Fr. John Romanides, the Angel of Great Counsel, and Iconography
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
The iconographer John Charilaos Vranos in his book The Exact Patterns of Icons: Iconographic Theology, analyzes the Theophanies in the Old Testament and in particular, according to the teachings of Fr. John Romanides, regarding the vision of the Angel of Great Counsel, by which we know the Triune God. In the preface of the book he writes among other things:
“The recovery of theology came with the appearance of the novice theologian Fr. John Romanides, teacher of Dogmatics. With his book Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology he methodically and convincingly worked out perfectly the case of the Theophanies. He lists the texts of the great ancient Fathers and reconstructs the theology of returning the God of the Old Testament to His throne, in the midst of His people He Himself defends them, He feeds them like a mother, and teaches them salvation! Rightly Father George Metallinos considers Father John Romanides a milestone of theology so that we can talk about a pre-Romanides period and a post one.”
This is written because Fr. John Romanides, relying on patristic texts and the hymnography of the Church, argued that the revelations of God in the Old Testament were revelations of the fleshless Logos, the Angel of Great Counsel, the Wisdom of God. And as the iconographer John Charilaos Vranos stated, that after the recovery of theology by Fr. John Romanides there followed the recovery of religious iconography, he writes:
“The offering of Fr. John Romanides to iconography is incalculable. And not only in iconography, but in our attitude toward the West. After two thousand years he has opened the Beautiful Gate of the Altar for the Lord of Glory to enter, the Angel of Great Counsel, on His throne. Deception and heresy were removed. ‘Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty — He is the King of glory’ (Ps. 23:7-10). Eternal be the memory of Father John Romanides.”
In the beginning of his book he depicts Father John Romanides sitting in front of a table, as the evangelists sit who wrote the Holy Gospel, dressed in priestly attire, writing his Dogmatics about the Angel of Great Counsel, while watching, at the same time, His icon. He is the I AM and in Him we see the Father, and this vision is through the Holy Spirit. Surrounding this sketch is written in a scroll circle: “John Romanides, Priest 1927-2001, a Teacher of Theology.” Above the sketch is written, “Father John Romanides, the novice theologian of our time, restored the teachings of the Fathers regarding the God and Lord of the Old Testament. He was the Son God Logos and not the Father. Fleshless in the Old Testament, the Angel of Great Counsel, and the incarnate Christ in the New Testament. Iconography was thus illumined, on the top of the ladder of Jacob, in the struggle with the Angel, in the burning bush, in Moses who received the stone slabs and in all the Theophanies of the Old Testament we paint God the Logos, the uncreated Angel of Great Counsel, and not one who is created.” Below the sketched representation is a phrase apparently belonging to Fr. John Romanides: “The non-Christological interpretation of the Old Testament is not only deception, but also heresy.” This shows the great importance of the dogmatic teachings of Fr. John Romanides and how it is expressed in Orthodox iconography.