very nice.... too bad it is a free-standing altar, however
What a beautiful (if different than my experience) altar.
The deesis panels on the altar are very striking. I am curious, though. How long have Lutheran churches been using the imagery of eastern icons in their ecclesiastical art?Grace Lutheran ChurchI realize that those kinds of things are adiaphora in Lutheran churches but the above depicts the Lutheran tradition as I knew it growing up (this church was LCMS at one time).
Oh, horsefeathers, let me try that again:Grace Lutheran Church
I meant to add that since icons are "written" and not mere "paintings" in the western sense they can certainly serve as a "teaching" vehicle in non-Eastern Churches. But, since for Eastern Christians they are "windows into heaven" and a living point of contact between the Communion of Saints on earth and in heaven, how are they viewed in a Lutheran context?Just askin' :)
Christine,Perhaps the most intriguing words about images and such in the Lutheran Church come to us - from all places! - Pieper, the great dogmatician of the LCMS. He writes: "Furthermore, the Gospel is such a means of grace in every form in which it reaches men...or pictured in symbols or types." With a footnote: "E.g. by a crucifix or some picture."When images depict for us the salvation that is in Christ, they they can actually be MEANS OF GRACE. How's that for a Lutheran answer? :)
When images depict for us the salvation that is in Christ, they they can actually be MEANS OF GRACE. How's that for a Lutheran answer? :)Pastor Weedon,I like it, I like it!!But then, historically Lutherans have never been iconoclasts (although the evangelical Protestant influence has done some damage here, but that can be changed).
Home grown St.Louis beauty...http://www.romeofthewest.com/2007/09/photos-of-saint-francis-de-sales.htmlOne of my favorite pitstops when I'm in town for work. The place will take your breath away. German immigrant work of course.
I'm not really comfortable making Lutheran altars look like Eastern altars.Here's my favorite Lutheran altar!http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cranachinweimar/
Home grown St.Louis beauty...That was the church home of my Great Aunt Zora and Uncle Nick. I remember wondering why we had to attend the lowly Croatian church and they got to go to this fabulous one!Pastor Weedon, would you know? Is that St. John the Baptist on the right? Who is on either side of the Archangels? Very creative. Have really enjoyed this post with all of the other picture links. Thanks for it and for your readers' contributions.
Scott,Absolutely stunning! Dixie,Yes, the Baptist. I'm not sure who is on the other side of the archangels, but I'm suspecting apostles. Paul,You gotta lighten up, dude! "All things are yours" as the Apostle reminded the Corinthians. It's the glory of being of a Lutheran!
Rev. McCain, Your comfortable with Northern Renaissance. I'd assume you're comfortable with Baroque style altars also. Didn't these styles came from R. Catholics right? I have no problem with images for devotional use. This style should not bother you any more than other styles.
I know some of "us" have a thing for icons. I have some myself, but frankly, regard them as quite ugly.Of course "all things are ours" but we Lutherans have a distinctively ecclesiastical art heritage of our own.I don't see Eastern Orthodox church using Western Church art, so I do not see much purpose served by featuring a whole lot of Eastern iconography, particularly on a Lutheran altar.And, when we have our own uniquely Lutheran spectacular altar painting tradition...well, it seems best to run with it!Better beautiful Lutheran ecc. art than the ugly icons, which hold a certain romantic fascination for some, I know, but bring along with them a whole host of negative theological baggage.But, as long as they are not smooching them on their altar....that much is good.
Dr. Matt, you'd be extremely hard pressed to find altars created by Lutherans in any period that would be mistaken for Roman Catholic altars. All one needs to do is look at the prominence given to Mary and saints and then contrast that with the predominant focus of Lutheran altars: CHRIST, not overwhelmed or clouded over or overshadowed by a whole "host"of the heavenly host.It is a uniquely Lutheran confession, using the altar to confess Christ with spectacular clarity and vivid theological meaning and symbolism.
