Revista Studii Teologice


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Iconic şi eclesiologic în teologia Părintelui Dumitru Stăniloae

From creation to the prophetic symbol

Autor(i): Pr. Gabriel HEREA

The theological writings of Father Professor Dumitru Stăniloae provide an outstanding synthesis of patristic texts undertaken by the author. The results of research carried out by Father Stăniloae in the 20th century is living proof of the dynamic character of the Church Tradition. The books written during the early Christian centuries evince a coherent theological view on the world and its Creator, as well as the fact that those centuries’ Christians employed effective practical met-hods to reach out to God. Father Dumitru Stăniloae translated into Romanian and gave a modern interpretation to many of the early Christian texts.
We begin our analysis of the iconological stance taken by Father Stăniloae in his writings, by mentioning that it belongs to a well-defined theological corpus inten-ded to prepare the people for reaching the Kingdom of Heaven, by activating the unifying potentiality contained by matter, and by building up the Church. The text hereby summarized follows the way in which icons are part of this process and stres-ses their instrumentality in sustaining it.
The material employed in the icon makes the matter relevant to it. The crea-ted matter, sensible by its nature, is organized by God by way of His rationalities. Father Dumitru Stăniloae terms the organizing principles of matter „plasticized ratio-nalities” and sees them as „symbolic images”. But God has not only given order to the material world, He has also provided man with the ability to grasp the rationaliti-es offered by Him to the world. Thus, the symbol emerges at the boundary between the visible and the unseen world, and by its spiritual understanding man’s universal priesthood is exerted. Father Stăniloae identifies a „special symbol of transcendent reality”, playing a constant role throughout its material existence, and a „prophetic symbol”, respectively, concerning the Old Testament messianic prophecy that ma-intained people’s hope in the incarnation of Christ. Prophetic symbols, however, were „a wall of too little transparency between man and God, rather a divide which only the Incarnation of the Word brought down.”
The revealed image plays an essential role in the icon’s ontology. Father Du-mitru Stăniloae says that the „revealed image” appears at the boundary between the spiritual and the material worlds. Thus man, made of body and soul, dwells in the cosmic space appropriate for the revealed image. The Incarnation of Christ God per-fectly activates this human quality, as „in Christ, God actually makes human nature into the most adequate image”. No image employed in the Old Testament worship had the quality of an icon, but only that of a prophetic symbol. The icon appeared upon the Incarnation of our Saviour. Father Stăniloae speaks of the „natural icon” of Christ, an icon that becomes the prototype of „man-made icon”. There is an ontologi-cal difference between the two types of „icon”, as the natural icon „although it is a different hypostasis from its prototype, it is united by nature with the prototype”, while „the man-made icon, although it represents the hypostasis of the prototype, is ontologically different from the prototype, and is merely like the prototype but not united with it”.
Christ’s icon „joins historical and eschatological dimensions, the earthly life and the glorious heavenly one. The icon renders the historical life transfigured and imbued with eternity.” The interaction between viewer and icon engenders a complex phenomenon with both cataphatic-anamnetic dimensions, and apophatic symbols that provide the viewer with insights into a „space of a different category”, which Father Stăniloae terms a „superdefined space”. The aim is to „experience” God and „esta-blish a bond” with the Holy Virgin and all the saints, mediated by the icon and prayer.
The possibilities opened to man by prayer, in the presence of icons, are per-fectly actualized in the Church as a place of worship. Here the icon belongs to an extensive iconographic program that interacts with the iconostasis, with the symbolic significance of worship items, with the iconic quality of liturgical gestures and the message of hymnographic texts. At the core of this interaction is Jesus Christ who is actually present in the Mystery of the Eucharist. Father Stăniloae wrote about the place of worship: „to the faithful, the Church as liturgical space is a different world or a transfigured created world, or undergoing transfiguration, it is a world that abo-lishes the separation between past, present and the eschatological future, between heaven and earth, between the created and the uncreated. The icons greatly contri-bute to this perception of the character of the Church.” The quality as a transfigured universe of the Church- place of worship is generated by the actual presence of Jesus Christ – God. This state becomes permanent due to the presence of God through the Body and Blood of Christ in the chalice on the Holy Table.
The iconographic program inside the church building provides iconic support to the reality of Christocentric unification. „...the icons of saints render not only what was human in them, but also the dwelling of Christ within them while they are still living on earth, a present state increasingly united with Christ”. The joining of imma-nence and transcendence, a state achieved by saints during their lives, is expressed by icons and thus brought into the life of Church community. The communion achie-ved by saints in their relationship with Christ is thus proposed to the faithful contem-plating the icon. „...this communion reaches its climax in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, although the faithful prepare for it through the prayers of the entire Holy Liturgy. This is why it has been said that the icons surro-unding the worshippers in the church have a liturgical character and purpose, or their contents serves their preparation for the Eucharistic communion. The entire cosmos is centered upon the Eucharist.”
The conclusion of our analysis is that Father Dumitru Stăniloae is concerned with the practical utility of the icon. Revealing the topicality of patristic theology re-garding man’s journey from the sensible to the intelligible world, Father Stăniloae integrates the icon as worship item into the liturgical effort that aims at the cosmic unification of the created world, around the Creator. According to the contemporary theologian whose writings are a fruitful tree deeply rooted into the ground of patristic theology, the icon and liturgy can only be considered in the perspective of ecclesial unification.

Pagini: 55-88