This seven part documentary gives a thorough explanation of the theology of holy icons in the Orthodox Church and the purpose of their veneration. After watching it you will understand why people died for the defense of icons in the Orthodox Church and why the Seventh Ecumenical Council is essential and significant for Orthodox Christians.
The video is produced by the Ostrog Monastery and the Academy of the Serbian Orthodox Church for Fine Arts and Conservation. Each part is about 30 minutes long, and the whole documentary is about 3.5 hours long. All seven parts should be accessible in the player below. You can also find all seven parts individually on this YouTube playlist, or you can find the whole documentary as one video here.
“Possibly a contentious unbeliever will maintain that we worshiping images in our churches are convicted of praying to lifeless idols. Far be it from us to do this. Faith makes Christians, and God, who cannot deceive, works miracles. We do not rest contented with mere colouring. With the material picture before our eyes we see the invisible God through the visible representation, and glorify Him as if present, not as a God without reality, but as a God who is the essence of being. Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. They are in being, and are living with God; and their spirits being holy, the help, by the power of God, those who deserve and need their assistance.”
Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, (Bar. 3.38) I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honouring that matter which works my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God. How could God be born out of lifeless things? And if God’s body is God by union (καθ υποστασιν), it is immutable.
The nature of God remains the same as before, the flesh created in time is quickened by a logical and reasoning soul. I honour all matter besides, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice happy and thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? Was not the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Sepulchre, the source of our resurrection: was it not matter? Is not the most holy book of the Gospels matter? Is not the blessed table matter which gives us the Bread of Life? Are not the gold and silver matter, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter?
Either do away with the veneration and worship due to all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the worship of images, honouring God and His friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit.Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing is that which God has made. This is the Manichean heresy. That alone is despicable which does not come from God, but is our own invention, the spontaneous choice of will to disregard the natural law,—that is to say, sin.
Excerpt from Apologia of St John of Damascus Against Those who Decry Holy Images
One of the main purposes of the icon, in its imitation of our Lord himself, is to participate in connecting Heaven and Earth. By making visible in earthly terms — in people, events and things — a glimpse of heavenly truth, they lead us towards the transfiguration of the world. This transfiguration is beyond words of course, but like all mystical truth, we can nonetheless skirt around it, point to the edges of this vision in order to help us participate in it more fully.
This possibility of uniting Heaven and Earth is anchored in the Christological definitions of the Church, in the duality of . . .