In the Orthodox tradition great value is placed on the role of icons, representations in paint or enamel of sacred personages such as Christ or the saints. The icons themselves are venerated and considered sacred. The Orthodox Christian doctrine of icons grows out of the belief that the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ has made it possible for all material reality to be an instrument for the revelation of God's glory. Icons are not considered to be just paintings but are viewed as communicating the presence of the person or persons whom they represent. A great Orthodox theologian, Saint John of Damascus, put it this way: "I shall not cease reverencing matter, by means of which my salvation has been achieved."
tians assumed that the Second Coming of Christ was near and that the world would soon come to an end. The Second Coming is the belief that Jesus will return at the end of the world to create a new heaven and a new earth. Until the fourth century the church formally celebrated only Sundays, Easter, and Pentecost; holy days related to the redemption of humanity. As Christians began to accept that the world had not come to an end and was unlikely to come to an end any time soon, they also accepted as a reminder of ideal Christian life on earth a calendar of feast days that had been developed informally. By the Middle Ages each day of the year honored a saint, an event, or a religious reality such as the Trinity.
Christian holy days often transformed traditional pagan, or pre-Christian, festivals. For example, ceremonies and symbols associated with the vernal equinox—the beginning of spring— took on new depth and meaning and came to represent Christ's resurrection. December 25th was celebrated in ancient Rome as the feast of Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun. Kindling the Yule log, decorating houses with holly and evergreens, and adorning an evergreen tree were magical pagan acts to encourage the sun's return. For Christians Christ is the light of the world, the spiritual sun. Christians gave the ancient pagan feast a new meaning, and many pagan symbols were converted to express different facets of the new Christian meaning.
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