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Any converts found a helpful approach to these?

wooster

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I don’t know how many of you will have read my other posts as I stumble along my uneducated and naive enquiry into Orthodoxy but I’m feeling a bit anxious and frustrated. Here’s why.

I love so much about Orthodoxy. Its explanations of original sin and its effects, the atonement, liturgy and so many other issues which I found baffling for years have been a real source of joy to me.

All this is calls me very strongly. However, there are three things which disturb me. I guess you might not be surprised to learn that they are prayers to Saints and Mary for intercession, icons, and the position of Mary.

I’m going to be frank and hope no one gets offended but there’s no sense in me being anything other than honest. Please accept that I am coming from a place of genuine desire for truth.

I realise icons are helpful for many people and I understand why they feel fondness and even reverence for them but I am uncomfortable with them and I cannot see how acknowledging them in worship should be compulsory. I have read explanations online and in books but to be honest, I’ve found every explanation to be weak and I can’t accept any reason for their forced use. Neither can I accept that these were used by the early church in this way, and the evidence I've seen suggests to me that these were an innovation much later aided by political issues. Obviously, I'm not a professional theologian or church historian but I'm doing my best!

I have no issue honouring the Saints and Mary and realise they ought to command extremely high respect from all Christians but I cannot get my head around praying to them. In particular, I just cannot get easy with the mindset which elevates Mary to her extraordinary status shown by the exhortation at the end of the liturgy “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. This just seems so wrong to me. Again, I have read a few defences and explanations but none of them convinces me.

Again, please accept this is not to offend but to ask for help. I am sadly coming to the conclusion that these might be things which are unresolved blocks for me. I wonder if anyone from a protestant or other background has ever felt this way and if they found anything helpful to get them around these seemingly impenetrable barriers?

Thank you
 

Irened

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I know you've said you read a lot but here are two more readings that many help regarding Mary, the Theotokos:

1. https://stvasiliosbrunswick.com/2021/08/14/the-earliest-known-prayer-to-the-theotokos/

2. https://www.protomartyr.org/our-faith/facing-up-to-mary/

I've read an account of a convert to Orthodoxy who struggled with these same matters, but rather than force himself or agonize about it he simply put it in God's hands to work it out for him and let go and as a natural result of doing that, mystically by God's grace over time he just one day had peace about it and was then able to freely venerate, etc. Sometimes reading helps but sometimes these are matters God seems to quietly resolve at a heart/soul level.
 
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noahzarc1

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I don’t know how many of you will have read my other posts as I stumble along my uneducated and naive enquiry into Orthodoxy but I’m feeling a bit anxious and frustrated. Here’s why.

I love so much about Orthodoxy. Its explanations of original sin and its effects, the atonement, liturgy and so many other issues which I found baffling for years have been a real source of joy to me.

All this is calls me very strongly. However, there are three things which disturb me. I guess you might not be surprised to learn that they are prayers to Saints and Mary for intercession, icons, and the position of Mary.

I’m going to be frank and hope no one gets offended but there’s no sense in me being anything other than honest. Please accept that I am coming from a place of genuine desire for truth.

I realise icons are helpful for many people and I understand why they feel fondness and even reverence for them but I am uncomfortable with them and I cannot see how acknowledging them in worship should be compulsory. I have read explanations online and in books but to be honest, I’ve found every explanation to be weak and I can’t accept any reason for their forced use. Neither can I accept that these were used by the early church in this way, and the evidence I've seen suggests to me that these were an innovation much later aided by political issues. Obviously, I'm not a professional theologian or church historian but I'm doing my best!

I have no issue honouring the Saints and Mary and realise they ought to command extremely high respect from all Christians but I cannot get my head around praying to them. In particular, I just cannot get easy with the mindset which elevates Mary to her extraordinary status shown by the exhortation at the end of the liturgy “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. This just seems so wrong to me. Again, I have read a few defences and explanations but none of them convinces me.

Again, please accept this is not to offend but to ask for help. I am sadly coming to the conclusion that these might be things which are unresolved blocks for me. I wonder if anyone from a protestant or other background has ever felt this way and if they found anything helpful to get them around these seemingly impenetrable barriers?

Thank you
I would say be careful of the words you use. You say things like "impenetrable barriers," "stumble along" "uneducated" etc. I think in a previous post I may have suggested you have to go and experience and mainly observe. These impenetrable barriers you mention are not for you. You're not even Orthodox yet. They are what you observe the Orthodox practicing. If you go anywhere in the world, they will be what you will observe the Orthodox practicing. In 20 years if you're still in the same place (which I doubt) they will be what the Orthodox will be practicing. Besides, these things are not barriers, your lack of acceptance of these practices is the barrier.

The angst and the frustration may be your confrontation with the truth. What you were taught as a protestant as necessary, reasonable and required is now being confronted with the reality of the Church, which is the pillar and ground of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15.) I am sure no one here is offended. Many people here are Protestant converts to Orthodoxy. You are probably the most offended person in this thread, but it is understandable. You are being honest, and that is the best place to start in coming to the Church of the Living God.
 

RaphaCam

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"When I became a Christian I voluntarily crucified my mind, and all the crosses that I bear have been only a source of joy for me." (St. Seraphim of Platina)

I strongly recommend this text by St. Isaac the Syrian. It won't give you any answers you're consciously looking for, but I hope it can be a source of reflection on why @noahzarc1 thinks and I agree that your current place is that big of an issue.
 

