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Truth and Communion


The Truth is also

The Eucharistic perspective

The triadologic perspective

Negative perspective

The Christological perspective

The perspective of the "image" (icon)

Truth and Salvation -
the existential importance of the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

Truth and person

Truth and the

Truth and the Church - Ecclesiastical consequences
emerging from the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

The Eucharist as a place of the

6.     The perspective of the "image" (icon) 

If Christ acts in the history being true and in the truth participating in the evolution of history, and if this happens just because Christ is also the limits (the purpose) of history, Then the truth of history seems to lie in something paradox: it is defined through its end, while at the same time the end is part of its evolution. How can this be expressed theologically? For the interpretation might be enough a saying of Maximus: "Things in the Old (Testament) are shadow, while things in the New Testament are an image and the things to be are the truth"[i].

At first glance, this allegation is strange, for this is how the incarnation seems to be a reality less true than the Second Coming. With the usual understanding of reality according to rationalism and historicism, we have the tendency to consider as "truths" and "facts" just those things that can be verified through experience or those correlating to certain rules or beliefs that we recognize as true. But the used term "icon" does not mean in this case this specific kind of reality of the truth nor does it mean a loss of reality. In all the Greek Fathers, with exception the origenic tradition[ii], the icon always states something real and so true, as much as the truth. The long dispute on the place of the icons in the Church, during the eighth (8th) and ninth (9th) century, aimed exactly on the question of the possibility to present the truth in some way in the form of an icon. The discerning line between the two sides in this dispute lies exactly there in the acceptance or rejection of the truth of the incarnation in its relation to history and the creation[iii]. The iconoclasts gather their arguments from origenism, whose understanding of history we have just narrated; the iconolaters on the other hand rely on the fact, that the incarnation the conceivement of the truth as an icon makes it not only possible but inevitable as well[iv]. If of course the icon or the truth of history is no less true than the truth of eschatology, what sense has then, using the term "truth" on the eschats?

The term icon is understood often by the Greek Fathers through the prism of Platonism. The extract narrated though from Maximus shows clearly, that this is an error. In platonic thought the icon should not have its truth placed in the future; just what has come is much more of decisive meaning, because it builds from the truth an object of memory and mainly from the connection of the soul to the steady world of ideas. The authentic tradition of the Greek Fathers never accepted the platonic perception -as it was adapted among others from Augustin- according to which perfection belongs only to the original state of things. A psychological-retrospective understanding of memory also remained foreign to it; since the second in Trullo (692) the symbolism in iconography was rejected clearly. In this important extract Maximus shows once again, that the truth on the sum of the Greek Fathers is something radically different from that of Platonism. At this point we should look into the roots of the iconical language of the Fathers.

Of course this problem is complicated and cannot be exposed here thoroughly. Perhaps the suggestion that the iconical language of the Greek Fathers is understood better, if one sees it under the light of the ancient apocalyptic theology, as it was developed originally in the proto-christianic tradition of the Syrian-Palestinian location and from there infiltrated into the Eucharistic Liturgies of the East. In this tradition the truth does not appear as a product of the spirit but as a "visit" and "scene" (see John 1,14) of the eschatological and meta-historical reality, which infiltrates into history in order to open it to the fact of communion. This creates a vision of the truth, not in the sense of the platonic or mystical viewing, in which the soul or the mind of man link to the divine, but in the sense of reproducing new relations, a new world, the destination of which is taken up through a community.

By establishing onto the revelation, the iconical language relieves the truth from our own "under-standing" and protects it from the guidance and transformation into objectivity. It is translocated also in a relationship, in the sense, that the truth of a being cannot be understood differently rather than through the "mirror" of another being. One can use a remarkable explanation that Athanassius gave, for the sense icon, which refers to God: Christ is the icon of the father exactly because the Father sees Himself in him[v]. The iconical language appears exactly there, where the truth is identified with communion. This is an indication, that the truth remains always greater from our own perception; it is something relating to the future and requires faith, hope and love.

If we now want to summarize this effort of the synthesis for the understanding of the truth in the Greek Fathers, then we can say that the most important step of the Greek Fathers lies in the identification of the truth with society.

The word identification must be clearly underlined, because this synthesis should not be confused to other connections of the truth and society, like they appeared in the history of the Christian theology. If society is a sense, added to the being, then we no longer have the same icon. The decisive point rather lies in the fact, that the being consists as communion and only in this way can truth and society be identified.

That this identification sets for theology a particularly difficult problem becomes obvious, if one applies the truth in existence. Our situation, of the fallen existence, was mainly characterized through the fact that our approach to the truth of the being consists primarily from the communion. Salvation through truth depends in the end through the identification of the truth with society. The part that follows in our research will present certain aspects of this problem. The synthesis of the Greek Fathers, which we tried to present in this part, will be useful in the following two parts of this research.

[i] Maximus, Comments in the eccl. Hierarcy 3,3,2.

[ii] See further up, footnote 28.

[iii] See. Meyendorff, Le Christ dans la theologie Byzantine, Paris 1969, 235-263.

[iv] For the sources, look at footnote 88.

[v] Athanassius, Κατά Αρειανών I, 20-21.


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