Would that we all have the desire and willingness to put up funds to construct magnificent altar like this one, a uniquely and distinctively Lutheran altar, prepared by and installed by Lutherans in the church in which Martin Chemnitz served in Braunschweig. The altar was installed later in the following century.But check THIS Lutheran altar out.Now THIS is a Lutheran altar. Notice what is so prominently featured in the altar: Christ, note particularly the spectacularly rendered risen Christ at the top.Wow.http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/04/19/braunschweigaltar.jpg
Whereas Icons are indeed Eastern in origin, let us remember how the Altar is in Orthodox Churches. First of all, Altar doesn't refer to the Table, but to the entire area, which is fronted by the iconostasis. In this sense, I can see the parallel between this Altar that Fr Weedon showcased and Eastern Altars, but that is where the similarities end. Pasting icons to the front of a Lutheran Altar doesn't make it resemble Eastern Altars. It still looks very Lutheran, and if the figure of Christ is larger than the icons of the other Saints, and it is in the center, with the Saints pointing to their Lord. Pr McCain, I fail to see your point. You may think they're ugly, I think they're beautiful, and I always have, even when I was Lutheran, but there's no sense in trying to force out images just because of your opinion.
Dixie,According to the parish's website, they are none other than the Holy Apostles Ss. Peter and Paul.
Pr. McCain,Ugly or not is a matter of taste, not right practice.As to your other objections, I see your point, but then, much worse things have been introduced into the American Lutheran churches than iconography.As a former lamb under Pr. Sawyer's wing, I assure you he is introducing these elements with right teaching. Icons may not be literal "windows into heaven," but since we confess that the Church worships "with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven," they certainly do give a nice image of what exactly is taking place.
Thanks, Rosko for the info. Good point about Christ being at the center and everyone pointing to Him. The icon display not only focuses on Christ, but the Theotokos, the Archangels and the saints draw our attention to Him and yet are still present...which to my knowledge would accurately reflect the Lutheran belief that the saints are present during the Divine Service.But I understand Pastor McCain's complaint. My mother didn't like icons either (she was German--but Roman Catholic). She thought they were ugly, too. But she only saw icons as art and she favored the more chubby, white, blonde haired Baby Renaissance look. When I discussed some of the intentional aspects of iconography...why things are done the way they were done...she appreciated that. But as art...she still didn't like them. When she was on her death bed at Hospice I looked around and didn't see a crucifix or icon anywhere so I dug in my purse and pulled out an icon card I carried in my prayer book and pinned it on the bulletin board in her room. I told my brother and sister not to tell mom I put an icon in her room (because I knew she could hear me). And a faint hint of a smile came on her lips.The Roman Catholic altars I saw in Germany were the most magnificent Western altars I had ever seen, Alter Peter in Munich, the Andechs monastery, even the little Maria in der Tanne in Triberg. And I have no doubt these aren't so spectacular compared to others. Imagine the kind of money, time and effort that went in to constructing these great altars. I was told that the basilica of San Marco in Venice took 400 years to build! I don't think we Americans have that kind of patience or sense of investment.
Hey, listen....we need to get over this whole line of, "But there are such horrible things in the Lutheran Church, thereofore how dare we criticize the use of ..."No, my point is simply: I think it is unwise for a Lutheran congregation to use Eastern iconography to decorate its altar.Lutheranism has its own very unique and very powerful forms of ecclesiastical art. Yes, of course, it flows from the Western Church, of which we are most certainly a part, in fact, I would argue the real and true heirs to everything good in that tradition.A study of altars build by Lutherans, when given the chance to do so, reveals amazingly unique features that set them apart, with just a minimal amount of study of them, from Roman Catholic altars.No, I'm not "accusing" anyone of being an Eastern heretic here. In my opinion however it was a poor choice to use Eastern icons to decorate a Lutheran altar. Your mileage, as ever, may vary!And, yes, I have never had any particular fondness for icons. I find them poorly rendered, bad art, and sometimes lousy theology as well. They are no more, or no less, subject to critical review as art than is any other piece of ecclesiastical art.
Pastor McCain, You are a PHILISTINE, but we love you anyway! ;)I've always appreciated iconography in the tradition of the East, but my son would tell you that when it comes to art *I* am the Philistine. I simply regard that tradition of artwork as being every bit as much the patrimony of my Church as the shape of art during and after the time of the Reformation. In the same way that LSB can include the Russian Kyrie (#944), so also Lutheran parishes can use whatever art extols and brings glory to Christ.