Ainnir

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I don’t know how many of you will have read my other posts as I stumble along my uneducated and naive enquiry into Orthodoxy but I’m feeling a bit anxious and frustrated. Here’s why.

I love so much about Orthodoxy. Its explanations of original sin and its effects, the atonement, liturgy and so many other issues which I found baffling for years have been a real source of joy to me.

All this is calls me very strongly. However, there are three things which disturb me. I guess you might not be surprised to learn that they are prayers to Saints and Mary for intercession, icons, and the position of Mary.

I’m going to be frank and hope no one gets offended but there’s no sense in me being anything other than honest. Please accept that I am coming from a place of genuine desire for truth.

I realise icons are helpful for many people and I understand why they feel fondness and even reverence for them but I am uncomfortable with them and I cannot see how acknowledging them in worship should be compulsory. I have read explanations online and in books but to be honest, I’ve found every explanation to be weak and I can’t accept any reason for their forced use. Neither can I accept that these were used by the early church in this way, and the evidence I've seen suggests to me that these were an innovation much later aided by political issues. Obviously, I'm not a professional theologian or church historian but I'm doing my best!

I have no issue honouring the Saints and Mary and realise they ought to command extremely high respect from all Christians but I cannot get my head around praying to them. In particular, I just cannot get easy with the mindset which elevates Mary to her extraordinary status shown by the exhortation at the end of the liturgy “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. This just seems so wrong to me. Again, I have read a few defences and explanations but none of them convinces me.

Again, please accept this is not to offend but to ask for help. I am sadly coming to the conclusion that these might be things which are unresolved blocks for me. I wonder if anyone from a protestant or other background has ever felt this way and if they found anything helpful to get them around these seemingly impenetrable barriers?

Thank you
The existence of icons themselves didn't bother me, but kissing them did. For a variety of reasons, nearly all of my ability to have any holistic experience had been shut off. But because the theology drew me so much and because so many places (including here!) said "go and see," "attend," "go see," I attended and just watched. No one forced me to do anything or chastised me for not venerating any icons. My first attempt at venerating was to nod in the direction of the icon. ☺ It was all I could manage... and if we're giving all we've got at the moment, hopefully God will bless that. Venerating the blessing cross and the chalice was easier... it made sense. Venerating icons has become easier as I've gotten to know the saints, and it just came naturally over time.

I'm sure I've said something similar before, but before you can really understand veneration of anyone or anything, you need to wrap your heart around the concept of a holistic Faith life. If there's a disconnect between the physical and the spiritual within you, there will naturally be a struggle to do spiritual things in a physical sense. If you haven't read "Everywhere Present" by Fr. Stephen Freeman, it might be a good read.

I've always liked the more Catholic allusions to Mary, so learning about the Theotokos through the Orthodox Church wasn't as much of a stumbling block for me. When we ask her to "save us," it's not through her own power or because she's inherently divine. She saves us like the ark saved Noah and his family. She saves us through prayerful petitions to her Son. She saves us by being a holy example of devotion and purity. In Luke 7, Christ tells the woman who washed His feet with her tears that her faith has saved her. In 1 Peter 3, Saint Peter writes, "Baptism now saves you." In 1 Corinthians 9, Saint Paul says he has become all things to all men that by all means he might save some. Is God left out in these instances as if He isn't the Author of salvation? Of course not. They are all things through which He saves us. The same is doubly true for the Theotokos because through her, Christ incarnated.

Prayer to saints was a bit more difficult, and I still don't do it all that much in my personal prayer life. Not because I'm opposed to it so much as it's just not a habit I've formed yet. And again, it helped to get to know the saints first. But it might be less aversive to you if you view prayer in general as a means of communication and connection rather than an inherent act of worship. Yes, we worship God through prayer, but we also petition Him and repent through prayer. It's more of a disposition, in a way (one I definitely haven't mastered). And in regard to the saints, we are soliciting their intercessions in addition to our own prayers to God. Revelation 5 and 8 make reference to the prayers of the saints. But like veneration, no one forces me to or keeps tabs on how many times I pray to the saints.

I hope something in there helps, and I second what noahzarc said. I experienced that to some degree, too, but I was in serious need of healing when I went found Orthodoxy, so the major hurdles I had to jump were a little different and not actually inside the Church. Faith is, in general, a lot of letting go of things you don't want to and trusting God to give you back only what is good for you.
 

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Give yourself time to just go and see and just be present in the Divine Liturgy without dissecting anything. Go meet God. All these things shall be added unto you.
 

TheTrisagion

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What you are experiencing is what just about every person who first encounters Orthodoxy from an evangelical Protestant tradition experiences. I know I did. The best advice that I can give is don't try to swallow all of it at the same time. Accept the things that you can accept, and ignore the rest. Over time, it will start to make more sense. Orthodoxy has a lot that is difficult to understand in isolation, but makes more sense as you become more familiar with it. Some of this simply has to do with the fact that it was originally all argued, and explained in Greek in a culture that we are completely unfamiliar with. Now, we are dealing with translations and foreign cultural issues.

Growing up, even having a picture of Jesus in church was a big taboo. We had a cross hanging up and that was it. To go from that to Orthodoxy was a massive culture shock. Walking in and seeing a huge icon of Mary in the front of the church was deeply uncomfortable for me. The one thing I did know, was that when I read the early Church Fathers, the theology was far closer to Orthodoxy than any other version of Christianity I had encountered, so I focused on worship and meditating on the language of the prayers to God. I can't really explain how, but the rest of the things just gradually fell into place. It did take several years though.

