This month, teaching the “Color and Light in Icons” class at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY was truly a Holy experience. With such a beautiful monastery, warm and gracious hospitality of Abbot Bernard and all the Brothers, and wonderful people enrolled in the class, how could it not be amazing?
We painted the icon of the Good Shepherd and read aloud Psalm 23 and meditated on it day and night, while writing the icon.
Sine icons are theology in picture form, there is a deep relationship between Holy Scripture and the icon. The icon is the symbolic picture that the words of scripture describe, enhanced by the prayers and love of God the iconographer brings to the process.
Through the act of creation we enter into a relationship with God the creator that is enhanced with the addition of His word in Holy Scripture. The resulting icon from this co- creative process becomes a vessel containing God’s presence through His imagery and the iconographer’s prayers.
Meditating on Scripture, and/or on the life of the saint being depicted in the icon is of primary importance in icon writing. It’s important to make oneself ready to receive divine revelation and then translate that into the painting process with the icon.
In teaching icon writing/painting classes, I like to emphasize our shared Christian faith that is being made visible in the revelation and shared spiritual knowledge that is being made available through the process of icon writing. Each student has their own unique conversation with God during the icon writing process, and sharing that communion with others in the class increases the level of revelation available to the group as a whole. We have a strong belief in the intrinsic value of the icons being created and understand that they affect both the maker and the viewer. Icon writing is a powerful ministry!
Membership in the American Association of Iconographers
Membership in the American Association of Iconographers is now open to all iconographers who have a sincere desire to “spread the joy icons throughout the world”.
Email Christine with your name, website and any additional information. Volunteers to help by being on the steering committee are appreciated.
“One of the tasks of the spiritual in art is to prove again and again that vision is possible; that the world, thick and convincing, is neither the only world nor the highest, and that our ordinary awareness is neither the only awareness nor the highest of which we are capable. Traditionally, this task falls under a stringent rule; the vision cannot be random and entirely subjective, but must be capable of touching a common chord in many men and women.” Roger Lipsey, “An Art Of Our Own, The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art”.
Three months ago I gave myself a challenge: to write down everything that I thought was important in art and in Iconography and then to create a book. My Deadline was the Fourth of July and my target was 20,000 words. Yesterday I made my goal, with time to spare! Of course now the editing process begins, but I honestly know now that this path of spiritual discovery in art is as important as anything else I could imagine doing. For it is a research into human inspiration, philosophy, dreams, religion, politics, and moral development through the ages as evidenced in art, specifically painting and Iconography.
Icons in the Twentieth Century
In 1904, a small portion of Andrey Rulev’s Holy Trinity Icon was cleaned of the dark soot that had been its covering for centuries. This one act led eventually to a whole group of Icons in Russia being cleaned and “discovered”, and this, in turn, has largely contributed to the revival in Iconographic interest today. When the Trinity was cleaned and uncovered through restoration, crowds began making pilgrimages to see it.
In 1911, Henri Matisse visited Moscow and was incredulous at the power and beauty he experienced in seeing these Icons. So much so, that his art was strongly influenced by them for the rest of his life. He declared that the Russian medieval masters had already found what he had been seeking painting!
My new book will be about Iconography and its effect on the development of the best in modern art. Putting together the pieces of this puzzle has been illuminating. Wassily Kandinsky, the foremost pioneer of modern art, was not only deeply affected by icons in their painterly language, but also in the clarity and truth of the spiritual reality they conveyed.
Researching writers like Pavel FLorensky, Leonid Ouspensky, Roger Lipsey, Irina Yazykova, as well as modern master artists, I found there is a central theme of authentic spiritual experience throughout. Creating a modern spiritual language requires not only experience as an artist, but a spiritual lifestyle and practice that involves personal growth in Christ.
Color Theory, Materials, and Manuals
Combining the Iconographic and spiritual research with the specifics of making great art was part of my goal for the book. Icons combine two worlds- the spiritual and art. Spiritual development is essential, but so is artistic development. For this I will be including a Bibliography of artist resources and guides to egg tempera painting and old master methods and materials. Sharing all this exciting information that has taken me so long to find will, hopefully, make it easier for others who want to develop their craft and skill by classical painting information combined with the best in modern artists who pursued the spiritual path.
