Ask Fr. John: Different interpretations can be confusing

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What’s with the icons? — G. P.

In the Orthodox Church icons are not only suggested, they are required. “Icon” is Greek for “image.” We call icons “windows into heaven,” in that they lead the mind and heart to the contemplation of heavenly things.
We believe that since the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ became incarnate, we must proclaim Him and that fact to the world in word, image and deed.
One goal of the life in Christ is maintaining a moment-to-moment relationship with him.
Iconography assists in this effort. Much of our theology originates in Hebrew theology and it is no different with icons.
After the 10 commandments are given, God commands certain images to be created and placed in the temple.
From the Cherubim on the Ark and later in the Solomon’s Temple, to the brazen oxen, to the serpent that was lifted in the wilderness, images have been commanded by God.
The serpent was lifted up to inspire those who looked upon it to remember God. Similarly, when we look at an icon, we remember that which is depicted.
When one remembers something in God, we believe it becomes present with power in all its fullness.
God, His eternal moments and His people, become invisibly present through an icon. The spiritual dimension of iconography can be observed in our own interactions with our photographs of loved ones. We kiss them. We protect them from fires. We grieve when we lose them.
This is because we intuit the concept of remembrance — that which is depicted becomes present though we know the picture itself is not our loved one.
We sense that the affection passes to the prototype in a mystery. The board, paint, are not God. God forbid! The board and the paint are windows into heaven.
Send questions to monkjohn@gmail.com.