Best of wishes on your journey wherever it may take you!
 
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Personally, as far as I know, you are not required to display physical reverence of icons. This is a matter of personal piety whatever the proportion of a congregation may express itself. It is important to just realize the icons are vital displays of our living faith beginning with the Lord Himself ( see Colossians 1:15 & read all of Colossians 1). I would also read all of Hebrews 11 & Hebrews 12:1 to see how icons express the cloud of witnesses. I believe if you can understand the icons in the proper context of overall faith a greater understanding can be reached. How you externally venerate icons is up to you ( as far as I know).

As far as prayer with the saints, there is a brief mention of this in Revelation 8:1-6. While it may seem a bit hazy in a scripture sense, it is one of those aspects of holy tradition. While that may seem vague, there is ancient attestation to this. This is found in the book of Enoch ( which is in the Bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church):



CHAPTER 39
1In those days shall the elect and holy race descend from the upper heavens, and their seed shall then be with the sons of men. Enoch received books of indignation and wrath, and books of hurry and agitation.
2Never shall they obtain mercy, saith the Lord of spirits.
3A cloud then snatched me up, and the wind raised me above the sur- face of the earth, placing me at the extremity of the heavens.
4There I saw another vision; I saw the habitations and resting places of the saints. There my eyes beheld their habitations with the angels, and their resting places with the holy ones. They were entreating, supplicating, and pray- ing for the sons of men; while righteousness like water flowed before them, and mercy like dew was scattered over the earth. And thus shall it be with them for ever and for ever.
5At that time my eyes beheld the dwelling of the elect, of truth, faith, and righteousness.
6Countless shall be the number of the holy and the elect, in the pres- ence of God for ever and for ever.


I don’t want to start a tangent about the book of Enoch or whatever, I am just trying to illustrate an example of the relation of the tradition scripture is part of. Another example of Enoch is a rather clear account of the Trinity and a correlation to Daniel 7:9-10 seems undeniable:



CHAPTER 46
1There I beheld the Ancient of days, whose head was like white wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of man. His countenance was full of grace, like that of one of the holy angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was and why he accompanied the Ancient of days.
2He answered and said to me, This is the Son of man, to whom righ- teousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt; and who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed: for the Lord of spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of spirits in everlasting uprightness.
3This Son of man, whom you behold, shall raise up kings and the mighty from their dwelling places, and the powerful from their thrones; shall loosen the bri- dles of the powerful, and break in pieces the teeth of sinners.
4He shall hurl kings from their thrones and their dominions;
because they will not exalt and praise him, nor humble them- selves before him, by whom their kingdoms were granted to them. The countenance likewise of the mighty shall He cast down, filling them with confusion. Darkness shall be their habitation, and worms shall be their bed; nor from that their bed shall they hope to be again raised, because they exalted not the name of the Lord of spirits.
5They shall condemn the stars of heaven, shall lift up their hands against the Most High, shall tread upon and inhabit the earth, exhib- iting all their acts of iniquity, even their works of iniquity. Their strength shall be in their riches, and their faith in the gods whom they have formed with their own hands. They shall deny the name of the Lord of spirits, and shall expel him from the temples, in which they assemble;
6And with him the faithful,a who suffer in the name of the Lord of spirits.
CHAPTER 47
1In that day the prayer of the ho


Hope my post is sensible & helpful.
 

wooster

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Thank you all for your supportive messages which I truly appreciate.

My objections to the use of icons isn't the image being made of Christ itself but the kissing and bowing that go with it.It's really a matter of conscience. I notice a lot of commentators seem to deviate from this into a discussion of the Incarnation allowing the depiction of Christ but this isn't my issue at all. When I grew up we had stained glass windows and pictures representing Jesus, and nobody blinked an eyelid at them, but of course, no-one kissed or venerated them. I get that people argue that it is not the icon itself being venerated but the depicted person but that argument doesn't hold water for me.

I was under the impression that types of venerations had been described and required by ecumenical council and enforced by church authorities. It's possible I am wrong and I will need to re-read about this. Obviously, if it wasn't required by the church then I'd be less troubled by it

I'm sure it isn't helpful for me to get too much into it on here and the best I can manage is to ignore it for now.
 

Irened

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Thank you all for your supportive messages which I truly appreciate.

My objections to the use of icons isn't the image being made of Christ itself but the kissing and bowing that go with it.It's really a matter of conscience. I notice a lot of commentators seem to deviate from this into a discussion of the Incarnation allowing the depiction of Christ but this isn't my issue at all. When I grew up we had stained glass windows and pictures representing Jesus, and nobody blinked an eyelid at them, but of course, no-one kissed or venerated them. I get that people argue that it is not the icon itself being venerated but the depicted person but that argument doesn't hold water for me.

I was under the impression that types of venerations had been described and required by ecumenical council and enforced by church authorities. It's possible I am wrong and I will need to re-read about this. Obviously, if it wasn't required by the church then I'd be less troubled by it

I'm sure it isn't helpful for me to get too much into it on here and the best I can manage is to ignore it for now.
I think you are correct, the veneration including kissing of icons is required by the councils.