With God’s help, I expect the book to be ready to publish at the beginning of this fall, and will email the specifics. My intention and hope is that this book will help many serious iconographers and artists who wish to push forward in this challenging task of creating spiritual art that draws people to God. It is the job of making icons accessible to a world desperately in need of a change from materialism to God’s world of true spiritual life. For this, we need to open our hearts and let God lead the art out of the churches and into places where the unchurched can experience it. How? God only knows. But the icons then will become seeds carrying the faith and hope of God to the poor, the marginalized, and also the wealthy and priveledged. God will water the seeds and bring forth the harvest.
In his blog, “Way of Beauty”, David Clayton, Pontifex University, posted recently an article on “Artist as Priest”. He makes the connection that both the priest, in ministering the sacraments, and the artist, in creating beauty, make visible the invisible Kingdom of God.
“The role of the artist is to present new revelations of the divine, to show the beauty of the world, lit by the grace of God to a people who have become blind to it. The artist presents transcendent truths in a form that can be seen and comprehended by all. He also shows us the spiritual world in such a way that we can grasp its meaning and impact on our lives, if not its actual appearance.”
Deacon Lawrence, a deacon in Sacramento, CA, in a related blog post, Artist as Teacher, says that the artist teaches through his art. “The work of the artist reflects the splendor of God, brings hope and joy to His people, and lifts hearts and minds to His Divine.”
In both of these blog posts, the writer is speaking about artists, and that would include Iconographers, but would also include artists who create religious art.
On the topic of correct behavior and training specifically for Iconographers there are two other posts to consider.
Aidan Hart and Irina Gannota
British Iconographer Aidan Hart has written an article for Orthodoxy in Dialogue, “Icons and Culture: Transformation or Appropriation ?”. In his article, Aidan states that healthy Iconography is Pentecostal because it declares eternal truths in the language of its viewers. He reminds us that Iconographers today have a difficult task that requires both discernment and creativity.
Aidan goes on to say that, “our postmodern society puts iconography in an even more challenging situation than the early Church, for we are exposed to a plethora of images on a scale like no other culture before us.”
This article is informative and very useful to those who are beginners or continuing to learn Icon writing. It covers the important aspects of authenticity and sacredness and shows historical documentation that allows the reader to see and understand the nuanced world of Icon writing today.
The second article, Iconography as Byzantine Portraiture, was written by Irina Gannota in response to Aidan Hart’s article and also published on the Orthodoxy in Dialogue website. Irina states that Iconography could be thought of as a style of medieval painting and should be taught as such at Iconography schools.
Both of these articles help to flesh out some of the disturbing elements that can infiltrate Icon writing, and they help to bring into our awareness the need to carefully consider our methods and motives in Icon writing.
We know that in the Old Testament, God assigns specific jobs and roles to people who are artists and artisans. In Exodus 36, God calls His artists and craftsmen to design and make craft work, and to pass on their skill and spirit by teaching, Exodus 36:1-2. Teaching is a gift of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:28.
The Greek word, “theoria”, means intelligent contemplation and encompasses the process of understanding Scripture. It is a gift of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. The early Church fathers perceived a depth of meaning when reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures that we can only approximate today. But it is this very depth that is indicative of the Iconographic vision and perspective.
One can deduce then, the importance of Biblical study and interpretation in the light of Icon writing and training. In this way, Icon writing becomes a form of lectio divina, sometimes referred to as “visio divina”.
The Lifestyle of an Iconographer
Symbolical realism in the Icon that is based on spiritual experience and vision needs its link to Tradition and meaning in order to flourish. It is not an easy thing to manifest this perspective. It takes discipline, being rooted in a life giving Church that nurtures an ongoing relationship with God, good spiritual directors, good art/Icon writing training, and quality fellowship with other believers.
‘Icons for Unity’ Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th of November 2018 at
St Savior’s Church, St.George’s Square, Pimlico London, SW1V 3QW
“”There will be a fee of £5 for each icon entered and it will be possible for you to arrange the sale of your own icons with no sale commission due to the BAI.
