Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Gazing on God – Trinity, Church and Salvation in Orthodox Thought and Iconography

Gazing on God – Trinity, Church and Salvation in Orthodox Thought and Iconography is Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos’ new book, published by James Clarke & Co (2013). This book discusses Orthodox theology, having the icon at the centre of analysis. This exhibition points out the richness of iconography, of symbolism and of the Orthodox tradition.

In the first part of the book the author attempts to explain his position and give a background exegesis, before continuing his examination. Pointing out his Greek heritage, he then achieves an analysis of his topic based on this reality. The Theology of Experience, is therefore, formed within this book. In order to explain Christian truths, the author depletes ancient Greek traditions, practices, plays, philosophical thoughts and ideas. This is a reality that we can observe since the beginning of Christianity; however, the author here points out a further relationship between ancient Greek plays and philosophy with the liturgical life and understanding of the Church. That is why he comprehends, for example, the Divine Liturgy as being a Tragedy, having ‘a dramatic structure’ (p. 39).
The author wishes to exhibit a number of important but also unusual icons, rarely found in Churches around the world. Fr. Andreas discusses and explains the Crucifixion, the Descent into Hades, the Protection of the Theotokos, the Life-Giving Fountain, the Burning Bush, the Bogolubskaya, and the most unusual icon to be seen, i.e. the All-Seeing Eye of God. Through this analysis the significance and centrality of icons is depicted, showing how Orthodox theology is symbolised and explained through the iconography of the Church. 
The final chapter gives an extensive meta-linguistic theological methodology, where authors such as Dostoyevsky and Papadiamantis are analysed and explained, in order to show that theology is also argued, even within literature. The final sentence, the final proposal, given to us by the author might seem prophetic, whereby he explains that: ‘the theology of the future will be written as poetry’ (p. 153). This is an important book for whoever is interested in Orthodox theology and iconography, whilst also being a significant source of Eastern Christian spirituality.
Revd Dr Andreas Andreopoulos is Reader in Orthodox Theology at the University of Winchester and an Orthodox priest. He is also the author of This is my Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ, 2012, Art as Theology: From the Postmodern to the Medieval, 2007, The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, the Mystery, the History, 2006, and Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography, 2005.

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