This is an unavoidable topic when it comes to Sacred Art. Can it be done?
There's no particular organization to this post- just a compilation of research notes.
1. "It could be argued that there is a real experience of the icon of Christ visible to our eyes and there is a visionary experience of God the Father, notably in the Apocalypse of St. John..." Sr. Petra Clare
2. a google search brings up many images
3. some background on Catholic symbolism:
"Symbolism and artistic decoration—in the use of which the Catholic Church has exceeded all other religious institutions except her sister Church of the East--are not mere extraneous additions, as though they might be cut off without essential loss; they are the natural outgrowth of her very spirit and genius, the proper outward manifestation of the idea which pervades her culture and her worship.
Minds that need no external quickening, but love to rise above ceremonial observances and seek immediate contact with the 77divine source of life, are comparatively rare. Mysticism is not for the multitude; the majority of mankind require that spiritual influences shall come to them in the guise of that which is tangible; a certain nervous thrill is needed to shock them out of their accustomed material habitudes.
Recognizing this fact, and having taken up into her system a vast number of ideas which inevitably require objective representation in order that they may be realized and operative, the Catholic Church has even incurred the charge of idolatry on account of the extreme use she has made of images and symbols.
But it may be that in this she has shown greater wisdom than those who censure her.
She knows that the externals of religious observance must be endowed with a large measure of sensuous charm if they would seize hold upon the affections of the bulk of mankind. She knows that spiritual aspiration and the excitement of the senses can never be entirely separated in actual public worship, and she would run the risk of subordinating the first to the second rather than offer a service of bare intellectuality empty of those persuasions which artistic genius offers, and which are so potent to bend the heart in reverence and submission".
EDWARD DICKINSON Professor of the History of Music, in the Conservatory of Music, Oberlin College
5. Illumination research brought up many examples.
6. an Orthodox view on the Theology of the Face
7. The Nativity of the Lord - Spiritual reflection
Benedict XVI, Urbi Et Orbi Message, Christmas 2010
“The Word became flesh”. Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love.
Those who love desire to share with the beloved, they want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great love story of God for his people which culminated in Jesus Christ. […]
God is Love... In himself he is communion, Unity in Trinity, and all his words and works are directed to communion. The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary… creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space. […]
In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith... If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the “yes” of our hearts."
9. The truth is that the painting of icons of God the Father as an old man has a history in the Russian Orthodox Church of at least some 600 years;...
10. update 7/9/2014 blogger post
“I used to think of God as an old man with a big white beard who sits up in the sky. Obviously, now I realize this is ridiculous. Christianity is just plain fantasy.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard fallen-away Catholics make comments like these. Cartoon images of a bearded God or angels with wings have embedded themselves into our subconscious. Heck, even Michelangelo painted God this way in his famous Creation.
But we have to remember that images of immaterial beings were never meant to be taken literally. They are but symbols meant to teach us abstract, metaphysical truths which the imagination alone cannot grasp. Michelangelo’s rendering of God was much less a literal depiction than it was a commentary on God’s wisdom, timelessness, and eternality.
We are human, and we love images. But even holy images can inoculate us to the truth if we are not careful. We must never let a physical image replace a spiritual reality, or allow the imagination to trump the intellect in the task of discerning what is true.
“There is nothing to be done with the intellect until imagination has been put firmly in its place.” – Frank Sheed source
Trinity in Art
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“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.” (St. André Bessette)