After 1st May further details and registration forms (Intention to Exhibit form) for the event will be emailed by Rhian to those who have paid for hanging space. Please note all submissions must be made by 31stAugust 2018 to enable their inclusion in the catalogue
It is an exhibition for everyone and whilst the talent and expertise of the professional iconographers will always be discernible, the work of artists old and new to iconography will also be welcome. Please distribute the flyers included with this Review to publicise the event.
“We need members to help by preparing for the exhibition and as curators during the event. So please volunteer and make the event a great success………”
We offer the BAI as a means of maintaining contact between members and of providing them with support in their work and their devotions. We hope that it might be of benefit both to people who are interested in the use of icons in their spiritual life and to those whose interest is in icons as a sacred art form. The aims of the Association are to establish contact with iconographers, learners, beginners and those with a greater proficiency, to deepen our knowledge and understanding of icons and the spirituality associated with them (including Orthodoxy); to offer a forum for the interchange of ideas and techniques; to offer information about forthcoming exhibitions, courses or other events of interest and to be a means of sharing ideas and experiences. We produce a Review four times a year together with a meditation on the icon of a particular saint or festival. This includes the historical background and hymnody associated with the subject. We would also value any comments and ideas that you might have, in particular, any material that you think would be of interest to other members which we could include in the Review. If you would like to join, please write to the Membership Secretary (see Page 38)
We feel there is a risk that people practising this art form might feel isolated; if so do join BAI.
If you would like to become a member of BAI, it is fairly simple: visit their website www.bai.org.uk and go to the contact page. There are a few membership options to choose from and payment can be made through PayPal.
“I think it is promising that today we are witnessing a rebirth of Christian art,, reconnecting with the art the Icon, of a Christian art that endures in the great norms of the iconological art of theist but that also extends to today’s experiences and vision.” Benedict XVI
Basic concepts of Icon writing, history and methods of painting will be demonstrated. We will also have meditation and prayers on Mary as this is Mother’s Day Weekend and we will do a Mary Icon together. Icons have played an important role in healing and bringing forth peace to nations, and there are many examples of Icons in Belarus, and Eastern Europe that are attributed to healing miracles, often these are Mary Icons. $580 includes Icon Materials, meals and overnight accommodations at the Monastery $120 deposit
This is a special class. Beginners are welcome, and it is also for advanced Iconographers who want to learn more about color in Icons. We will cover color symbolism, color theory, the Iconographer’s palette, and more fun and in depth topics on color. We will write the Icon of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. If you have a different Icon you’d like to paint, email email@example.com Christine with the image and you can work together before the class to make that possible. $580 Fee includes Icon Materials, meals and overnight accommodations.
This is the class when we discuss in depth the sacred geometry that is the foundation of Icon compositions. Sacred geometry is a method of understanding the pictorial space and relationships of images and colors within the Icon and It is an essential part of an Iconographer’s training. There will be a slide talk one evening as well as hands-on exercises to demonstrate the concepts. We will endeavor to complete an Icon by the end of this workshop using sacred geometry. $580 includes materials, overnight accommodation at the monastery and meals.
Lori Callaway, Guest House Manager
Phone: 845-384-6660, ext. 1
Tuesday – Friday
9:00 AM until Noon
1:30 PM until 4:30 PM
First, a thank you to all of you who have been subscribers to this blog over the last couple of years. Particularly, thank you for being patient with all the changes in format and stylistic content as I try to understand the needs and purpose of this community of Iconographers.
I have changed format again, this time getting closer to my original purpose of having a substantial list of Iconographic resources and links to help Iconographers in creating and learning about Icons. If you look at the left sidebar you will see a page of “resources” on which I have started to add links, and will continue with this throughout the year so that it becomes a valuable resource.
As it is New year’s Eve and we are on the verge of the Feast of Epiphany , here are some images of the Epiphany in different Iconographic styles, taken from a more nuanced article by Hokku about the wise men on the blog ” Icons and Their Interpretation”.
Icons for the Epiphany range in subject matter from stories of the wise men finding Jesus in a manger, to the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan.
