The Word as an Icon

The embodied spirituality of Church Slavonic



How do Russian Orthodox Christians frame their understanding of semiotic ideologies of worship? That is to say, how do worshippers interpret liturgical language ‘signs’ and how do these interpretations colour their views as to which language is ‘right’ for the Church? There are to be found two semiotic ideologies of worship in Moscow. There are traditionalists for whom the liturgical language is embodied; it becomes the language of God through its vocalisation and enactment. Then, there are those who believe that Church Slavonic is not an indelible part of Russian Orthodox life and that in terms of its semiotic status its relation to the world it represents is an arbitrary one. Those who invoke the former, folk understandings of semiotic praxis perceive the Holy language as an icon or experiential portal that makes the presence of God more presupposable. Conceptions of language and linguistic register vary intra-culturally. Fieldwork showed how different perceptions of form map onto consciousness, raising questions of intentionality as assumptions about who is speaking (God or the priest) are bound up with the form that is used.

Keywords: liturgical language, embodiment, semiotic ideology, worship, icon




How to Cite

Leonard, S. (2021). The Word as an Icon: The embodied spirituality of Church Slavonic. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 45(3), 30–48.