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Diana Iuliana Barbu. " The Theology of icon - the Hesychasm Influence on the Church Painting" . 2013.

Abstract: The obvious intention of the work "The Theology of icon - the Hesychasm Influence on the Church Painting" ["Teologia icoanei - Influenta isihasmului in pictura bisericeasca"] - accomplished along many years - under the surveillance of Fr. Lect. Dumitru Radu, consists in the meeting with the hesychastic prayes transpose in a plastic language.
The absence of a work devoted exclusively to this subject has completely justified the effort of analyzing a domain which opens large perspectives for the understanding of the theological deepness of the painting cloth of the Romanian monastic places. I have tried to approach this universe using a systematic insistence, identifying theological and iconographical sources, customs of monastic communities, and the motivations of creating iconographic programs. The theological approach tried to grasp the phenomenon on the whole. The role of Hesychasm in adumbrating the iconographic programs proper to Eastern art shows itself as essential, taking into account that the phenomenon takes place in times not at all untroubled.
The whole merit is that of Saint Gregory Palamas - the hesychast writer par excellence.
The reading of the five chapters of the thesis can be compared to a pilgrimage "with multiple motivations and deep spiritual significance when it is correctly understood".
The syntax of the research has as its constitutive element the spiritual and theological restitution of the Hesychasm as reflected in the Romanian Church Art. In the first chapter, Theology of Icon (Teologia Icoanei), I have sketched a study of icon theology. Treating the icon as a confession of our faith, of Godīs Incarnation Who took human image in order for man not to turn oneīs face from Him - as is written in Solomonīs Odes, as an expression of the presence of God in the Church - we understand in fact the culture of the image enlightened by prayer and goodness which finds its representation especially in monastic spirituality. The second chapter consists of running into a road towards the scriptural and patristic roots of Hesychasm, so that the leitmotiv of the whole Eastern Theology - the seeing of Taboric light and Godīs knowledge - is brought into attention, being tried a patristic establishing of the Palamite theology. The analysis of the unity-distinction between the Godīs being and uncreated energies can be understood only by a recapitulation of the Old Testament foundations. This is also the aim of the Chapter 2. The Seeing of God and the sections that follow II.1 Searching for the face of God in the Old Testament tradition, II.1.1 The possibility of seeing the face of God, II.1.2 The Impossibility of seeing the face of God, II.2 The seeing of face of God in the Patristic tradition, II.2.1, "By means of the divine grace and only by the Word born of Him can we think of what is unknown", II.2.2 "The being of God is incomprehensible for the human mind, II.2.3. God can be known by His works, II.2.4 "Theology is like a mountain climbing", II.2.5 "The back of God" II.2.6 "Concerning the incomprehensibility of Godīs being", II.2.7 The theology and oikonomia of God".
The manner of approaching the second chapter is somehow problematic; this manner imposed itself, because, starting from the New and Old Testament and Patristic contributions which dealt with the possibility of seeing the face of God, can be outlined a general tableau of the relation between the uncreated energies and being of God and implicitly of the understanding the hesychast phenomenon. The writing of Clement of Alexandria concerning the apophatism of the divine being and names, of the Saint Athanasius of Alexandria concerning the distinction between the being and will of God, of Saint Basil the Great about the divine namesas a manifestation of Godīs condescension (Katabasis), of Saint Gregory the Theologian about "Theologhia and theoptia" - as evidence of the distinction between the being and the uncreated energies - or about the seeing of the back of God, of Saint John Chrysostom about synkatabaticgnoseology, or of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite about the theology and oikonomy of God are evidence, along with the Scriptural ones for the possibility of seeing "the image of Godīs glory" (Iezechiel1, 26-27) in the taboric light.
