Monday, February 05, 2007

Icons and the Eastern Church

As you probably know from my profile on my blog, I am a Religious Studies major. I always spend much time debating about what classes I am going to take each term. There is so much selection and so many interesting courses at the UofA. This term I signed up for a class called "Eastern Orthodoxy". I went to the first class and almost decided to drop it because I realized that it was going to be a lot of history.

I'm so glad that I stayed in the class. I'm actually enjoying all the history lessons. I've always been intrigued about who the Byzantines actually are and why doesn't Constantinople exist anymore or was it actually an imaginary place? Now I know and I can fit all the pieces together. The Eastern Church is left out of many Christian histories. I've learned about the reformation and about the branch off of all the Protestant churches, I've even learned more of the History of the Catholic church and the councils. While the Reformation was happening there was a separate development in the eastern world. I've been introduced to bits and pieces through reference in some books I've read, but I never really put it all together. I never learned where these people came from or what kind of environment they developed their view of God in.

I've become fascinated with their icons. They are so beautiful. This is an image of St. Searphim. He became a monk in 1793. He is one of the best known Russian monks/mystics. He lived a reclusive life and spent much time in the forest praying. This icon shows him kneeling on a rock praying and it is believed that he spent 1000 days and nights praying on this stone. He also was a very sought after spiritual director or as the Russians say a "Staretz". Many pilgrims sought after him for spiritual advice. These icons provide a visual reminder of admirable people who lived a life in devotion to God.

This is just one of the fascinating people that I get to learn about for my presentation on Wednesday. As much as I enjoy what the Professor brings up in class, I most enjoy the essay/presentation component of a course as I get to research what interests me most. I read and read and read . . . I love reading. I'm so glad that this presentation is at the beginning of the term so I have so much more time to read and learn about Russian Mysticism/Monasticism.

Here is another unique icon of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her womb. I was looking through many icons and this provided the most interesting depiction of Mary and Jesus. It shows just how amazing it is that God came to earth through a human. He came to be one of us and yet still God. That is amazing that he loves us in that way. Icons help me to see these events that I've learned about in new and fresh ways.


Christy said...

Hello Avery (Julie's roommate)

I really like your blog. I think it very wise for us Westerners to study other traditions in Christianity. Its a good reminder that we are not the only ones who know God.
I hate to tell you, but I didn't know of your existence until you left a post on my blog! Say hello to your roomies for me - Carrie, Julie, Carlynne and anyone else who happens to live there.

Avery said...


Yes, I'm really lucky to be in Religious studies, I get to study other traditions every day:)

That's ok that you didn't know me. I didn't really know you either, I just checked Julie's links. Julie just told me that you were Carrie's roommate too and of course you know Carlynne.


Take care and enjoy your new home in BC and your new job (in Speech Path right?).


Amanda said...

very interesting... the whole art thing interests me too... i'm taking a course on "CANADA" and art is used to very often to depict what we're trying to understand

Peter said...

I would love to take this class. I've read McGurkin's book The Book of Mystical Chapters, and I've gotten back into Dostoevsky. The tradition somehow has been speaking to me for the past few years. Give you joy for sticking with the class!

Avery said...

The traditions of the Eastern church definitely speak to me as well. I think that's how I started to subscribe to your newsletter - I noticed some of the books that you had read, that I was interested in too.

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