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Jesus In Every Age. Session Two: Image of the Invisible God.

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session two image of the invisible god
Session Two: Image of the Invisible God

“He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Colossians 1:15-20 


The Beginning of the Age of Faith:

The “Conversion” of Constantine (312)

Roman Emperor Constantine had a vision of Christ on the eve of the Battle of Milvian Bridge: in hoc signovinces

  • Adopts the Christian God as his personal patron
  • Edict of Milan (313): Christianity becomes a tolerated religion
  • Becomes a major patron of the church: buildings, books, treasures
  • Church experiences rapid growth
  • Paganism survives alongside growing Church—officially banned in 392
worshipping the incarnate god
Worshipping the Incarnate God

Constantine built important churches at shrines associated with events in the life of Christ and his apostles—set pattern for future church architecture

  • Basilica: large assembly halls modeled on secular throne rooms
  • Symbols transferred from secular pageantry: image of Pantocrator (Ruler of All) in apse, elevated Altar—throne of God
  • Christian worship assumes some imperial ceremonial practices: processions, candles, vesture, incense
liturgical development


Liturgical Development
  • Splendor paternaegloriae
  • O splendor of God’s glory bright,O Thou that bringest light from light;O Light of light, light’s living spring,O day, all days illumining.
  • O Thou true Sun, on us Thy glanceLet fall in royal radiance;The Spirit’s sanctifying beamUpon our earthly senses stream.
  • Morn in her rosy car is borne:
  • Let Him come forth our perfect Morn
  • The Word in God the Father One,
  • The Father perfect in the Son. Amen.
  • Ambrose of Milan (340-397)

Our earliest complete liturgical texts come from the fourth and fifth centuries: heavy use of symbolism, elaborate forms

  • Basic structure and many texts of Eucharistic and Baptismal worship remain consistent today: Kyrie, Gloria, SursumCorda, Great Thanksgiving, Words of Institution, etc.
  • Early Christian Liturgy shows combination of many Biblical images (Good Shepherd, Thanksgiving Sacrifice, Paschal Lamb) and images common to pagan Mystery Cults (redeeming blood, light, ritual washing)
  • Hymnody also developed in this period as a way of asserting true doctrine and of adding dignity and grandeur to public celebrations
of one substance with the father
Of One Substance with the Father

Constantine tried to bring unity to the church by convening a council of all bishops (ecumenical) at Nicaea in 324

  • Controversy was the relationship between the Father and the Incarnate Son
  • Arius—taught the Son was a created being, subordinate to the Father (Jn. 14:28)
  • Athanasius—taught that the Son and the Father were of the same nature (Jn. 10:30)
  • Issue had been important during Jesus’ own lifetime (Mk. 2, Jn. 5). Also important in dialogue with late paganism—distinguished between one High god and lesser demigods
  • Controversy used the technical language of Platonic philosophy (ousia/essentia, hypostasis/persona)
  • Arius clearly condemned, official creed prepared

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,the only Son of God,eternally begotten of the Father,God from God, Light from Light,true God from true God,begotten, not made,of one Being with the Father.Through him all things were made.For us and for our salvationhe came down from heaven:by the power of the Holy Spirithe became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,and was made man.


Age of Christological Controversy

  • Theological controversy about the nature of Christ dominated theological debates for the next several centuries,
  • Successor Ecumenical Councils mostly defined Christological doctrines:
  • Third Council (Ephesus, 431): Christ is one person, not two
  • Fourth Council (Chalcedon, 451): Christ has two natures, not one
  • Fifth Council (Constantinople II, 553): the divinity of Christ suffered
  • Sixth Council (Constantinople III, 681): Christ has two wills and two sources of power
  • Seventh Council (Nicaea II, 787): holy images of Christ are licit because his humanity can be depicted
  • Controversies led to great age of theological writing: also considerable popular interest
  • Correct doctrine also becomes a matter of state policy, and heresy a way of expressing protest
  • Scriptural interpretation, hymnody, devotional writing focuses on the mystery of the two natures and the promise of immortality
holy land pilgrimage and the development of the church year
Holy Land Pilgrimage and the Development of the Church Year

Constantine also ignited interest in Palestine: constructed churches at Holy Places, inspired pilgrims

  • Holy Places refocus attention on the events of Christ’s life
  • Cyril of Jerusalem develops ceremonies for pilgrims: palm procession, veneration of Cross—many eventually spread across church
  • Trend associated with development of feasts connected with Christ’s life-widening emphasis from Easter alone—Good Friday, Pentecost, Epiphany, Christmas
  • Emphasis on God’s work through Christ in the events of His life
the true image
The True Image

The era alsosees great expansion of more tactile forms of piety: holy water, relics, images—objects that possess divine power

  • Growing popularity of images depicting Christ and the saints directly—not just figures/analogies
  • Earliest Christians were opposed to any religious statuary and often images as well—feared violating second commandment
  • Iconoclastic Controversy: Emperor Leo banned icons in 726—replacement of images with crosses—related to exchange with Islam
  • Iconophiles triumph at 7th Ecumenical Council (787): defense based on Christ’s true humanity
  • Great flourishing of iconography in East, canons for “writing,” veneration becomes important in piety
  • Icons use an otherworldly style—try to portray the union of divine and human natures in Christ