What Is The History Of Icons In The Catholic Church?

Icons are specifically a form of religious image that was developed in the East. We started with icons together, but there was the Iconoclastic heresy in the East. Iconoclasm was a heresy that took God’s command not to create molten images a little bit too far. It said, “Well, in the Old Testament, God said you cannot create any images, therefore any image, including religious images, are evil.” But then the reflection came about, and we recognized, “Well, no. Actually, Jesus Christ is the image of the Father. Whoever sees me sees the Father,” as Christ said. Jesus Christ, or you could say almost God, was the first one to create an image of himself through the humanity of Jesus Christ. So, by the Incarnation, God opened up the gates for this creation of images of sacred things. Because Jesus Christ was the first one, actually, it’s not only okay, it’s actually a good thing to create images of these sacred things. They had the Iconoclastic heresies that they struggled through, but they still kind of had that tilt a little bit in which they’re just very hesitant toward religious images. That caused their religious art, specifically in icons, to be a little bit kept in stasis. It didn’t continue to develop as an art form. Iconography, the creating of icons that is done now, is very similar to what was done 1300 years ago. Whereas in the West, our art forms continued to develop. Now we have statuary and realism, things of that sort, where you look at an image in a Western church and oftentimes it looks very realistic because essentially, our art continued to develop in that way. Both are these images representations of the saints or of Jesus Christ, one of the divine persons, or one of the mysteries of Christ’s life. Those are there to remind us of what they represent, to draw our hearts towards, first off, following what they represent, living the life that those images are proclaiming or that saint lived, or the life of Christ, or whatever mystery of the life of Christ it’s representing. Also, to, in a sense, kind of remind us that it helps us to learn and know more about that saint or that person of the Trinity or that mystery of Christ’s life.

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