The Roman Catholic altars I saw in Germany were the most magnificent Western altars I had ever seen,Having seen them for myself, I have to say -- "yup"
the Theotokos, the Archangels and the saints draw our attention to Him and yet are still present...which to my knowledge would accurately reflect the Lutheran belief that the saints are present during the Divine Service.Yes, but a bit further, in the deesis ("supplication") paradigm of this type of iconography the saints in heaven are actively interceding for the Church.Of course, even in the Western Church there has always been the presence of Eastern iconography; the icon of what the West calls "Mother of Perpetual Help" ("Virgin of the Passion" in the East) is present in Eastern and Western Catholicism as well as the famous Black Madonna of Czestochowa. The magnificent mosaics in Ravenna have a decidedly iconic foundation.I appreciate icons, but I must admit my German cultural roots prefer the magnificant wood carving and painting that Germans (and others) do so very well. The Churches I saw in Bavaria were simply stunning in their beauty and one couldn't help but lift one's mind to the heavenly throne.One of the most beautiful altar themes (I have seen it in both Lutheran and Catholic Churches) is that of the Pelikan feeding her young with her own blood.A very Eucharistic theme.
Hope Lutheran in St. Louis has that image on their altar:http://www.hopelutheranstl.org/assets/templates/hope/images/pic_viewer/images/pviewer_altar.jpg
Hmm. That didn't work. Let's see if this does:click here
Yepper -- that's the one!Same as the altar at my diocesan Cathedral.And, I believe, at the EWTN shrine church at Hanceville.
Pastor McCain may like this (Lutheran) Church better. It's where my mother's family attended in Germany although I see now they have put up a "Volksaltar", "People's Altar" which I don't like at all.st-andreaskirche
Thanks for putting me on to the Russian Kyrie in the LSB, brother Weedon! We have typically only enjoyed the Prayer of the Three Young Men (Benedictus, Omnia Opera) according to the more Western chant form, but recently went south and added Jamaica (LSB #930) to our diversity before the Lord's altar!
I suppose I should comment a bit more on all this.I am certainly not the wisest person around, and have proven it numerous times, but I'm really not worried over my choice of the Russian Deisis for our church's altar. We found it a reasonable solution to refurbishing an altar at which the Lord has served us for 21 years, though it lacked artwork and had been covered with white, marble-style formica. It was well made and lovingly so. We wanted to retain it, but adorn it in a way that would convey that we are coming to God's throne of grace, to receive help and mercy in our need. I can certainly appreciate Pastor McCain's comments, and were anyone to give me a few million dollars, I would happily build a cathedral style Lutheran church, and commission artisans to craft the kind of altars we have been speaking about here. We do have a wonderfully rich tradition of Western art. I've spent the past few months exposing the people here to much of it. It is glorious, and we could certainly have gone a different way with our altar. We are a small congregation and have a modest budget for the refurbishing we've undertaken. As I said, we could have made other choices, but I stand behind the ones we did.For one, we prefered a simpler focus than what is seen in many altarpieces, where extraneous persons are added, including patrons and the artist himself, for instance. Nothing wrong with that, but we opted to keep the focus simple. Christ at the center, with angels, archangels and a few of the company of heaven surrounding. We wanted that particular phrase of the Preface to be our focus. My folks here know that I cite the Eastern as well as the Western fathers, as Luther himself did, and our confessions too. With brother Weedon and brother McCain, I see the fathers of the East as ours also. I am hesitant to relegate iconography to the East simply because it lacks a Western style or origin. If it conveys the doctrine Christ gave His Church, such images belong to us as well.I am typically accused of being Romanist (because I chant and use incense), or backwards (because - as a few local folks have put it it - "You have to find all of your answers in the Book of Concord or the Scriptures") - so, I guess they're accusing me of being Lutheran? . . . And now, I've got an Eastern altar? Guess that makes me ecumenical! :-) Seriously, I think calling our altar Eastern is as lacking as calling our practice here Romanist. I don't even think the East places icons into altar pieces as we have. Anyway, the columns are Western, and the moulding is home-grown Miss'ippi!Oh, and even though the altar is free standing, I conduct the Mass (which I can as easily call the Divie Liturgy), from the front. Now when I genuflect at the Verba, my folks see that I am kneeling directly before Christ - not only TRULY with His Body and Blood in bread and wine, but depicted on the icon at the center of the altar, and also via the corpus (Western) which stands directly behind the altar. Hmmm . . . I think some of my incense (purchased through an RC supply house) may actually have been manufactured in the East! Then again, our little hosts are from Cokesbury, our priest host (for consecration) comes from the local Carmelite Monestary, and our wine from California - and that's about as far west as I've ever been. Clearly, though, I'm all over the place! But I'm not saying I'm Jesus, which some have also claimed! :-)
Scott,Thanks for the great pics of St. Francis de Sales. Reminds me of the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in the Slavic Village area of Cleveland:Shrine Church of St. StanislausI have postcards at home from some beautiful Lutheran Churches I saw in Germany.
