Friday, April 7, 2017

What is the Best Way to Honor an Icon, and Relate to It?

Icons are “windows into Heaven” and these windows are two-way, for as we look into that blessed world of Eternity and Love, God and those depicted in the icon are looking back at us with attention.  This is a wonderful opportunity to develop our living relationship with the Lord of Life and His Holy Ones, which will take time and conscious attention, as does any other meaningful relationship.  Earthly relations have meaning in this world, but Heavenly relations can really be forever and ever, so it is important to work with good attention on loving and caring and also having a lively two-way interaction with each icon that we look at.  This awareness that icons are not just pictures but are alive is the beginning of how to relate to icons.

Relations can develop in both positive and in negative ways, however.  Just as we would show respect to someone very dear to us, especially someone whom we recognize that is venerable and wonderful, or in a position of great honor in this world, so we should show honor and respect to God and those He has sanctified.  They will be our eternal companions if we are able to rise with Christ’s help to live with them in Heaven.

So, in particular, to honor an icon, the best way is to put it in a place of honor, like in an icon corner, or in a respectful place, or at least in a place where we will go to pray or think about God and His Holy Ones.  In the next blog we will describe how to set up an icon corner in your home.  Also, for respect, we don’t put icons in the bathroom.

The best way to relate to an icon is to stand before it and pray in a lively and direct and personal way.  Think about the Lord, or the Virgin, or the Feast, or the Saint or Prophet depicted and their life and what they did in this world and try to relate to them.  We can say formal prayers, like from their church services, or akathists (published hymns of praise said while standing), and yet we can also just tell them our wishes, desires, and concerns, but do this with respect in a personal way.

God knows us better than we know ourselves.  There are no secrets from Him.  We don’t have to worry about whether He is near to us, or to appear different than we are.  He is always near, whether we are drawing near to Him or not, or we are blind to His love and presence.   Let us look through the icons, those “windows into Heaven”, and then humbly touch that Heavenly Realm and those Heavenly persons who love us with a pure love and a lively concern and care for us, and in our own small way love them back.  O Lord of Life, help us love you and Heaven today! (CJ779)

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Why Do Icons Sometimes Show More Than a Single Time Dimension?

Icons of Christ and His Holy Ones are not just natural art, but supernatural art.  They show by looking through them as “windows into Heaven” something that is not just of earth or worldly, but something that is far beyond even all of our limited imaginations.  They show a vision of Eternity when our hearts and minds are open and purified from just selfish and self-centered thoughts.  This is actually an easy way to begin to perceive more, to see a greater Universe than our present minds can conceive.  In that greater Universe we can see and perceive through Christ as the light of our perceiving all things, and since He is Eternal, then all of time is present at once in Him.

In icons of Christ’s Nativity, for example, often we see the Virgin and nearby the Christ Child in the cave where He was born, and also the Three Magi on route to see Him.  Nearby the Christ Child in another image is also being washed off by the mid-wives.  The Angels are present from singing “Glory to God in the Highest” at midnight to the Shepherds from the nearby fields, and those shepherds are also shown.  This makes no sense in just our temporal and continuous time, but it makes perfect sense as all the disparate parts are gathered together to celebrate with us the Lord’s wonderful Nativity in the flesh from the Virgin Mary.

God is whole, complete, cohesive, and comprehensive all at once.  He is in time, outside of time, and before time too.  God is with us, in us, around us, and also separate from us, but He is always near us as His love always reaches out to every person beyond all time and place, right now, immediate, and permanent.  It is a mystery, but one not solved by thought, but entered into by Faith.  Let us enter today as humbly as we can into this great mystery!

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why Do Icons have Dimensions that are Abstract Not Just Naturalistic?

In this world we can normally only see with our natural eyes and mind, so our visual minds will remain untouched by spiritual sight and stay just earthly and worldly.  We have all heard the saying, “seeing is believing” which does actually express a deep truth.  It is only with an effort to look beyond our outward senses, that the inner world can open and reveal the hidden and wonderful nature of things as they really are—as God sees them—which He will share with all those who truly want to know the truth, because He Himself is Truth.

