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Some thirty years ago I was doing doctoral work at Duke University under Geoffrey Wainwright. I was drawn to Wainwright on account of his commitment to liturgical tradition and practice as the ground of theology. A course that became a turning point in my studies was on the nature of language in theology. Like all work in the program, it was not a course filled with answers, but a careful discipline of asking questions. So much depends on the answers we ask – apparently you don’t get answers to questions you are not asking. I immersed myself in our assigned readings but found myself without a rudder. There is so much to say and think about language that the topic easily becomes overwhelming. Reading in some unrelated material, however, I stumbled across a quote from the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council: “Icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” It created a question for me: “What do icons do with color?” I wound up writing a paper on the “iconicity of language.” Wainwright wrote a comment in the margin that likely changed my life: “I think you have your dissertation topic.”
That comment took me down a road that has yet to end. The dissertation became a thesis as my doctoral work got side-tracked. I returned to parish life but with a knowledge that I could no longer speak about the icons from outside the Tradition. It was seven years before I was received into Orthodoxy with my family. But that day also seemed to be the day I was united at last with the family of icons that had become so many windows into heaven.
Work - Thesis - Language - Immersion - Doctrine
The work I did in my thesis was not just about language. It was an immersion into the doctrine of the holy icons in...
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