Epiphany is described as the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi- who were not Jews but were from the East; it is also the church feast day commemorating the Epiphany on January 6; and a manifestation of a divine, supernatural being. Webster’s dictionary describes Epiphany as “ a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”
The birth of Jesus, the Son of the most high God in a manger certainly fulfills that definition. Epiphany represents the discovery that Jesus was born for not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles- for the whole world.
In the Baptism of Jesus Icon, we see in the central axis of the Icon, the God the Father, represented by the half circle at the center; The Holy Spirit, represented by the rays of gold coming from the half circle,and Jesus, the Son of God. In the Gospel, God’s audible voice announces “This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
It is a revelation similar to the one of the magi- a sudden perception that transforms mundane, earthly existence into one of light, meaning, and grace.
Icons bring to our remembrance important Gospel and Old Testament stories that brighten our everyday existence. As we move into this coming week towards the celebration of Epiphany and then the Baptism of Jesus, let us pray together to receive an Epiphany of God’s grace in each of our lives today, and as Baptism makes permanent and concrete the role of God’s grace in us, may that sudden awareness be awakened and kindled as an important part of our lives in 2018.
This month has been busy with writing Icons and teaching classes. The Holy Cross Monastery Icon Retreat was wonderful, each participant wrote their own St. George Icon, and we had them blessed by Brother Roy on Sunday before Diurnum. It is a wonderful place to study Icon writing since we are able to be part of each day’s morning prayer and Eucharist and share meals with the Brothers and other guests in the octagonal dining room over looking the Hudson River. Truly a joy to teach there!
The prayer of St. George: “Obtain for us the Grace of heroic Christian courage that should mark soldiers of Christ” Amen.
As many of you know, the Icon is a kind of synthesis of the spiritual truths and values of the Church. It is much more than just a religious painting. It is a meeting point between the Divine and the human heart. It is a visible, created beauty, a place where prayer joins us to the image of God. It truly is an honor and privilege to be called to this beautiful practice of writing Icons.
Here are two new ones I am working on – one of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the other a Transfiguration Icon. Here are some work in progress photos:
The following is an important on line Iconographic Resource for those of us interested in the early Icons:
“In 1956, Professor George Forsyth, of the University of Michigan, invited Kurt Weitzmann, of Princeton University, to join him on an exploratory trip to Sinai. From 1958 to 1965, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, and the University of Alexandria carried out four research expeditions to the remote Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai—the oldest continuously inhabited Orthodox Christian monastery in the world, with a history that can be traced back over seventeen centuries. The documentation collected by the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mountain Sinai, under the direction of Professor George Forsyth (below, right) and Professor Kurt Weitzmann (pictured below left), is a profoundly important resource for Byzantine studies.” (Quote from the website link below.)
This website displays all the color transparencies and color slides in the possesion of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton. The online images are limited to a size of 1024 pixels. These images are available to download and use for teaching and scholarly purposes.
St. Luke’s Guild of Iconographers- a group of Iconographers who pray and write Icons- many of whom have studied with me. Their primary focus is community through prayer and writing Icons. Here’s a link to their Facebook Page
Praying a blessing over your Icon writing, until we meet again!
This month, I have two articles that have, at heart, a re-examination of two central issues to Icon making:
First, the Getty Museum has just announced a new digital art history protest of Medieval art and it’s relationship to Christianity and culture – all issues that are part of the invisible foundations of Icon writing.
Second, Mary Jane Miller, an Iconographer in Mexico, wrote and asked if she could guest blog on a topic pertinent to Icon writing- Women in Icons- cultural biases and concerns. It’s a good topic with many more points that could made in the future. Hope you enjoy them both! As always, we look forward to your comments and thoughts as long as they are given a constructive and kind spirited manner!
A new digital art history project seeks to correct biases in how databases represent meaning in medieval Christian imagery
The French Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) is launching an ambitious project for scholars and the broader public that proposes an innovative way of accessing medieval Christian images. By building complex and nuanced vocabularies of keywords and terms, the “Ontology of Medieval Christianity in Images” (OMCI) will allow databases to better represent how such images depict philosophical and spiritual themes that have been diminished or even ignored in current approaches.
