Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything. - St Gregory of Nyssa

Saturday, September 27, 2014


The liturgical art of the Orthodox Church offers the world nothing less than a vision of the Kingdom of God. There can be no higher calling for art than this. Liturgical art is the combined effort of apostles and theologians, hymnographers and composers, architects and painters, all manner of craftsmen, and the clergy and choir at every service, to reveal through so many arts the living reality of the Kingdom of God.

So begins the multi-part series at Orthodox Arts Journal on the Integrated Expression of the all the Liturgical Arts, by Andrew Gould.

He continues, in part:

This broken history and the academic bias of the modern world have led to a certain imbalance. Sacred texts are treated with great importance in our seminaries, and churches make every effort to present them appropriately. But the other arts are often dismissed as mere decoration for the texts. Icons are understood as just another way of showing us what we already know from texts. Music is just a way to make hymnography sound pretty and dignified. And architecture, vestments, and furniture are only there to lend appropriate decorum and symbolism to a service whose real purpose is the worship of God through scripture and prayers.

This view is false. Sacred texts are not alone in expressing divinity. Everything in the world has the capacity to reveal God to us, and every form of liturgical art reveals God in its own way. An icon is holy because it shows us something uniquely visual about God’s Kingdom.... Even the smallest arts ... directly represent an aspect of God’s Kingdom.... Ours is not the religion in which the Logos became text. Christ became flesh, and he revealed the Father to us not only in his words, but in his very appearance.

Thought-provoking words. In America, Orthodox suffer from what I call the "American Religion," which simply put, is Calvinism liberally mixed with patriotism. We are iconoclastic, and text-oriented (yup, imbibing at the Sola Scriptura fountain, whether we realize it or not). In America we are also arts illiterates: can we distinguish finely-wrought icons from paper glued on a piece of wood, or music from masters vs "pop" music?

As St Gregory of Nyssa said: "Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything."

Liturgical art encourages wonder in the faithful. 

1 comment:

GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you for sharing - your pictures make me want to stop and contemplate a while. So I'll follow that link too!