Anonymous was me.Sigh.
Wow, Rev. Sawyer, you rock !!
Christine, now don't get silly. If you think I like that monstrosity of whatever that is supposed to be, you have not read my comments, or have intentionally refused to acknowledge them.I've shown the kind of altar I enjoy the most.With the advent of digital printing, we can produce the Weimar altar painting, in nearly any size, for any Lutheran congregation that would want to consider using it as an altar painting.The tradition of Lutheran altar paintings is quite unique.Rick, nobody is accusing you of being Eastern. I just would not prefer to have Eastern iconography featured so prominently on a Lutheran altar.When you do come across that $50 million dollars, let's put our head together and build a Lutheran cathedral to rival anything we can find in Germany!!!I would love for that to happen.Will it?One can dream! I do know of a number of Lutheran congregations in recent years that have gone out of their way to eschew the "multipurpose/basketball court/nave" approach with the pre-fab siding and the Reformed church furnishings.I'd take Rick's icons any day over the "worship barn" approach.PTM
Well, shucks, Pastor McCain, I SHOULD have expanded a bit on it :):How about:AndreaskircheNow THERE'S some familiar Lutheran altarpieces! This was once a Roman Catholic Church of the classic Gothic type.That ugly "People's Altar" was not to be seen in earlier days.
Paul, when I get that 50 mil, I will most definitely be talking to a LOT of folks! I mean, we've got the grand-daddy of Church Barns right next door and I'd love to have a place that, architecturally speaking, draws attention to the Gifts where they are. Our building was built by Laborers for Christ when we had very little funds to work with. So, without much in the way of architecture, we are lauding and magnifying the Lord in His Gifts the best we can, and I know you're not being critical of that. We looked at digital imaging. The Weimar piece is hanging in our school. I've had it reproduced via raster printing on cloth as a banner. It is glorious. But it is best reproduced at a larger scale than we could, given our space. It's got a lot going on in it. We opted for a simpler focus, given our space. The icons we chose, in my opinion, do a better job getting the extraneous out of the way and letting the focus remain simple. It wasn't a choice of East over West, and certainly wasn't a rejection of our tradition. But, when I do it again, Deo Volente, I'll give you a call. Deal? And, Christine, I head bang too! :-)
Pastor McCain says:I don't see Eastern Orthodox church using Western Church art, so I do not see much purpose served by featuring a whole lot of Eastern iconography, particularly on a Lutheran altar. I don't see much difference between what Pastor McCain is describing and another Lutheran church deciding that they're going to borrow from the Charismatics and go "Contemporary Worship". It just appears that they are trying to be something they are not.Unless of course icons were a part of a certain regional Lutheran worship in Europe I don't know about.
And, Christine, I head bang too! :-)What more could any congregation ask for !!Rev. Sawyer, from what I see of the photos posted, your ecclesiasical environment is reverent, well-ordered and beautifully arranged.I'm guessing your flock feels the same.
