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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

St John of Damascus on icons

. . . images are books for the illiterate and silent heralds of the honour of the saints, teaching those who see with a soundless voice and sanctifying the sight. . . I may not have many books, nor much time to read, but strangled with thoughts, as if with thorns, I come into the common surgery of the soul, the church; the luster of the painting draws me to vision and delights my sight like a meadow and imperceptibly introduces my soul of the glory of God. . .

Shall I not paint in words and in colours the martyrdom of the martyrs and embrace with eyes and lips "what is wonderful to angels and the whole creation, painful to the devil and fearful to demons", as the same beacon of the Church [St John Chrysostom] said? Or his words at the end of the homily in which he praises the Forty Martyrs:

O holy chorus, O sacred condition, O unbroken phalanx. . .most powerful ambassadors, stars of the inhabited world, flowers of the Church. . .the earth did not hide you, but heaven received you. The gates of paradise were opened to you, a sight worthy of the army of the angels, worthy of patriarchs, of prophets, of the just.

-- Treatise 1, On the Divine Images
trans. Andrew Louth

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