I've read that the act of bowing and kissing was borrowed from the region which Orthodoxy evolved, the east and middle east, where people especially loved ones would greet each other with a kiss and a bow even. Look to Asia now even present day and see how everyone bows to each other in respect and humility. In Orthodoxy it seems that extends to the person best through their depiction in the icon.
 

J Michael

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It may be useful:

An exposition of the teaching of the Orthodox Church about the Mother of God.

I don't know if there is an English translation.

As for prayers to the saints, modesty adorns a person. Do not climb to the Creator with my dirty mind and heart, but turn to people close to God for mediation.
Here's a google translate translation of it, but I'd love to know who the author is.
 

Shanghaiski

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I don’t know how many of you will have read my other posts as I stumble along my uneducated and naive enquiry into Orthodoxy but I’m feeling a bit anxious and frustrated. Here’s why.

I love so much about Orthodoxy. Its explanations of original sin and its effects, the atonement, liturgy and so many other issues which I found baffling for years have been a real source of joy to me.

All this is calls me very strongly. However, there are three things which disturb me. I guess you might not be surprised to learn that they are prayers to Saints and Mary for intercession, icons, and the position of Mary.

I’m going to be frank and hope no one gets offended but there’s no sense in me being anything other than honest. Please accept that I am coming from a place of genuine desire for truth.

I realise icons are helpful for many people and I understand why they feel fondness and even reverence for them but I am uncomfortable with them and I cannot see how acknowledging them in worship should be compulsory. I have read explanations online and in books but to be honest, I’ve found every explanation to be weak and I can’t accept any reason for their forced use. Neither can I accept that these were used by the early church in this way, and the evidence I've seen suggests to me that these were an innovation much later aided by political issues. Obviously, I'm not a professional theologian or church historian but I'm doing my best!

I have no issue honouring the Saints and Mary and realise they ought to command extremely high respect from all Christians but I cannot get my head around praying to them. In particular, I just cannot get easy with the mindset which elevates Mary to her extraordinary status shown by the exhortation at the end of the liturgy “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. This just seems so wrong to me. Again, I have read a few defences and explanations but none of them convinces me.

Again, please accept this is not to offend but to ask for help. I am sadly coming to the conclusion that these might be things which are unresolved blocks for me. I wonder if anyone from a protestant or other background has ever felt this way and if they found anything helpful to get them around these seemingly impenetrable barriers?

Thank you
You don't think Mary was extraordinary? Who else gave birth to God in the flesh? She lent her flesh to God, and it's a debt God cannot repay in kind. without undoing his work of salvation Just as her son is the unique God-Man, she is unique among all people. It was God who exalted her, not us. Prior to the Incarnation of the Logos, God had a throne of angels. Afterward, his throne is Mary. She is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Ark. Then was the shadow, now is the reality.

But you will never be convinced rationally, because, frankly, the works of God are beyond any human rationality, confounding all human reason -- and we sing this in hymns to the Mother of God many times. Also, until you realize your need for her, until you actually commence the spiritual warfare as a soldier of Christ, instead of simply having the warfare happen to you, you will not understand either her importance nor the swiftness of her help and the greatness of her authority over created things and her boldness before her Son.

At some point, if you really want to know, you must cast aside your discomfort and the notion that you know anything at all about how Christianity should be practiced, and simply accept the Orthodox Church as your teacher and learn from her.

If you are not actually attending Orthodox services, it is essential that you do so regularly so that you can know Orthodoxy experientially.
 

Shanghaiski

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Personally, as far as I know, you are not required to display physical reverence of icons. This is a matter of personal piety whatever the proportion of a congregation may express itself. It is important to just realize the icons are vital displays of our living faith beginning with the Lord Himself ( see Colossians 1:15 & read all of Colossians 1). I would also read all of Hebrews 11 & Hebrews 12:1 to see how icons express the cloud of witnesses. I believe if you can understand the icons in the proper context of overall faith a greater understanding can be reached. How you externally venerate icons is up to you ( as far as I know).

As far as prayer with the saints, there is a brief mention of this in Revelation 8:1-6. While it may seem a bit hazy in a scripture sense, it is one of those aspects of holy tradition. While that may seem vague, there is ancient attestation to this. This is found in the book of Enoch ( which is in the Bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church):



CHAPTER 39
1In those days shall the elect and holy race descend from the upper heavens, and their seed shall then be with the sons of men. Enoch received books of indignation and wrath, and books of hurry and agitation.
2Never shall they obtain mercy, saith the Lord of spirits.
3A cloud then snatched me up, and the wind raised me above the sur- face of the earth, placing me at the extremity of the heavens.
4There I saw another vision; I saw the habitations and resting places of the saints. There my eyes beheld their habitations with the angels, and their resting places with the holy ones. They were entreating, supplicating, and pray- ing for the sons of men; while righteousness like water flowed before them, and mercy like dew was scattered over the earth. And thus shall it be with them for ever and for ever.
5At that time my eyes beheld the dwelling of the elect, of truth, faith, and righteousness.
6Countless shall be the number of the holy and the elect, in the pres- ence of God for ever and for ever.


