Art and Faith

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Vasili Perov. The Removal from the Cross. (no date (1870s-80s?))

The Removal from the Cross (Vasili Perov, no date (1870s-80s))

Ivan Aivazovsky. A Shipwreck near Mount Athos. 1856

A Shipwreck near Mount Athos (Ivan Aivazovsky, 1856)

This painting has an added dimension for Orthodox Christians. Athos, also known as the Holy Mountain, is one of the holiest sites in Orthodoxy. It is a monastic republic of some 20 ruling monasteries, along with other attached sketes, located on a peninsula in the region of Thessaloniki. The best-known fact about the place is that it admits no female visitors. For that matter, no monastic house truly allows those of the opposite gender full run of the facilities, and convents normally prefer older priests. That is because monastics have no illusion as to their goodness. They know that they are as sinful as the rest of us, and they wish no temptation.

If a boat with female passengers were to be wrecked on the shores of Athos, I am quite certain that the fathers would be kind and considerate, and show every bit of courtesy and hospitality. They would also ensure that the women left expeditiously. This is not discrimination; this is prudence. Something we need more of these days, don’t you agree?

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