Deb,Rumor has it that Dr. Luther kept an icon of the Virgin on his desk to remind himself always of the incarnation. It's the nature of Western art to be eclectic, I think, and we see all types abound in her parishes. The walls of division are not so thick as some folks think. You've been to the OCA parish in Madison and seen THEIR icons - and they look entirely "WESTERN". :)But it's a matter of perspective: Orthodox tend to think of icons as THEIRS; RC and Lutherans and others think of icons as OURS (meaning yours AND ours).
You know, wouldn't a book that depicted the various altars of the churches of the Synod be really cool? We have some ornate old ones, some that are more plain, some with statues and reredoses, some free standing. So here's the challenge: post some more links with pictures of the altar from YOUR parish!
The best description of icons I have ever heard came from Rev. Thomas von Hagel: They are earthly reminders of heavenly realities.I am ashamed to admit that I can no longer find the site from which I am about to describe the following. Much has happened in the way of God calling me to repentance since I first found it a week or so ago. I’ll continue to search for it, though.There is a painter of sacred icons who has taken the time to describe the difference between Western Sacred Art and Eastern Sacred Art. Icons are always stylized in their representation of persons and nature. Each detail serves the purpose of conveying a scriptural message. It can be said that an Eastern icon is a visual sermon. Western Sacred Art pieces are also visual sermons. They can also be stylized in representation. Consider El Greco, and the modernists. Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas, NV, is a prime example of this wit its “rocket man Jesus” ascending over the altar in mosaic tile. Gotta see it to appreciate it! What this Orthodox painter of icons found offensive in Western painting is when the human form is represented life-like or enhanced as Western Sacred Art is wont to do, then the art form transgresses the First Commandment. Focus is taken away from the Christ to whom the painting points and is instead directed to the human form the painting depicts. Granted Christ took on human form, but we cannot know what He looked like. So depicting Him in a particular human way is still idolatry. (Remember, this is not particularly *my* argument, but another’s.) Eastern Sacred Art removes that offense through its stylization. One thing to consider in Orthodox icons is the regularity of the pieces; the elements do not change from generation to generation, painter to painter. In a great sense, the argument going on here is one of style. Had the Bavarians filled their churches with more icons from the East than they did, would we be more comfortable with them now? My daughter-in-law upon first entering First Lutheran in Little Rock, Arkansas, recoiled in revulsion. She got used to it ‘round about the time the Holy Spirit caused it to dawn on her to have her first baby baptized soon after she was born. She hasn’t turned back to her Baptist ways since. The altar at Good Shepherd won’t offend her because she’s accustomed to the icons in my home and classroom.I use them to teach. There are a pair that show Christ as creator (I can only link you to one). Teach with that one going though John 1, Colossians, and Genesis 1 and watch eyes and minds light up! Or how about this one for teaching absolution and who’s running the business of it? Of course, I also use “Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Caravaggio to teach Baptism. His depiction of St. Jerome in his study is also valuable for iconic insight and reflection. I have a lengthy list as I have a great plenty of icons.We bought a house built in the 80’s. If you can imagine it, it has a great room to the rear of the thing, and a tiny formal living room to the front, just off the entry. Who needs that thing anymore? So John said it should be my study, hired a man to build bookcases, and bought me a large desk to fill it. My icons and crucifixes are on the walls for my meditation and contemplation. John is not an appreciator of Eastern Sacred Art. He calls them my “creepy pictures.” And yet, he calls the new altar at Good Shepherd beautiful. He was asked for help with its construction, mainly with the positioning and centering of its height and other such things. Of utmost importance to him was that the Christ icon was eye level while he was sitting in the pew. It is. In its use here on the altar, the creepiness is gone for John. Only reverence remains. The same effect is achieved for him when he attends our daughter’s church, First Lutheran, Little Rock. Western Sacred Art or Eastern Sacred Art—both are icons. They are earthly reminders of heavenly realities. Nothing more.
William said:Rumor has it that Dr. Luther kept an icon of the Virgin on his desk to remind himself always of the incarnation. It's the nature of Western art to be eclectic, I think, and we see all types abound in her parishes. This is very nice, but I was speaking of private devotion. However, I think a western styled icon is different than western religious art. The Russians and Greeks also have different styles too, but they are both "icons".
