"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, August 8, 2016

In the Beginning Was the Image

As I have often noted over the years, interest in icons is at perhaps an all-time high as Protestants, Roman Catholics, and others have "discovered" icons in the last two decades, with many books written by authors from these traditions about icons, and many classes in icon painting being taken by them in parish workshops across the country. To the extent that this helps the West over come its ongoing difficulty with Nicaea II's theology of images, and thus its iconoclasm (an ongoing problem even today), these must be counted encouraging developments.

Along comes another development in Western uses of iconography. Released this year in paperback is a book first published two years ago in hardback: Sigurd Bergmann, In the Beginning is the Icon (Routledge, 2016), 320pp.

About this book we are told:
Icons provide depictions of God or encounters with the divine that enable reflection and prayer. 'In the Beginning is the Icon' explores the value of these images for a theology of liberation. Iconology, art theory, philosophical aesthetics, art history and anthropology are integrated with rigorous theological reflection to argue that the creation and observation of pictures can have a liberating effect on humanity. In presenting art from across the world, 'In the Beginning is the Icon' reflects the ethnocentricity of both art and religious studies and offers a new cross-cultural approach to the theology of art.

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