Part Five from the “Becoming Orthodox” blog.
My friend Connie left the following comment and I thought I would address with a whole new post:
I thought venerating icons meant kissing them?
I don’t know, to me, Greek orthodoxy looks a lot like Catholicism by a different name and using different vocabulary.
I am going to address the second point first.
To the Protestant, Orthodoxy does look like Roman Catholicism on the surface. This is because later versions of Protestantism stripped away much of the richness of Christianity due to a sense of “Romaphobia.” The RCC does have a few things in common with the Orthodox Church, but the theology has become quite different over the years as the RCC has changed. To understand this, I would first start by reading about the Great Schism that divided the church.
In an earlier post I went through a few differences between the western and eastern church. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and this is also very much an “on the surface” view that doesn’t really address some of the deeper issues. The differences are more than vocabulary and it’s hard to give justice to them while remaining brief. The western church tends to be very rationalistic and the eastern church is comfortable with the mysteries of God. These result in differences in ways of thinking, ways of doing, ways of living, ways of worshipping, ways of knowing.
I also want to note that we do not attend a Greek Orthodox church. We attend a parish that is affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America. All of these churches are united and in communion with one another. It’s kinda like if I said that you are a Texas Christian and I am a Georgia Christian.
On to the question about veneration. Connie asked if veneration=kissing because I had told her that Orthodox do not kiss statues. Orthodox do venerate Christ and Saints and we do this through the use of iconography and we do this by kissing. (Just a note, Orthodox kiss a lot. I have kissed or been kissed by a good number of my fellow parishioners). We do not, however, make use of statues, thus my comment.
I would encourage you to watch this video which is an excellent primer on the use of iconography. Note that icons have been used by Christians since the very beginning, and it is really due only to Muslim influence that some have adopted an iconoclast viewpoint. Icons were upheld by the seventh ecumenical council.
To the person who has just started learning about Orthodoxy, I would advise not trying to understand icons right off the bat. I know it took me some time to understand and appreciate… I will talk more about that at some time.