The analysis of the Patristic and Scriptural evidence about the seeing of God, carried out in the chapter II of the work, which is also the object of numerous studies, is a kind of bridge towards chapter III - The Hesychasm, from the Holy Fathers and culminating with Saint Gregory Palamas, with the sections: 3.1 Patristic Tradition, III.1.1 Evagrius of Pont and the pure prayer, III.1.2 Macarius and the heart mystique, III.1.3 Concerning the theosis in Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor, III.1.4 Prayer of Jesus is Symeon the New Theologian, III.1.5 Gregory of Sinai and the byzantine Heschasm of XIIIth and XIVth centuries, III.2 Gregory Palamas - hesychast dynamic continuer of patristic tradition, III.2.1 - About compunction, prayer and the joy of the inner man in Gregory Palamas, III.2.2 - Concerning the hesychast controversies, III.3 Hesychasm after Gregory Palamas, III.3.1 Nikolaos Cabasila.
Starting from the Patristic Tradition with Evagrius of Pont with his pure prayer, with Macarius from the Egiptian desert and his mystique of light, with the teaching about theosis approached by Saints Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor, or with the Prayer of Jesus in Symeon the New Theologian, approaching the Hesychast byzantine issue in XIII and XIV centuries and the theology of Saint Gregory of Sinai, chapter 2 will insists more on the hesychast seeing of Saint Gregory Palamas. Aware of the "risks" implied by the approaching of such a generous subject, on the historical and theological level, the more complex, the more extended, I tried in the section "Gregory Palamas - hesychast dynamic continuer of patristic tradition", to prove the Saint direct influence over the Romanian Monasticism. The role of Palamisme shows itself as a very important factor that offers personality and theological sources to those who later clothed the walls of the churches from Romanian Country.
Chapter IV - the Hesychast influence if the Romanian Countries with the sections IV.1 Trend and doctrines on the Southern Danube in XIII-XIV centuries of the Romanian culture, IV.1.1 The Hesychasm in the Romanian Orthodox tradition, IV.1.2 Saint Nicodemus of Tismana, IV.2 Moral and hesychast influence in the church painting, IV.2.1 Subjects with historical content and subjects with moral content in the Church painting, that consist in a analysis of the Christian continuity in East by pure prayer.
Treating a subject that presents some dynamic, grasping the reflection of the Hesychast theology in the iconographic programs, we cannot omit "the silenced apology oh hesychast life unseen and unknown by people", made by Saint Gregory Palamas when he is referring to the Life of Theotokos in the Holy of Holies. The mariological discourse of Saint Gregory finds its plastic in the representations of Akathist Hymn on the churches walls. This is how is justified the Vth chapter - The hesychast influence on the iconography of Akathist Hymn in the Romanian Country.
Unanimously considered to be "the greatest work of the Byzantine religious poetry", quintessence of the Jesus Christ Incarnation, on the most famous hymns that glorify Virgin Mary is loaded with theological symbols.
The first Hymn apparitions in the mural painting are preserved in Panaghia ton Chalkeon, Olympiotissa Elasson (where also scenes from the life of Theotokos appear) and Saint NicolaosOrphanos. The closeness to Mount Athos and major hesychast influence in the outlining the Hymn iconography in the second part justify the presence of the first representations in Thessaloniki.
The theme - under the impression of palamist theology, also used as a weapon against heresies, especially the bogomils - spreads rapidly, especially in the monastic places, in the Balkans (in the XVIth century) and in the northern Danube. Churches from Mount Athos (great Lavra, Hilandar on Molivoclisia, Dochiariou, Vatopedi, Xenophontos sketis), in the Byzantine Epire, Makedonia (Ochrid, Theotokos Pelibleptos and Saint Clement of Ohrid), Serbia (at Decani, Matejic, Markov - the church of Saint Demetrius), Romania (Cozia, Snagov, Tismana, Stanesti, or the Northern Moldavia) are clothed with the hymn consecrated to the Theotokos.
