Icons? Quite Orthodox
Icons? Quite Orthodox
Two-dimensional images are part of a weekend ceremony.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published March 3, 2007
Against a darkening sky Sunday, the faithful clutched religious
images to their chests and walked slowly around St. Nicholas
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.
They stopped to pray and sing, for the living, the dead, their
Orthodox community and the world, at points south, west, north and east.
For Orthodox Christians throughout the world, it was both the first
Sunday of Lent, or the beginning of the Great Fast, and Orthodoxy Sunday.
The occasion recognizes the return of icons - sacred two-dimensional
images that are an important aspect of Orthodox worship - into
churches during the middle of the ninth century.
Icons were banished during a 150-year-long battle that pitted
so-called iconoclasts, who viewed the use of icons as idolatry,
against those who favored them.
Priests in ornate vestments and members of Orthodox congregations
around Tampa Bay, including Greek, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian and
Armenian, joined St. Nicholas for Sunday's vesper service and
procession honoring the restoration of the icons. Many carried
personal icons. Orthodox icons depict Jesus, saints and events in Scripture.
St. Nicholas' Father Michael Massouh said the controversy surrounding
the use and veneration of religious art "forced the church to
articulate more clearly the use of icons."
"Icons are aids to worship, not to be worshiped themselves," he said.
"They are reminders of these people and these events, so when one
encounters them, if you will, the event or the person is brought to
mind and helps in putting ourselves in a holy context."
The weekend's gathering was the first major celebration at St.
Nicholas' new church, at 6447 76th Ave. N in Pinellas Park.
The church was started in 1976, a few years after Jerusalem-born
Najib Jacob moved from Pennsylvania and discovered that there was no
Antiochian Orthodox church nearby. At first the few worshipers of
Middle Eastern descent gathered in Jacob's home. Years later the
congregation has grown to 65 families.
On Sunday, Jacob, a subdeacon, his wife, Anna, son, Michael,
daughter-in-law, Randa, and 6-month-old granddaughter, Miranda, were
among the worshipers who filled every seat in the church.
With the congregation in new, larger quarters, it can focus on other
matters, Massouh said.
"We've been crowded until now," he said. "This gives us an
opportunity to reach out and help people who want to learn more about
the Orthodox faith."
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 892-2283 or moore@....
Antiochian Orthodox origins
- As part of the Antiochian Orthodox community, St. Nicholas traces
its origins to the church established in Antioch by apostles Peter and Paul.
- The church was brought to North America in the late 19th century to
serve immigrants from Syria and Lebanon.
- The first Arabic-speaking parish in North America was established
in New York.
[Last modified March 3, 2007, 00:32:42]