbelievers’ ungodly teaching. For the veneration offered to the icon passes more than, as Basil says, to its prototype. At the intercession of your spotless Mother, O Christ, and of all the saints, we pray you to grant us your terrific mercy. We venerate your icon, very good Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God. For you freely willed in the flesh to ascend the cross, to rescue from slavery to the enemy these whom you had formed. So we cry to you with thanksgiving: You have filled all issues with joy, our Savior, by coming to save the planet.”
By Elissa Bjeletich,
a mother and Sunday college director
in Austin, Texas


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