Structered in two parts (historical - verses 1-12) V.3.1 verse 1 - Oikos 1: "Ingerul cel mai intai statator din cer a fost trimis …", V.3.2 verse 2- kontakion: "…Sfanta intru curatie, zis-a lui Gavriil cu indraznire ...", V.3.3 verse 3 - Oikos 2: "Intelegerea cea neinteleasa cautand Fecioara sa o inteleaga ...", V.3.4 verse 4 - kontakion3:" Puterea Celui de sus a umbrit-o…", V.3.5 verse 5 - Oikos 3: "Avand Fecioara in pantece pe Dumnezeu primit, a alergat la Elisabeta ...", V.3.6 verse 6 - kontakion 4: "...inteleptul Iosif, s-a tulburat…", V.3.7 verse 7 - Oikos 4: "Auzit-au pastorii pe ingeri laudand…", V.3.8 verse 8 - kontakion 5: "Steaua cea cu dumnezeiasca mergere vazand-o inteleptii …", V.3.9 verse 9 - Oikos 5: "…s-au nevoit cu daruri a-L sluji...", V.3.10 verse 10 - kontakion 6:" ...filozofii, s-au intors in Babilon...", V.3.11 verse 11 - Oikos 6: "Stralucind in Egipt Tu, Lumina adevarului...", V.3.12 verse 12 - kontakion 7: "...te-ai dat lui ca un prunc…" si (Glory… - verses 13-24) V.3.13 verse 13 - Oikos 7: "Aratat-a faptura noua…", V.3.14 verse 14 - kontakion 8: "Vazand nastere straina, sa ne instrainam de lume…", V.3.15 verse 15 - Oikos 8: "Cu totul a fost intre cei de jos, iar de cei de sus nicicum nu S-a departat…", V.3.16 verse 16 - kontakion 9: "Toata firea ingereasca s-a minunat…", V.3.17 verse 17 - Oikos 9: "... ti stau inainte ca niste pesti fara de glas…",V.3.18 verse 18 - kontakion 10: "...la ea a venit precum i se fagaduise…", V.3.19 verse 19 - Oikos 10: "Zid esti fecioarelor…", V.3.20 verse 20 kontakion 11: "Imparate Sfinte, …", V.3.21 verse 21 - Oikos 11: "Faclie primitoare de lumina…", V.3.22verse 22 - kontakion 12: "…rupand zapisul…", V.3.23 verse 23 -Oikos 12: "…biserica insufletita…", V.3.24 verse 24 - kontakion 13: "O, Maica prealaudata…".
The Akathist Hymn display the events connected to the Son of God Incarnation, the precursory ones and those that followed and scenes that concentrates on the Incarnation consequences, of the Hypostatic union, Sacrifice and Redemption, Creation renewal, departure from the fleeting ones, the omnipresence of the Word of God, the boundless amazement, the Angels obeisance, acknowledging the limits of human knowledge, Redemption, as a consequence of the Golgotha Sacrifice, Mother of God, guardian and unflinching wall of the virgins, acknowledging the man weakness to pray properly, Mother of God - Mother of light and bearer of light, tearing the deed and the debts forgiveness, Mother of God - enlivened church and, finally, verse of praise and prayer brought to the Mother of God, who gave birth to the "Word, Who is greater in sainthood than all saints" in dogmatic part - a reason for which more variants of message displaying are to be found. The work makes special reference on the iconographical analysis of the Hymn representations in Cozia, Tismana and Snagov monasteries - dwelling places of Romanian Hesychasm.
Making research into a universe as specific as that of Orthodox Iconography, opens unsuspected perspectives in the understanding of the mentality and sensibility of laic and monastic communities on the Northern Danube.
Though it has its origins in the Byzantine Empire, the Hesychast movement is strongly connected with the Eastern mystique, developing later in the Romanian Countries.
I confess that a deep spiritual affection unites me with the theme, the joy of lecturing very good reference works along time being doubled by the seeing - for executing the photographic documentation - of some churches "bathed" in symbol and color, prayer and liturgical message. Being always achieved as a prayer, gift, ministry and gladness in Christ and especially as doxology and spiritualization, church art must be "read" firstly with the soul, the Akathist Hymn is an eloquent example of this fact.

Keywords: Hesychasm, Church painting, Theology, Akathist Hymn,Byzantine Empire, iconographical analysis, Romanian culture, Tismana,Cozia, Snagov

Posted by Diana Iuliana Barbu

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