Feast of St Benjamin the Deacon
THIS PAST Sunday was the Sunday of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. This council convened in Nicaea in 787 A.D., the same city as the First Ecumenical Council of 325 A.D. Like the First Ecumenical Council, the issue at stake was again Christological. This time, however, the focus was not on whether Christ was fully divine, but whether He could be portrayed in His humanity. In other words, the Council was called to determine the status of icons in the Church’s Tradition.
Last Thursday at the Hall of Men, I lectured on St Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022 A.D.). Symeon’s disciple, Nicetas Stethatos, tells us in his Life of St Symeon that Symeon painted an icon of his elder, St Symeon the Pious, and celebrated his memory each year. Although his actions were blessed by the patriarch, Symeon the New Theologian nevertheless found himself caught up in a controversy with a highly-educated court theologian who was envious of Symeon’s repute. Symeon was eventually called upon to defend himself and Nicetas provides an account his defense of commemorating saints through the veneration of icons.
The common theme of iconography provoked this week’s patristic readings in the Daily Word. We begin with St Symeon’s defense and then continue with the Seventh Ecumenical Council, St John of Damascus, and other Byzantine defenders of icons.
If you’ve ever wondered about the scriptural and theological foundations of iconography, you should read this week’s Daily Word (Oct 12-17, 2015).