I don’t want to start a tangent about the book of Enoch or whatever, I am just trying to illustrate an example of the relation of the tradition scripture is part of. Another example of Enoch is a rather clear account of the Trinity and a correlation to Daniel 7:9-10 seems undeniable:



CHAPTER 46
1There I beheld the Ancient of days, whose head was like white wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of man. His countenance was full of grace, like that of one of the holy angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was and why he accompanied the Ancient of days.
2He answered and said to me, This is the Son of man, to whom righ- teousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt; and who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed: for the Lord of spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of spirits in everlasting uprightness.
3This Son of man, whom you behold, shall raise up kings and the mighty from their dwelling places, and the powerful from their thrones; shall loosen the bri- dles of the powerful, and break in pieces the teeth of sinners.
4He shall hurl kings from their thrones and their dominions;
because they will not exalt and praise him, nor humble them- selves before him, by whom their kingdoms were granted to them. The countenance likewise of the mighty shall He cast down, filling them with confusion. Darkness shall be their habitation, and worms shall be their bed; nor from that their bed shall they hope to be again raised, because they exalted not the name of the Lord of spirits.
5They shall condemn the stars of heaven, shall lift up their hands against the Most High, shall tread upon and inhabit the earth, exhib- iting all their acts of iniquity, even their works of iniquity. Their strength shall be in their riches, and their faith in the gods whom they have formed with their own hands. They shall deny the name of the Lord of spirits, and shall expel him from the temples, in which they assemble;
6And with him the faithful,a who suffer in the name of the Lord of spirits.
CHAPTER 47
1In that day the prayer of the ho


Hope my post is sensible & helpful.
Physical veneration of icons is not optional.
 

Shanghaiski

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Thank you all for your supportive messages which I truly appreciate.

My objections to the use of icons isn't the image being made of Christ itself but the kissing and bowing that go with it.It's really a matter of conscience. I notice a lot of commentators seem to deviate from this into a discussion of the Incarnation allowing the depiction of Christ but this isn't my issue at all. When I grew up we had stained glass windows and pictures representing Jesus, and nobody blinked an eyelid at them, but of course, no-one kissed or venerated them. I get that people argue that it is not the icon itself being venerated but the depicted person but that argument doesn't hold water for me.

I was under the impression that types of venerations had been described and required by ecumenical council and enforced by church authorities. It's possible I am wrong and I will need to re-read about this. Obviously, if it wasn't required by the church then I'd be less troubled by it

I'm sure it isn't helpful for me to get too much into it on here and the best I can manage is to ignore it for now.
The Orthodox Church teaches the sanctification of matter. The Church uses material things for the sanctification of the soul. By prayer, the Holy Spirit sanctifies Holy Communion, holy water, icons, holy oil, holy relics, etc., for the spiritual betterment and sanctification of man and the entire cosmos. This relates to what is the fundamental hope of Christians - the resurrection of our mortal flesh, not some new body and not some spiritual kind of body, but the one we have now, risen, transfigured, godly. It also relates to the Church's dogma of theosis, that by divine grace, man can become what God is by nature. All this teaching is contra gnostic heresy prevalent from ancient times until the present day. And we see this sanctification of matter all throughout the Old and New Testaments.
 

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Physical veneration of icons is not optional.
I agree with what you mean, but not with what you're communicating, and there's a relevant difference. Veneration of icons is a matter of obedience, and obedience is optional by definition. The OP is an inquirer, so he should walk one step at a time in order to grow in obedience...
 

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Thank you all for your supportive messages which I truly appreciate.

My objections to the use of icons isn't the image being made of Christ itself but the kissing and bowing that go with it.It's really a matter of conscience. I notice a lot of commentators seem to deviate from this into a discussion of the Incarnation allowing the depiction of Christ but this isn't my issue at all. When I grew up we had stained glass windows and pictures representing Jesus, and nobody blinked an eyelid at them, but of course, no-one kissed or venerated them. I get that people argue that it is not the icon itself being venerated but the depicted person but that argument doesn't hold water for me.

I was under the impression that types of venerations had been described and required by ecumenical council and enforced by church authorities. It's possible I am wrong and I will need to re-read about this. Obviously, if it wasn't required by the church then I'd be less troubled by it

I'm sure it isn't helpful for me to get too much into it on here and the best I can manage is to ignore it for now.
Veneration is the act of showing reverence or respect to something or someone. The act of bowing or kissing is veneration because that was how the culture of the day demonstrated reverence or respect. Perhaps if it had developed in my culture, it would have involved clearing the throat and an awkward head nod. That isn't how the Middle East rolls though. An icon, as something that is consecrated for the purpose of worship is given that reverence. Similarly we wouldn't take the chalice out to a bar and drink martinis out of it. It has a consecrated purpose and we accord it that due respect, just like the implements in the Jewish temple were consecrated. I suspect even in your church with stained glass, there was an element of respect paid. Perhaps you gazed at the stained glass image thoughtfully and contemplated the depiction. Maybe during Easter, you put flowers around a picture of Jesus. Those are all acts of veneration, the only difference is the cultural lens that you view it through. If we look at the Old Testament, we can see the high priest entering the Holy of Holies, censing the Ark of the Covenant, and placing blood on the four corners. He is worshipping God, but he is also venerating that holy object at the same time. Other than the blood, a priest does the same thing. He goes around and censes the icons; an act of veneration. Even when we greet one another with a holy kiss, or we kiss the hand of the priest, those are all acts of veneration. We show respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we reverence the hand that dispenses the Holy Eucharist.

As I said in my prior post, there are things particularly cultural, that can be hard to accept. Don't force them on yourself. Accept what you can, and ignore what you can't. You can return to it at a later time. There is no rush on joining the Church. For some, it can be 6 months. For me, it took almost 7 years. We all move on our own time table.
 

