Lenten Reflections: Icons


Today is the first day of my Lenten Reflections series, which will occur every Sunday until Orthodox Pascha (Easter) on April 15. I have a few guest bloggers lined up (still have some spots open!) but no one was ready  yet, so today I’m going to share a few quotes regarding icons in the church.

Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy in our church. We celebrate the triumph over the iconoclasts (i.e., people who were against icons) at the Council of Nicea in 787. The iconoclasts felt that having icons was a form of idol worship, which of course is prohibited by the Ten Commandments. The Council, however, said this: “Also we declare that one may render to them the veneration of honor; not the true worship of our faith, which is due only to divine nature . . ”

The book Praying with Icons by Jim Forest was one of the first Orthodox books I read. There are a lot of good quotes from this book, but here is what I want to share with you today:

The icon is silent. No mouths are open nor are there any other physical details which imply sound. But an icon’s silence is not empty. The stillness and silence of the icon . . . create an area that constantly invites prayer . . . It is the very opposite of the icy stillness of the tomb. It is the silence of Mary’s contemplative heart.”

I crave that silence and stillness. I crave moments of quiet, moments of slow breathing, moments in which I can think. And pray.

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes in her book The Open Door about icons of Mary, Jesus’ mother.

“And Mary is an ordinary human. Ordinary, that is, in the sense that she had normal human DNA, was born the same way we were and like us, ate and drank and slept. She’s not a demigod or mythological composite figure, part human and part divine. But she’s an extraordinary human, too, in the way that anyone can be who lets the light of Christ fill him or her completely.

This icon of Mary, then, tells the story of what God accomplished in her, and how he transformed her to be the bearer of His Son. She did in a literal way what we each hope to do spiritually, to be filled with Christ’s presence. Often in ancient hymns she is compared to the Burning Bush, wholly on fire with the presence of God and yet unconsumed . . . Mary is set before us as a preeminent example, showing how this transformation looks in practice in one ordinary, extraordinary life . . . Mary is present on the iconostasis in her role as an intercessor . . . Mary is the leader of all praying Christians.”

Though they are silent, icons pierce us deep in the soul because they represent real believers who have passed on, who are praying for us even now.

**If you are interested in being a guest blogger for this series, please email your piece to me at karissa.k.sorrell@gmail.com.


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