With great respect for the Lutheran deaconesses I have known, nevertheless, being Bavarian by birth and heritage this comment is of great interest to me:Had the Bavarians filled their churches with more icons from the East than they did, would we be more comfortable with them now?The ecclesiastical art one finds in the churches of Bavaria (and, keeping in mind that the history of Bavaria is both Roman (not Byzantine) from the earliest centuries, even before Bavaria was evangelized and Catholic) mirrors the art one finds in the public square, so to speak, as well as in the great monasteries. The statues of saints, bishops, et al. in the churches are often seen in the town square and beyond. The entire culture was infused with a Catholic/Christian ethos and to this day folks are still bound to greet each other with "Gruss Gott", not "hello" or "good morning".There are Lutheran churches in Europe which come close to, if not totally similar to, Catholic ones in their ecclesiastical appointments. I am aware of the stylized form of Eastern icons and the theology behind them and I have great respect for it. Nevertheless, I feel no need to accept the Orthodox version of what ecclesiastical art should be, having great affection for the masterpieces found in my own Western tradition.An icon is a flat, not three-dimensional image, but it IS an image nevertheless.
Here is a picture of my parish. Not such a great shot but I don't have anything better with the new archangel additions. I was going to post a picture of my husband's Lutheran church but they no longer have pictures on the website!At first I was a little surprised about the remark that the Eastern Orthodox considered icons to be "theirs" while everyone else considered them to be "ours"...but I don't think that's really true. Lutherans only take the aspect of icons that fits with their theology...the aspect of "art". They don't take icons as a whole. So it's isn't really an "ours" thing. It's some kind of partial. I don't necessarily think there is anything wrong with that. My priest was thrilled to see an icon he was familiar with on a bible study workbook my husband has called "Readings, A Lectionary Series" by CPH. But it is a mistake for Lutherans to say that icons are "ours" in the fullest sense. Start veneratin' and kissin' and have some Saints not mentioned in the New Testament though and...well, maybe y'all would be a little closer. ;)
Pr. McCain wrote:"Hey, listen....we need to get over this whole line of, "But there are such horrible things in the Lutheran Church, thereofore how dare we criticize the use of ...""Of course, that's not what I said at all. My point was that iconography is relatively innoccuous, not that it is above criticism.Criticize if you will. My issue is with the implication in your initial post that the use of icons is a bad practice. I'm sure it CAN be, but it need not NECESSARILY be.
Dixie,You're quite right - about the venerating and kissing. Not quite our cup of tea. I was referring to them as art and as the Gospel depicted for us. But Lutherans would have no difficulty with Church art depicting post NT saints. The Weimar piece so beloved of Pr. McCain features Luther and John the Steadfast, I believe. You can see it here:click here
Christine, now you are talking! Yes, great, and would it not be wonderful to see that glorious Lutheran altar painting tradition in the hands of a modern artist??
Why not a little scripture? 24 " 'Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings ... If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it.'
Actually Christine, you make my point rather than contend against it. Thanks.
I applaud Good Shephard's desire to reflect visually the wonders of the Gospel. For centuries, the Christian church has utilized art, icons, and symbols to remind us what Christ has done for us. When my church was built, the need to have constant visual reminders was apparently important to them and for us today. I enjoy hearing God's word and seeing the images reminding me of his ever-lasting presence with us. There is nothing that says a Lutheran church has to look a certain way. Or that we are to stay away from appearing too "Catholic" or "Greek Orthodox". If that is so, then since my church's altar has a crucifix on it we are actually Catholics? Thank goodness I am catholic! I again applaud Pr. Sawyer and the members of Good Shephard to utilize all possible means to remind us that through Christ we are saved, and by God's grace we are His.
Christine, now you are talking! Yes, great, and would it not be wonderful to see that glorious Lutheran altar painting tradition in the hands of a modern artist??Yes, it would. Unfortunately, I believe this Lutheran congregation is now part of the "mainstream" Lutheran Church in Germany that ordains women, etc. It was home to many of the Eastern German Lutheran immigrants from Prussia, etc. that came to Bavaria after World II. Actually Christine, you make my point rather than contend against it. Thanks.Dcs. Carder, I'm glad that we are in agreement, then! I'm still hopelessly attached to Baroque and Rococco. Sigh.
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