Traditionally, Western art history has favored examining narrative aspects of medieval Christian images over conceptual ones. As art historians have adopted digital media in their work, this preference has been reflected in the structure of databases, which have tended to organize information about medieval Christian artworks around themes related to biblical and Christian places, events, characters, and objects.
However, medieval Christian artworks depict much more than narratives. In the Christian tradition, the material and spiritual worlds, and the course of history itself, are expressions of God’s law for the universe. The very structure of medieval Christian images—as expressed in their content and composition—often mirrors that overarching cosmological order.
In other words, the relationship between pictorial content and religious ideology in medieval Christian images is much more nuanced, and more expressive, than simple storytelling. The OMCI is concerned with this ontological level of analysis: the OMCI team of art historians, graduate students, and technology experts intends to build a web resource that will identify keywords and iconographical themes linked to medieval Christian knowledge and belief systems. These will be augmented by examples from the art of that period—such as the images featured above—that reflect both cultural values and Christian ideals.”
“I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and half of that time dedicated to the practice of painting (writing) icons. Biblical text, liturgy, and prayer are my source of strength and comfort, just like millions of people around the world. I would like to share some of the observations I have made while painting icons and at times disturbing reflections on some familiar Bible verses. Adam and Eve: the biblical story interpreted often defines Eve as being created second to Adam and responsible for original sin, which of course became all women’s greatest sin, the temptation of sexual sin. 1 Corinthians 14:34 : “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…”, the new testament continues with verses that ultimately prohibiting them from serving in positions of authority, the like of which has effected every women’s place in society. In actuality, beginning as early as the fourth century the dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to thwart the ascendant positions for women within the religious hierarchy and in christian societies in general.
The underlying teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, – all call for the proper and equitable treatment of God’s children. I have always known in my heart and soul, women are not inferior to men; without a doubt, God loves humanity equally. Tragically, as an iconographer of 25 years, self taught and inspired, I have not had to look far to see that in this great tradition that I so love, the place of women in the iconographers community or in the images depicted thy have been noticeably absent until recently.
Now ironically, women may be holding the means to this great sacred art forms survival. Those who are graced with the desire to paint sacred text, have an obligation as prayer practitioners to re-examine how or why Women are not mentioned in the great feast days like Pentecost, at the last supper, or the baptism of Christ, etc. It is not God’s commandment that they are not heard of in text or seen in sacred image. When the feminine voice and new icon images are ushered into today’s church community, the addition will benefit us all. When you stand before an icon for any amount of time you cannot help but see first the beauty they have as a work of art. A well done icon is a powerful tool and often provokes insights and visions. This interior conflict for women because of our absence within the fullness of societies and the church is a worthy discussion we all need to engage in. We live in an age of great bigotry, self righteousness and personalized isolation. Including more women in Icons stimulates new perspectives on a theological issue which is still in it’s infancy.
Some might ask, why would I care about such details. If you are an iconographer you are supposed to transcribe the Bible word for word and uphold the theological doctrines which the church maintains. The problem for me is my thinking mind. Mary being portrayed as the perfected quiet servant and silent mother I feel has been a hindrance to the development of women and their voice in the Christian church institutions.
I am asking for a simple review to rectify what we all are beginning to see as misguided behavior of the past. That must change if we are to going to have a thriving church in the future. When the feminine voice and new icon images are ushered into today’s church community, the addition will benefit us all.
Inquisitive women like myself have always been around Christ listening to His message, they were there cooking and cleaning at the Last Supper, at the wedding at Canon and when He fed the five thousand. When Christ invited the children, you can be sure the mothers were there, too. These women were imbued with unrecognized human qualities: those who speak and those who contemplate, those who teach and those who administer and, finally, those who are mystics with their wisdom, living and walking among us. If we believe that God’s boundless presence is reflected through sacred text and in iconographic image, then the New Eve can and should live in communion with the New Adam to offset the gender imbalance in science, art, government, religion and all other facets of life.
World leaders have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.” It is time for the church “fathers” to draft a similar statement.
