Friday, February 6, 2009

Betrayal by Cube

I am scandalized and sorrowing.

Orrologion, a blog that is rapidly rising in my esteem, has posted what the author has called the "Orthocube." Maybe it retails by a different name.

It is a Rubik's Cube with icons replacing the traditional blocks of colour.

If it were pictures of my son, pictures of my Aunt Mathilda's black poodle, pictures of classic Renaissance works like Michelangelo's "David" ... my aesthetic sense would be offended, like a bad odour offends my nose, and I would labour the resulting Cube "kitsch", 20th century debunking, the trivialization of culture, or something similarly critical.

But this is terrible. In the comments, one writer (a new convert to Orthodoxy) asks
More pressing than "where would I buy one" is "how would I dispose of one?"
And here he touches on a truth that the creators of this ... thing ... have forgotten. Icons are not team badges or baseball caps; they are not decorative elements à la Footprints. Icons are holy things, as another writer says. Ironic that I should find Fr. Stephen Freeman's post on the need for Orthodox to reclaim the holy after seeing this.

Yet I want to take this one step further.

Icons are holy like so many articles that we use in worship, teaching us thereby the holiness of the God whom we worship. But icons are unique within the history of Orthodox holy things: they are condoned by the Incarnation of Christ, made necessary by the Incarnation of Christ, and hallowed by Christ's gift to us.

They were threatened by the heresy of the iconoclasts, the last in a series of heresies that misunderstood the Incarnation, until they triumphed in the Seventh Ecumenical Council. We celebrate that triumph in the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

They are also unique because their presence in Orthodox Churches was bought not only through the teachings of the confessors (like St. John Damascene), but through the blood of martyrs.

Our fathers among the Saints died in defense (apologia and martyric witness) of Orthodoxy, proclaiming the iconic outworkings of the Incarnation, in order that we could glimpse into Heaven, in order that the Saints would thereby commune with us ...

... in order that modern hands would do this.

This is not reverence, but a betrayal.

St. Theodosia the Martyr (May 29)
Ss. Julian, Marcian, John, James, Alexis, Demeter, Photius, Peter, Leontius,
and Mary the Patrician (Aug 9)
St. Peter the Martyr (Nov 28)
St. Nicetas the Confessor (March 20)
St. Stephen the Younger and his companions (Nov 28)
St. Paul the Martyr (Mar 17)
St. Andrew the Martyr (Oct 17)
St. Thaddeus the Confessor (Dec 29)
St. Emilian the Confessor (Aug 8)
St. Theodore the Branded (Dec 27)
all of whom died under the hands of iconoclasts

Remembering also the many other confessors who were tortured, exiled, and otherwise persecuted for the Faith.

- V.


Anonymous said...

Wow - I wouldn't even be comfortable owning one of those.

It reminds me of what we have been doing in the last few decades in the Protestant Church: piggy banks that read 'Jesus saves' and bumper stickers that read 'honk if you love Jesus'... etc. And that which is holy is treated as familiar and even profane.

In the Protestant Church we have all but lost are sense of awe and wonder and reverence in the house of God - we don't have a sense of the holy anymore.

The popularity of 'The Shack' is proof of the depths to which we have descended - I only hope that the 'Orthocube' is not a sign of things to come in the Orthodox Church. May God have mercy on us all.

V and E said...

The author at Orrologion identified the vendors of the cube as Light & Life Publishing and St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.

The former publishing house, though the company sells many good books, is notorious for its irreverent treatment of icons. It sells icon buttons, icon magnets, icon shirts, &c. This is part of the same philosophy that leads to an icon Rubik's cube.

I had a shrewd suspicion that this was their item when I posted. I do not get their catalogue anymore precisely because their products tend to get me hot under the collar.

As for the latter, that's a bit of a surprise.

In any case, what I expect is happening is that the people who manufacture, market, and sell these products are primarily merchants. They have a comfort level with icons without understanding their theological underpinning, and the combination of the two has led them to a certain recklessness.

I trust that this isn't going to be the future of American Orthodoxy. Just an anomaly on the road.

- V.

The Ochlophobist said...

I was scrolling down orrologion the other day and saw this and was so disgusted (not at Christopher Orr, but at the image - I suppose it is good that Christopher brought it to public attention so that the matter could be addressed with appropriate disdain) I had to get up and walk away from the computer. Ugh.

s-p said...

Hopefully the "mind of the Church" will take care of this. If L&L gets a few pointed letters about it they might yank it. If they don't and it doesn't sell, it won't get produced any longer. God help us if it does sell...sigh.