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I have taken heed to the words of Truth Himself:- “The Lord thy God is one.” (Deut. 6.4) And “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt serve Him only, and thou shalt not have strange, gods.” (Deut. 6.13) Again, “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath” (Ex. 20.4); and “Let them be all confounded that adore graven things.” (Ps. 97.7) Again, “The gods that have not made heaven and earth, let them perish.” (Jer. 10.11) In this way God spoke of old to the patriarchs through the prophets, and lastly, through His only-begotten Son, on whose account He made the ages. He says, “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou didst send.” (Jn 17.3)  I believe in one God, the source of all things, without beginning, uncreated, immortal, everlasting, incomprehensible, bodiless, invisible, uncircumscribed,* without form. I believe in one supersubstantial being, one divine Godhead in three entities, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and I adore Him alone with the worship of latreia. I adore one God, one Godhead but three Persons, God the Father, God the Son made flesh, and God the Holy Ghost, one God. I do not adore creation more than the Creator, but I adore the creature created as I am, adopting creation freely and spontaneously that He might elevate our nature and make us partakers of His divine nature. Together with my Lord and King I worship Him clothed in the flesh, not as if it were a garment or He constituted a fourth person of the Trinity–God forbid. That flesh is divine, and endures after its assumption. Human nature was not lost in the Godhead, but just as the Word made flesh remained the Word, so flesh became the Word remaining flesh, becoming, rather, one with the Word through union (kaq upostasin). Therefore I venture to draw an image of the invisible God, not as invisible, but as having become visible for our sakes through flesh and blood. I do not draw an image of the immortal Godhead. I paint the visible flesh of God, for it is impossible to represent a spirit (yuch), how much more God who gives breath to the spirit.

We receive our habit of mind from God, and know what may be imaged and what may not. The Scripture says, “You have not seen the likeness of Him.” (Ex. 33.20) What wisdom in the law-giver. How depict the invisible? How picture the inconceivable? How give expression to the limitless, the immeasurable, the invisible? How give a form to immensity? How paint immortality? How localise mystery? It is clear that when you contemplate God, who is a pure spirit, becoming man for your sake, you will be able to clothe Him with the human form. When the Invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw a likeness of His form. When He who is a pure spirit, without form or limit, immeasurable in the boundlessness of His own nature, existing as God, takes upon Himself the form of a servant in substance and in stature, and a body of flesh, then you may draw His likeness, and show it to anyone willing to contemplate it. Depict His ineffable condescension, His virginal birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His transfiguration on Thabor, His all-powerful sufferings, His death and miracles, the proofs of His Godhead, the deeds which He worked in the flesh through divine power, His saving Cross, His Sepulchre, and resurrection, and ascent into heaven. Give to it all the endurance of engraving and colour. Have no fear or anxiety; worship is not all of the same kind. Abraham worshipped the sons of Emmor, impious men in ignorance of God, when he bought the double cave for a tomb. (Gen. 23.7; Acts 7.16) Jacob worshipped his brother Esau and Pharao, the Egyptian, but on the point of his staff. (Gen 33.3) He worshipped, he did not adore. Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel of God; (Jos. 5.14) they did not adore him. The worship of latreia is one thing, and the worship which is given to merit another.

St John Damascene, On the Holy Images.

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Arab (hence trendy multicultural icon). These are excerpts from Part I, part III is in a handy sub-headed point-by-point format. I read this in a class with John Saward (name drop name drop)  – I wish I could remember what the other texts were. One would have been the texts of the Byzantine liturgy for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the feast of the triumph of orthodoxy over the Iconoclasts, unless I have mixed things up. There is of course Cardinal Schonborn’s book God’s Human Face: The Christ Icon, published in English by Ignatius, and available, I am sure, from St Mungo’s Books, Glasgow (the website appears to be In Transition, but they have a gmail address, mungoshop, and you can phone them on Glasgow 552 5523).