How can we show this in two dimensional art?  By using a conscious and directed partial abstraction to open to us the divine forms of things, as is shown in the icons.  Often icons have hands and feet and eyes and noses that are not just naturalistic but somewhat abstracted.  Icons have a positive abstraction that elevates the mind and heart to pierce the veil of mere materiality, and show by looking through these icons, our “windows into Heaven”, something more than the physical eyes and mind can see.  This seeing is truly believing.  The icons, with their directed partial abstraction, open the mind and heart to see the true spiritual world, and to contact God and His Holy Ones directly.  Let us look through the icons with our hearts open, and behold the Heaven of God’s true Light!

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why are Icons Dynamic Yet Balanced, Instead of Being Static or Symmetrical?

In the Orthodox Church the view of Heaven is that it is not static but always dynamic.  It is taught that all those who go there continue to grow towards a fuller perfection even after they have come to live in this blessed place, because God is still infinitely more than whatever they had partaken of Him in their own journey towards Him on earth.  Thus the reality for all Eternity is that as God is creatively alive and infinitely full, so those who have come to live in His presence can and will continuously grow and grow in holiness and in greater life when they are living closer to Him. 

The icons are “windows into Heaven” so they reflect this Heavenly truth even when shown here on earth, and so are dynamic rather than static, balanced but not symmetrical.  They imply motion, aliveness, vitality, vigor, and strength even though they are yet in form just two-dimensional art.  Rest in motion, peace in growth, life in more life—ideas hard to express in our still fallen world, but with Christ all things are possible.  Let us yearn towards His Light and see then with a greater sight! 

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What is the Best Way to Choose an Icon?

Icons are not just pictures or art, but have a living spiritual dimension beyond just the material form by which they are seen.  When we look at an icon we are entering in some mysterious way into a relationship with the person or event depicted, and this is a two-way relationship.  This is a mystery that cannot be fully explained but can be directly felt.

After coming to a particular holy person or subject of an icon then, the best way to choose one is to notice if you are feeling drawn to any particular image.  That means that at this time we can have a dynamic interaction with that icon and person or event over a longer period of time.  It is not an intellectual exercise, but deeper than just the rational mind, just like love is more, or respect, or admiration.  Let us choose by being quiet and open to “see” an image, an icon that appeals directly to us.  Blessed picking!

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why Are There Icons of the Virgin Mary and the Saints?

All people are made in the Image of God from their creation.  This is said in the beginning of the Holy Scriptures.  When human beings open themselves into a living relationship with God and the Church, they begin to blossom and become more and more like Jesus Christ Who is an Image of God the Father.  His Light begins to shine in them, and purify them, and cleanse them until they become living icons of Him.  That is why they are called saints, which means holy.
 
They reflect His Light in them and shine with reflected glory.  The Virgin Mary and most of the Apostles became holy like this, and in time many more people also became like them.  They too shone with Him manifestly becoming living icons even while alive here on earth.  Because they are with Him and live in Him and image Him even now, we can call on them as older brothers and sisters in the Faith to hear us because they are with Him so closely.  God answers prayers, even sometimes through the Saints, but He answers them.  Let us behold the beauty of the Virgin Mary and all the Saints as we draw near to Him!

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How the Image of God Is Manifest in the Holy Icons

According to St. Basil,  Christ is the image of God the Father, Whom no man hath ever seen.  We can see God by beholding Jesus Christ manifest inwardly when He becomes the very Light of our life and our means of perception, seeing all other things through Him.  We can see God outwardly by looking at His Holy icons which are a direct revelation of Him as He was in the flesh. Then we must look through those icons as “windows into the Heavenly Realms”: where Christ is the very light of perception of the Next World.

The Holy Icons help us in another way as we are always included in the act of beholding an icon and are a living part of each icon that we behold.  This “window into Heaven” is a two-way window.  When we see Him with love and compassion, the image of God that was planted in us becomes alive and luminous, for we are essentially made in His Image. The word Icon is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Image, so we are made as the icons of Him.   Let us reach out to Him ardently so that He reaches back to us in love!

Click on colored links above to view these special icons and go to skete.com to our see our vast collection.