As someone who loves iconography and the Church’s rich teachings and Traditions surrounding these holy images, I always enjoy reading Reinkat’s posts. Check out this latest one about the Nativity Icon… fascinating and informative!
Originally posted on reinkat:
The Orthodox Christmas icon is a bit different from any depiction of the Nativity of Christ in Western art. It is a bit strange to our eyes, lacking the sentiments and techniques that we are used to seeing. It is even foreign, almost unrecognizable at first glance, but upon careful study, is deeply meaningful and beautiful. Like every icon, each translation of the image differs according to the iconographer’s style and region, but they all have certain image elements in common. The feast of the Nativity was developed in the 4th Century, and by the 6th Century, all of the imagery had been established.
This icon’s purpose is to teach the essential truths of our faith, in this case, the Incarnation of God, and the fact that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. As in all icons, there is no attempt to show depth, or time sequence. Events that took place at different times are all shown on the same plane here. Like the icon above, the following image is Russian, done in a very classic and typical manner, and makes a good sample for studying the symbolism. (I learned most of this information about the theology from Ouspensky’s book: The Meaning of Icons, an excellent resource about iconography.)