Saturday, December 9, 2017

How can we paint His form?!.
Elder Cleopa of Romania

Q.: God did not become visible to men and therefore no one knows how He appears, nor can they paint His form in an icon or fashion a true likeness of His Countenance. He Himself has said, "Thou canst not see My face, for there shall no man see Me and live." The Evangelist John says the same: "No man hath seen God at any time." Likewise, the Apostle Paul says: " ... who only hath immortality, dwell­ing in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see, to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen."
Elder Cleopa: It is true that no one can see God according to His essence, in other words as spirit, invisible to the sensible eyes of man, and infinite. Yet, not only are the eyes of man insufficient, but also his mind and thought are unable to contain Him. The boundaries of His Being span infinitude. Thus, there is no question inasmuch as it is totally impossi­ble for us to see Him in the form that He is, i.e. in His essence. The archpriests of the Jews in the Old Testament entered into the Holy of Holies once yearly. According to their tradition they would cense the holy space plentifully for they feared that perchance they would see God and die.
The three Apostles fell to the ground when Jesus revealed to them the divine brilliance of His body on Mount Tabor. The Apostle Paul fell blind to the ground when Christ ap­peared to Him on the road to Damascus. So, we see that the vision of God (in His essence) remains impossible for mortal and finite man.
And yet the Old Testament, as well as sacred history, relates to us that there were appearances of God the Father, of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. Is this in contradiction to what was said previously? - Not at all. If for men it is impossible to see the essence of God, it is still possible for them to see God with their sensible eyes or their intellect in forms or shapes that God might will to appear to them in His Divine Energies. These appearances take place by way of the divine economy (or dispensation) so as man might not to die from the vision of God. Thus, Abraham saw the Triune God in the form of three travelers under the oak of Mamre. Jacob saw Him and said, "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" Moses also saw Him in human form, conversing with Him "face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." He also saw Him on Mount Horeb: "and he looked and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed"
The Prophet Isaiah said that he saw Him in the following way: "Then said I, "Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." The Prophet Daniel saw Him in the form of an aged man sitting upon a magnificent throne: “ beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days sat down, whose garment was white as snow and the hair of His head like the pure wool. His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire."
The Prophet Amos tells us the following: "I saw the Lord standing upon the altar." God Himself informed Aaron and his sister Miriam that He would appear to some in visible form: ''And He said, “Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so ... with Him I speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in dark speeches and the glory of the Lord shall he behold."
Furthermore, the Son of God was seen with human and most glorious form by the Prophet Daniel, the deacon Stephan, the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, and the holy Evangelist John and others. And finally, the Holy Spirit of God was seen, by Saint John the Forerunner dur­ing the Baptism of the Lord, in the form of a dove, as well as by the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost, in the form of tongues of fire.
Q.: If icons are indeed pleasing to God and possess di­vine power, why is it that God does not punish those who blaspheme, desecrate and destroy them?
Elder Celopa: We must understand that the icon depicts the human form of Christ Who, as man, came and dwelt among men. God does not punish sinners and desecrators, but rather, tolerates them and desires their salvation. For this reason He affords them time to repent, leaving them in this life. Neither, furthermore, does He discipline immediately those who blaspheme or defame His Church. Moreover, those who crucified Him He did not punish immediately, trusting in their repentance.
Beyond the grave, however, the tribunal of the Future Judgment awaits us, there where each of us will be re­warded according to his deeds.

The Truth of our Faith, elder Cleopa Ilie,(2000).