Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

Hat tip to Ken over at Hallowed Ground.

Yes. That's an Orthodox bishop in a Romanian Orthodox Church.

For the record, I have a rather high opinion of the late Pope. I am not unaware that he is widely regarded as a saint within the Roman Church. He may well be a saint. I don't decide those things. But I do know one thing. Neither he nor George H. W. Bush (a true gentleman and a better than average president), nor Mikhail Gorbachev were or are Orthodox. Two of the three depicted in iconography are still alive and one is I believe an avowed atheist!

I am sorry if this is seen as lacking in the appropriate ecumenical spirit. I really don't dislike any of the men depicted. But commemorating in a church, and in iconography, non-Orthodox persons is a no-no. The priest apparently felt that these men deserved to be commemorated for their contributions in bringing down Communism. Again this is without doubt worthy of honor. But that doesn't make you an Orthodox saint. This is frankly more than a little scandalous. I wonder if the bishop is the same fellow who recently got in trouble for communing at a uniate Mass?

Update: See the comments for Fr. Andrew's explanation of this.


Steve Hayes said...

Well then, I wonder what you would think of this one?

At least it doesn't show them with haloes.

Fr. Andrew said...
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Fr. Andrew said...
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Fr. Andrew said...

It's actually not that unusual for non-Orthodox to be depicted on the walls of an Orthodox church, most especially in the narthex. There's an ancient tradition of painting images of Greek philosophers in the narthex, as a sign of the propaideia that they gave in preparation of Christ's coming.

(If it's of any consoling counter-balance to you, I've seen pictures of icons in Romania showing Communist leaders burning in hell.)

These images do indeed appear to be in the narthex. It's really not that scandalous, honestly, since the narthex has traditionally represented "the world," which is why, for instance, baptisms traditionally should take place there, being the place of entrance from the world to the Church.

American Orthodox do not often encounter this ancient tradition, but it's worth noting that it is in fact traditional and normal to show pictures of people in the narthex who are regarded in some sense as leading people into the Church. The downfall of Communism in Romania certainly did help accomplish just that.

Steve Hayes said...

I've noticed that Romanisn churches often have the outside covered with pictures and ikons, the ancient pagan philosophers are often depicted there.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Andrew,
Thank you for that clarification of customs with respect to the narthex. It does seem to make this less over the top.

Yours in ICXC

Archpriest David Thatcher said...

Honestly, I am not terribly comforted by the clarification that (1) fresco is in an Orthodox Church temple, and (2) Romanian church temples are known to have icons of great Greek philosophers on the outside or narthex of their church temple. The latter I have always thought was very, well, cool: these philosophers functioned as the pagan equivalent of the "Old Testament," preparing the way for the Christ for the "Greeks" even as the life and writings of the Hebrews prepared for the Messiah.

Um, yes: but that was "B.C.," don't-chya-know?

That's hardly equivalent to having pictures of a heterodox Pope (wonderful as he was) and a couple of controversial "princes and sons of men" splashed up rather intentionally in a Romanian narthex. Somebody over there has slipped a cog.

Archpriest David Thatcher said...

Pardon my misstatement. I meant, of course, to write "not terribly comforted by the clarification that (1) fresco is in the narthex of an Orthodox Church temple"

Viator Catholicus said...

I can sympathize.
There have been some Catholic priests who've hung icons of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, at least in the rectory! God forbid if they've done worse!
These days when people tend to exalt a nebulous ethics over right belief, it can only cause confusion for the lay faithful who will think that all that matters is being a "good fellow" in some vague way.

123 said...

Another obvsious thing to note is that none of these images is painted with a hallow, meaning none of them are considered saints in any official sense.

Since we don't know more about this photo, one could also assume it is not even in the narthex, but in another room, the refectory, an exonarthex, the coatroom or the room they serve coffee in when the bishop meets people. It is not uncommon to have wall decorations in an 'iconographic' style in monastery or church buildings.

Also, are we sure this is not from an Eastern Catholic church or from another sectarian split-off of the Church?