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I just cannot get easy with the mindset which elevates Mary to her extraordinary status shown by the exhortation at the end of the liturgy “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. This just seems so wrong to me. Again, I have read a few defences and explanations but none of them convinces me.

Again, please accept this is not to offend but to ask for help.
The language of persons saving others is clearly biblical. Christ our Savior uses means, including persons to save:

James 5:20 "remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins."
1 Tim 4:16 "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."
Jude 22-23 "Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."
Rom 11:14 "I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
1 Cor 1:21 "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."
1 Cor 7:16: "How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"
1 Cor 9:22: "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."
Ezek 22:30 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one."
We do not save alone. Mary does not save alone. Christ is the wellspring of our salvation and He said without Me you can do nothing
Jn 15:54.

Orthodox Christians understand that they, and indeed everyone, are not merely responsible for their own sins, but for everyone's, and indeed for the whole cosmos. The brilliant Eastern Orthodox writer Fyodor Dostoevsky captures this biblical and patristic grounded idea well in The Brothers Karamazov where Elder Zossima describes his older brother Markek, a one time atheist who was suddenly and dramatically transformed just before his death:
"'Mother, little heart of mine,' he [Markel] said (he had begun using such strange caressing words at that time), 'little heart of mine, my joy, believe me, every one is really responsible for all men and for everything. I didn't know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even. And how is it we went on then living, getting angry, and not knowing?
...One day is enough for a man to know all happiness
...Birds of heaven, happy birds, forgive me, for I have sinned against you too.' None of us could understand it at the time, but he shed tears of joy, 'Yes,' he said, 'there was such glory of God about me; birds, trees, meadows, sky, only I lived in shame and dishonored it all and did not notice the beauty and glory.'
'You take too many sins on yourself,' mother use to say, weeping. 'Mother darling, it's for joy, not for grief I am crying. Though I can't explain it to you I like to humble myself before them, for I don't know how to love them enough.'"

The early fathers saw Adam's task as not only stewardship over the Garden, but transfiguration of the cosmos; this is in line with St. Paul who speaks of all creation looking toward the eschatalogical condition of the sons of God (Rom 8:19). The condition of creation after the fall should not be isolated from the condition of man after the fall. Man's transfiguration of the cosmos is a two way street and may be positive or negative according to his condition of blessedness or fall.
Romans 8:15-22: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."

One of my favorite bloggers, Fr. Stephen Freeman, illustrates from the Old Testament:
"Genesis 18 concludes with the “concession” that 10 righteous would be enough for which to spare the cities. Of course, it turns out that there are only 8 who are evacuated (Lot and his extended family). It is, however, a principle of note that is revealed: the presence of the righteous preserves the lives of the unrighteous. They are salt and light. As St. James says, “The fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.” (5:16) If we understood the true nature of prayer – our communion with God – we would find every possible occasion to pray. When we enter into prayer in the presence of God, we take our place among the righteous. We become God’s salt and God’s light. It was said in one of the early centuries of the Church that there were three righteous men through whose prayers God sustained the world in existence. We know for a fact, that the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah once depended for a time on the prayers of Abraham. I have a deep confidence that there are at least three who fulfill that role at this time. Every time we stand in prayer, we take our places beside them. There, we become salt and light, no matter the politics and moralities of this world. Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us!"
 
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Thank you all for your help. I am most grateful for the amount of writing and time you have given in responding to my questions. As usual with me, it will take a little time for your words to sink in and I will need to allow for that to happen.
The whole issue is such a leap for me from where I grew up it is very difficult.

In my location, it isn't easy but I am attending services whenever I can. People have been very welcoming and friendly but of course, these also take some adjustment for me. I will keep praying and reading.
 

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I am grateful for all these responses and I’m learning a lot.
 

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I would say be careful of the words you use. You say things like "impenetrable barriers," "stumble along" "uneducated" etc. I think in a previous post I may have suggested you have to go and experience and mainly observe. These impenetrable barriers you mention are not for you. You're not even Orthodox yet. They are what you observe the Orthodox practicing. If you go anywhere in the world, they will be what you will observe the Orthodox practicing. In 20 years if you're still in the same place (which I doubt) they will be what the Orthodox will be practicing. Besides, these things are not barriers, your lack of acceptance of these practices is the barrier.

The angst and the frustration may be your confrontation with the truth. What you were taught as a protestant as necessary, reasonable and required is now being confronted with the reality of the Church, which is the pillar and ground of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15.) I am sure no one here is offended. Many people here are Protestant converts to Orthodoxy. You are probably the most offended person in this thread, but it is understandable. You are being honest, and that is the best place to start in coming to the Church of the Living God.
I haven't posted here in a while and just happened to notice you found your way into the Church! Glory to God!
 

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But no one is policing it. If they are, I haven't visited that church.
The Veneration Police are highly disguised and in every parish. They take notes and photographs. Their dossiers are manifold and bursting to the seams. Their motto: "Почитай или иначе. Нет выбора ( Σεβαστείτε ή αλλιώς. Δεν υπάρχει επιλογή ).*"






*"Venerate or Else. There is no option."
 

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The Veneration Police are highly disguised and in every parish. They take notes and photographs. Their dossiers are manifold and bursting to the seams. Their motto: "Почитай или иначе. Нет выбора ( Σεβαστείτε ή αλλιώς. Δεν υπάρχει επιλογή ).*"






*"Venerate or Else. There is no option."
Therefore you will find in some parishes that they won’t allow photographs.
 

