Wednesday, May 27, 2009


So, I've been listening to the archived podcasts from Our Life in Christ, which I found through one of Alana's posts. Because I am anal, I started at the beginning, which, aside from the *very* first one, which deals with Mark 2, has been six episodes on icons, and why they're not idolatry and their purpose and use in the life of the Church.

I could *try* to explain everything that was taught in the series, but it'd be a *very* long post, and I'd miss something, and it's just better if you go and listen/read the production notes yourself. The archives are here: Our Life in Christ Archives. The pertinent ones, though you can tell from the titles, are dated September 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and November 7, 2004. They're each 40-50 minutes long, and enjoyable, imho. Plus, in their breaks, you get some very lovely Orthodox music.

Just my brief, rambling impression from it:

God Himself was the first iconographer. Man was created in the image of God - we are an *icon* of Him. Does this mean that God looks like us? Nope. He is invisible, uncreated. So the physicality is not the 'image' of God. It's our souls, our spirits that are made in the image of God. Just as, in an icon, it's not an effort to represent the true to life physical image of the subject. An icon is written to express, in visual, physical terms, the truth of a spiritual reality.

There is only one reality, but, for the most part, we cannot see reality, as it really is, because of the schmutz that covers us. So, we're icons, but we're like old icons, covered in years of dirt and soot and fire damage. But, just as icons have been miraculously restored, so can we, as icons of God be restored. It involves, of course, being in Christ. Being the sword in the fire. Taking on (absorbing) the energies of God, but never, of course, the essence. And *remaining* in the fire. It all ties back to the concept of deification.

That's why, according to the program, icons don't have a light source for the subject. The light emanates from *within* the Saint.

When Christ revealed Himself at the Transfiguration, He was not adding something to Himself, He was merely *opening their eyes* to the true reality that had always been there, but that they had been unable to see.

There is, of course, so much more. But those are some of the, to my mind, more important things that stuck with me.

Edit: Because I keep forgetting to say that I am becoming unaccountably fond of St. John of Damascus


  1. When we were visiting my parents this weekend, we stopped by my mom's church (Disciples of Christ) on Sunday afternoon, and my son was very disturbed: "Where are all the icons? Why don't they have icons, Mom?" I'd forgotten-on some level- what a protestant church building looks like. It reminded me of a court room.

    But I also remember the first time I ever stepped foot into an Orthodox Church (4 long years before I unexpectedly realized I had to become an Orthodox Christian), and I was so judgy and did NOT think those icons were OK at all.

  2. I enjoyed this. I grew up more non-icon, but it was because I thought they were worshiped like idols. I read a book earlier this month and wrote this about icons on my blog:


    Icons were a divisive topic. For the pro-icon group, icons represented a way for the illiterate people to know the Bible stories since even those unable to read words could read pictures. The other group thought people worshiped their icons or held them in too high regard by including the icons in worship. John of Damascus argued, "'We do not make obeisance to the nature of wood, but we revere and do obeisance to Him who was crucified on the Cross.' Christ himself is an image, his human nature is a reflection of the invisible divine nature" (pg. 104).


    I thought the part about Christ being an image was so interesting. He is the image of the invisible God .. God in flesh!

    Thanks for sharing things like this. I enjoy reading what's on your mind. :)

  3. COOL POST! I have an I have an icon corner, in front of which is a home altar. I've never been able to figure out how to explain to someone that no, I'm not worshipping the icons, nor am I worshipping the little statues on the altar.

    You just did it for me :-) I'm going to print that out and make it an Amber Tract !!!!

  4. I also grew up without a ton of icons, but we had ones even more awesome like the Santa Lucia crown of lit candles worn on Christmas Eve by a teen girl. We had a ncie cross, and a pretty formal service. I love this Amber! I am interested to see photos of your church.

  5. Alana,

    They're very, well, it could just be any building at all, couldn't it? I remember running around in the Lutheran church I grew up in. We literally ran around inside the church, up on the altar, we played hide and seek in the pastor private rooms, etc. There was no distinction, no idea that this was supposed to be sacred space.

    I've yet to go into an Orthodox church, and my church doesn't have any icons, so I'm not certain what my gut reaction would be. Intellectually, I've got no problem with icons. I have one hanging over my bed, but it's a family heirloom. But, for instance, on Good Friday, when we venerated the cross, it gave me a little pause. *Years* of being told not to do that kicked in.

  6. Susanne,

    I grew up Lutheran, and while it was the 'high church' kind, we didn't have any icons or images in church either. Definately iconoclastic, or, as the hosts of the radio show would call it, iconophobic. :)

    One of the interesting points they made, that I didn't mention, was that if the Protestant denominations were truly iconoclasts, they wouldn't have any pictures of any kind. You couldn't watch television, you certainly couldn't watch the Passion of the Christ, or any movies. And those 'Bible land' style themeparks, with guys running around acting as Jesus? *So* out.

    They also pointed out that things like Bibles, crosses, the Jesus fish, etc. which are perfectly acceptable to most Protestant denominations are also forms of icons. It was all very interesting and educational. :)

    Ooohh...I shall have to read your post.

  7. Michelle,

    *blush* But it's not me, really. It was the radio show! I just made a really tiny summary!

  8. Lisa,

    We had no icons in church growing up. They only images at all were in the Sunday School room - we had felt stick-ups for Bible stories, etc. They were teaching aides.

    Hmm...well, my church doesn't have any icons. I do have pictures somewhere on my computer at home, which I'll post just for the heck of it, but there aren't any icons there.

  9. Bible land theme parks?!?!?!?!

    That's scary.

  10. You should check out "Monastery Icons" shop and also "Conception Abbey." They have great icons for sale!

  11. Michelle,

    Yep. The only one that I know of by name is The Holy Land Experience, which is, apparently, somewhere in Florida.

    I have never been there, have no intention to ever go there, and find it hokey and creepy and just generally wrong.

    Thanks for the shops. :) I'll have to check 'em out.

  12. I still don't get it. OK, I haven't listened to the tapes yet, but I wonder if one of you ladies would mind sending me the explanation for why, if man is the image and glory of Christ (a la 1 Corinthians 11), do we need icons of other men? Please don't think me rude - I do understand much of what you say, and I do use other symbolism for spiritual things, such as headcovering, the Lord's Supper and baptism by immersion, for example, but (forgive my "scripture only" - is that what it is?) .... My email is at my info. page, so that you don't have to fill your blog comments here, if you could write; thank you.

  13. Lisa,

    I'll be totally honest and say that I don't feel comfortable enough in my knowledge to properly explain why icons are *needed*. It's something I'm still learning myself. I do, however, see iconography as Biblical.

    While I would still, if you get the chance, recommend listening to the shows, or reading the notes, I'm going to make another post of their notes on the Biblical basis for icons, and also a short article from my OSB on images and imagery.

  14. Also, as a note, I'd rather ya'll post any replies to Lisa here or on the Part Deux post, if you don't mind. Simply because I'd like to learn from your replies as well.



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