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  1. […] http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/the-serpents-of-orthodoxy/Thursday, Apr 18th 7:32 amclick to expand… […]

  2. Hierodeacon Parthenios

    Thank you, Jonathan.

    It is necessary that this symbolic work be explicated in a fully Orthodox way, as you have done.

    The only image that I would “add” that was not specifically mentioned is the North Polar image of the Serpent/Draco on the Axis or Pole.

  3. Hierodeacon Parthenios

    Your symbolic observations regarding the iconography of the Serpent stretching up and down between Heaven and Hades, Throne and Maw, were particularly apt.

    And I appreciated your comments about Gregory of Nyssa, Traditional Legends and their symbolic structures and hermeneutic value, and the edifying interaction with pagan (world cultural) symbols.

  4. Once again, I am very grateful for the work of the Orthodox Arts Journal, and to you, Jonathan, for your indepth study. I offered a Pre-Lenten Study of the Gospel of John for our parish here in Edmonton, and there was a great deal of interest in the bronze serpent reference in John 3. I will share this article with a few parishioners who were wanted to dig more deeply into the meaning of that passage.
    Yours in Christ,
    -Fr. Matthew

  5. Thank you for this, Jonathan. It is one of the more interesting things I have read in a long time. I have always been attracted to serpents and dragons in liturgical art, especially, I must admit, when they look particularly ominous. I’ve seen some 17th-century bishop’s staffs which would surely frighten children at first sight! But then, of course, the children would gather their courage and would want to look at the scary staff again and again. They would not soon forget the bishop who carried it! Every bishop should read this article, Jonathan.

  6. Benedict Sheehan

    Fantastic! I learned a lot from this. Here’s a quote from St. John Chrysostom you might find pertinent (On the Creation of the World, 6.2; quoted in Genesis, Creation, and Early Man, by Fr. Seraphim Rose, 253-4):

    ‘Do not regard the present serpent; do not regard how we flee it and feel repulsion towards it. It was not such in the beginning. The serpent was the friend of man and the closest of those who served him. And who made it an enemy? The sentence of God: “Cursed are you above all the cattle, and above all the wild animals… I will put enmity between you and the woman” [Gen. 3:14-15]. It was this enmity that destroyed the friendship. I mean not a rational friendship, but one of which an irrational creature is capable. Similar to the way that now the dog manifests friendship, not by word but by natural movements, just so did the serpent serve man. As a creature who enjoyed great closeness to man, the serpent seemed to the devil to be a convenient tool for deception… Thus the devil spoke through the serpent, deceiving Adam.’

    I think this adds some interesting nuance to the discussion. I’d be interested to see how you might interpret this in light of your fascinating argument above. Thank you for the contribution!

    1. Hello Benedict.

      That is an amazing quote. I think there are many mysteries in this quote and it would be beyond me to expound them completely, though we can grasp some small part of it. Like I said in the post, duality, the periphery, all of these things are not bad. We are not gnostics. The problem with duality is the “intoxication” with duality, the capacity of duality to forget its unity, of all that is “outer” to believe it is “god” in itself. When we move into the senses, we must remember the heart, though it is so hard to do… St-Gregory of Nyssa tells us that, “Falsehood is a kind of impression which arises in the understanding about non-being, as though what does not exist does, in fact, exist. But Truth is the true apprehension of real Being. …Being is… …what possesses existence in its own nature, and what non being is… … is existence only in appearance, with no self subsisting nature.”.(Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses II , 22). We could say that everything besides the Logos that we would consider as self-existing, appears automatically as death and is a slave to waxing and waning that comes with death, but when these same things are seen as anchored in the Logos, when their own “logos” is grasped, then they are “our best friend”. When you grab a serpent by the tail, it shows itself a doctor… St-maximos tells us: “…for he who starting from the spiritual world sees appear the visible world or else who sees appear symbolically the contour of spiritual things freeing themselves from visible things… that one does not consider anything of what is visible as impure, because he does not find any irreconcilable contradiction with the ideas of things.”

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