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I never felt comfortable venerating icons, even after becoming Orthodox. I still struggle to see how it isn't a violation of the 2nd commandment. The ancient pagans who bowed to their images didn't actually believe those idols were their gods but that the power of their god resided in them or that the idol somehow made their god present. That is what the 2nd commandment forbids. Honestly, what I've read as far as Orthodox apologetics of icon veneration doesn't sound radically different. Mostly a lot of philosophy of Type/Prototype is engaged to justify it. Very rarely do I ever see an Orthodox Christian attempt to justify icon veneration with Scripture.

Praying to saints doesn't bother me as much. I once read something to the effect that the saints are so united to God that they almost, though never sharing His omniscience, do have a share in the knowledge of the Universal Church and the individual needs of Her members. I think the separation of the spirit from the body also radically changes the ego to where we are made aware of the interconnectedness of the Church. Perhaps this is what is meant by the Communion of Saints. I believe this is much easier to justify Scripturally since we are told to pray for one another. We also know that those who have fallen asleep are alive in Christ.
 

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I never felt comfortable venerating icons, even after becoming Orthodox. I still struggle to see how it isn't a violation of the 2nd commandment. The ancient pagans who bowed to their images didn't actually believe those idols were their gods but that the power of their god resided in them or that the idol somehow made their god present. That is what the 2nd commandment forbids. Honestly, what I've read as far as Orthodox apologetics of icon veneration doesn't sound radically different. Mostly a lot of philosophy of Type/Prototype is engaged to justify it. Very rarely do I ever see an Orthodox Christian attempt to justify icon veneration with Scripture.

Praying to saints doesn't bother me as much. I once read something to the effect that the saints are so united to God that they almost, though never sharing His omniscience, do have a share in the knowledge of the Universal Church and the individual needs of Her members. I think the separation of the spirit from the body also radically changes the ego to where we are made aware of the interconnectedness of the Church. Perhaps this is what is meant by the Communion of Saints. I believe this is much easier to justify Scripturally since we are told to pray for one another. We also know that those who have fallen asleep are alive in Christ.
If you're not already familiar with the resources on this page, you might find some of them enlightening:

especially St. John Damascene's "On The Holy Images". You can get hard copies on Amazon for as little as $6.00+ or a Kindle version for, I think, $0.99.
 

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Are we not to use Scripture to teach, rebuke, correct and instruct in righteousness? 2 Tim 3:16

;)
Yes, but all Scripture verses must be taken, read, and understood in the context in which they appear. One thing (of many) that I learned from Fr. Tom Hopko of blessed memory was that-- to always read and understand in the context (there's that devilish little word again :)) of what the Church teaches and to the extent you are able, the verses, even whole chapters sometimes, that come before and after your Scripture bullet. ;)
 

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A rite - a set of church rules and a complete school of Christian thought and living - can require icons in its worship services, as the Byzantine Rite does, and you have to believe that asking the saints for their prayers is acceptable, but "all can, none must." They're not required like belief in the creed and the Eucharist. As has been explained, Orthodoxy doesn't teach that Mary is your savior. I've been told "Most Holy Mother of God, save us" is a bad translation.
 

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Can we not come boldly to the Throne of Grace because we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ?
Hebrews 4:16
It's not about being shy of prayer, as you can see from our liturgical texts and prayer books. However, we're really far from being as pure as our intercessors (St. Matthew 11:11), who are close to the Throne of Grace (Revelation 8:3-4), so we should trust their boldness when ours is lacking (Job 33:23-24).
 

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Thank you all for your help. I am most grateful for the amount of writing and time you have given in responding to my questions. As usual with me, it will take a little time for your words to sink in and I will need to allow for that to happen.
The whole issue is such a leap for me from where I grew up it is very difficult.

In my location, it isn't easy but I am attending services whenever I can. People have been very welcoming and friendly but of course, these also take some adjustment for me. I will keep praying and reading.
God be with you in your quest!
 

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Oh, goody...a proof-texting contest!! :LOL:
My favorite game.

I never felt comfortable venerating icons, even after becoming Orthodox. I still struggle to see how it isn't a violation of the 2nd commandment. The ancient pagans who bowed to their images didn't actually believe those idols were their gods but that the power of their god resided in them or that the idol somehow made their god present. That is what the 2nd commandment forbids. Honestly, what I've read as far as Orthodox apologetics of icon veneration doesn't sound radically different. Mostly a lot of philosophy of Type/Prototype is engaged to justify it. Very rarely do I ever see an Orthodox Christian attempt to justify icon veneration with Scripture.

Praying to saints doesn't bother me as much. I once read something to the effect that the saints are so united to God that they almost, though never sharing His omniscience, do have a share in the knowledge of the Universal Church and the individual needs of Her members. I think the separation of the spirit from the body also radically changes the ego to where we are made aware of the interconnectedness of the Church. Perhaps this is what is meant by the Communion of Saints. I believe this is much easier to justify Scripturally since we are told to pray for one another. We also know that those who have fallen asleep are alive in Christ.
It's not even an Orthodox source, which I think adds weight here: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/top...n-law,,since I am a foreigner?” 1 Samuel 2:36

There are numerous examples of people bowing to other people, not in mistaken worship but out of obeisance. Usually to someone the recognized as their superior. Several of these specifically say "with their face to the ground."

There are many references that say someone "bowed down and worshiped" the LORD. "and worshiped" is added in most of those cases.

