Whomever told you that "we aren't supposed to put paintings/icons within the Church building" is giving you inaccurate information.
When we discuss iconology, we're discussing a theological topic, and that may be why some are apprehensive when the discussion comes up. There is a method in which icons are used in the buildings of the Church. There is a Middle Eastern SOC near me which is entirely clueless about the use of icons in the Church-building and has several paintings that are haphazardly placed throughout the interior. That is equally as useless as the neo-iconoclastic answer you were told.
Historically, the Syriac tradition is minimalistic as far as iconography is concerned. We did not have an iconoclastic controversy in the way the imperial Roman communion did, so we did not have a reaction against that which resulted in what you can see in Greek or Russian places of worship. Part of the reason for the minimalism is the practicality of matter. The Syriac tradition did not live under the patronage of Orthodox kings the way other traditions did to support a development of this tradition. Most of our icons can be found in manuscripts or tapestries. Other monasteries testify to a tradition of iconology.
The Syriac tradition used to employ an icon of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child above the altar. This icon is to keep us mindful of the incarnation of the Word and the presence of God among us (which we experience through our liturgy). The question to ask with other icons and the altar is, "to what are we called to be mindful?"
Icons of the crucifixion are not forbidden, but they have their place. Many of our processional crosses contain an icon or relief of the crucified Christ. It is true that we focus on the resurrected Christ, but that doesn't mean we aren't mindful of His passion.
These are good questions you asked and I am glad you brought the topic up for public consumption.
Pray for me,
St. Cyril of Alexandria Orthodox Christian Society
--- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, James wrote:
> Dearly Beloved SOCM members,
> Can one of the learned scholars of the Church clarify the use of Icons/paintings within the sanctuary in the Syriac Tradition.