Yes there are instances of people bowing before idols, but there are also references to people worshiping with no mention of bowing being made.

Other references with bowing are associated with grief, and the LORD is actually "unbowing" people.

In Japan (as far as I know), people still bow to each other, and the lower one bows, the greater respect is communicated. If you are not social equals, the person of a lower rank is to bow lower to their superior than the superior does to them. Maybe it's a formality there now, though, idk.

I think the Western (specifically American) aversion to bowing has less to do with concern over worshiping idols and more to do with our cultural lack of humility and a distinct aversion to submitting ourselves to anyone. It's just not woven into our society and thus feels foreign and wrong.
 

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A rite - a set of church rules and a complete school of Christian thought and living - can require icons in its worship services, as the Byzantine Rite does, and you have to believe that asking the saints for their prayers is acceptable, but "all can, none must." They're not required like belief in the creed and the Eucharist.
I'd rather not confuse the OP by discussing what you're arguing, but anyway that's a wrong way of seeing Orthodoxy that was invented in the 20th century... Orthodox tradition teaches a passive posture towards the teachings that are received in spiritual life, while modern (secular) tradition teaches liberty, classification and investigation. Westernised thinkers like Fr. Sergei Bulgakov tried to synthesise both traditions by creating a culture of discussing dogma by its degree of bindingness. This culture seems to have become particularly popular in countries with a Protestant majority like the US, since bindingness is very important from Protestantism.

This text by Sanidopoulos unfortunately doesn't say much about how Orthodoxy should be received, but it makes a great point on how it shouldn't. This short series of texts by the OCA points to it rather than explain it.

As has been explained, Orthodoxy doesn't teach that Mary is your savior.
This is right, but let me make an addition for the OP.

She's not the saviour (we reject the RC idea of coredemptrix), but she might be said to save, so I wouldn't be surprised if Orthodox hymnography calls her a saviour somewhere. It's a particularity of theological language that's seen in the Bible, for example, by the use of the expression "anointed" (from which came "Messiah" and "Christ") to refer to many OT figures (even Cyrus the Great), and also the contrast between antichrists (used even to include anyone who denies the Incarnation) and the Antichrist.

I've been told "Most Holy Mother of God, save us" is a bad translation.
This claim deserves more investigation than I can make now and there might be some truth to it, but from a quick search it seems the verb sṓizō, which is used for Christ's salvation, is definitely used in some Greek Orthodox hymnography.

Anyway, I'm glad you brought the translation thing up, because it made me realise that the OP might benefit from looking into some concepts of philosophy of language, an area sadly overlooked by most of our scholarship. Frege's distinction between sense and reference, Wittgenstein's concept of language game and Jakobson's theses on the poetic function of communication. These can already put a lot of theological/hermeneutical doubt into perspective.
 

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It's not even an Orthodox source, which I think adds weight here: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Bowing#:~:text=Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law,,since I am a foreigner?” 1 Samuel 2:36

There are numerous examples of people bowing to other people, not in mistaken worship but out of obeisance. Usually to someone the recognized as their superior. Several of these specifically say "with their face to the ground."

There are many references that say someone "bowed down and worshiped" the LORD. "and worshiped" is added in most of those cases.

Yes there are instances of people bowing before idols, but there are also references to people worshiping with no mention of bowing being made.

Other references with bowing are associated with grief, and the LORD is actually "unbowing" people.

In Japan (as far as I know), people still bow to each other, and the lower one bows, the greater respect is communicated. If you are not social equals, the person of a lower rank is to bow lower to their superior than the superior does to them. Maybe it's a formality there now, though, idk.

I think the Western (specifically American) aversion to bowing has less to do with concern over worshiping idols and more to do with our cultural lack of humility and a distinct aversion to submitting ourselves to anyone. It's just not woven into our society and thus feels foreign and wrong.
You seem to be right on spot! I just looked into the article on bowing on Wikipedia and it surprised me:

In the British, Australian, and other Commonwealth courts lawyers and clerks (of both sexes) are expected to perform a cursory bow of the head only to the judge when entering or leaving a law court that is in session. Similar gestures are made to the Speaker of the House of Commons when entering or leaving the chamber of the House of Commons in session, and to the monarch by her staff.

Members of the Royal Family of the various Commonwealth Realms are either bowed or curtsied to, depending on the gender of the subject. Australians are expected to bow to the Governor-General of Australia, the spouse of the Governor-General and state Governors and Lieutenant-Governors.
If I enter a courtroom and greet the judge, there's a good chance we're both bowing to each other! Actually, I do a "cursory bow of the head" to any adult I'm not shaking hands with, even if I'm just greeting them as I'm passing by on the street, as in the case of police officers, garbage collectors, doormen...

This has less to do with humility and more with what Brazilian social scientists call "Iberian cordiality", but it exemplifies how these gestures are culturally-specific. Any conflict should make one wonder whether the actual issue is theological or cultural. Pagan Greeks themselves were once not okay with full bows to mortals, which were originally seen as an oriental practice until multiculturalism did its thing and it simply became a demonstration of highest respect. Likewise, Americans will eventually find kissing friends on the cheek normal if the demographic projections are right as for Latinos, and then kissing icons won't feel so strange.
 
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Can we not come boldly to the Throne of Grace because we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ?
Hebrews 4:16
That's right, the saints have been cleansed, but we still have to do it - at best. At worst, we will die in sin.
 
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