While I am painting new images of women in iconography, I am also challenging all denominations within the Christian church to re-frame parts of Holy Scriptures which have justified the superiority of men over women. We are told we are One body in God, called to be One mind in Christ. Let us live into that reality where Christian women will served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, mystics, healers, teachers and prophets, etc. through image and word. ” By Mary Jane Miller San Miguel Icons
Thank you Mary Jane for your thoughts and observations. If you have a topic or article to submit for review, just send an email. Creating Sacred Images that build our relationship to God in a strong and powerful way is most important in the times we live in. May we all keep this in prayer, for God to guide His Iconographers, women and men, to create the Holy images we need for our time and culture today.
May God bless you and keep you, and may His wisdom fill all that you say and do.
This month, sharing Icons with kindergarten children in Boston was a special joy – I used pages from the Icon coloring book that they could “paint” and I demonstrated making egg tempera- they loved trying it!
Also was blessed to lead an Introduction to Icon writing workshop in Miami and Morningstar Renewal Center, directed by Sue de Ferrari. Many of the participants were students of Sue’s in a unique Spiritual Direction Training program through St. Thomas University. It was a blessed workshop in so many ways, including a Good Friday Stations of the Cross prayer walk, using my Stations Icons.
The weekly Albany Icon writing class is up and running again. To view class times and schedules got to www.iconwritingclasses.com.
In teaching Icon workshops and classes,, and particularly in giving talks about Icons to a more general audience, I realize how important it is to explain the difference between an Icon and a religious painting. I think that issue warrants more thought and explanation amongst the Icon writing community. When we consider the history of Icons, and the development of Icon writing particularly from the eighth century forward, there seems to be a development that begins to decline in levels of artistic and spiritual quality particularly in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries.
Religious Paintings vs Icons
We can see that in the elongation of forms, the more naturalistic rendering of people and objects, and in the gradual loss of that flatness of spatial relationships. What begins to happen is that the “heavenly world” that world that operates not on the same laws as earth, but instead, the miraculous space that God inhabits.
I believe that most of us Iconographers are aware of this and the importance of not copying Icons from the Renaissance forward is part of that understanding. Does anyone know of more clearly articulated articles or books that define this difference between “good Icons” and ones that are considered “corrupted”? I think it would be useful for the Iconographic community to consider various ideas and opinions on this subject, so please email or forward relevant writings on the topic and I will try to continue to post regarding this notion of “what makes a Good Icon?”. Below is an in depth video that is interesting and informative.
“God in all that is most living and incarnate in Him, is not far away from us. altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in our work of the moment… he is at the tip of my pen, my brush, my needle- of my heart and of my thought.” Teilhard de Chardin
This month I would like to give you some of my resources and links that have a lot of varied information about Icons and creating Icons. Some of these are repeats from last year, but thought you all might like to see them here in one place:
Also want to mention the article that came out in the National Catholic Reporter, Dec. 2016: “Iconography Classes Draw non Orthodox in Search of Spiritual Images”. It is important because it draws attention to the current revival in Icon Writing classes as well as making the point that sacred images are of increasing importance to all denominations of Christianity.
“Experts say the growth in interest — and diversity of religions involved — has been building over the last couple of decades.”
“David Morgan, a religion scholar and art historian at Duke University, said the iconography tradition, which dates to the early centuries of Christianity, is designed to be distinct from more naturalistic art, which became more common in the Renaissance period.
The flatness of the image, its stillness, the large eyes of its figures and the often symmetrical style are all intentional ways of distinguishing between the ordinary world and a heavenly realm.
The two-dimensional image denies three-dimensional presence,” he said. “It says the spirit is not about three dimensions. It’s about a reality that is revealed in the image, revealed in the holy Scriptures, revealed in the sacrament, and it’s something that one needs to recognize as very special.” There is more in the article and I have included the link above.
It is hopeful and encouraging that many more people are experiencing the spiritual joys of Iconography.
I gave a talk this month at Church of the Redeemer, a beautiful Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida, that was well attended and the questions afterwards showed a lively interest and an awareness that Icons have the effect of strengthening our faith in many different ways.
I think that understanding our differences as Iconographers and agreeing on the important elements of Icon writing that we share are key to being part of a vibrant community. Perhaps we can all include the community of Iconographers in our prayers as we move forward in Faith as servants of God and His Church.
As we contemplate the New Year ahead, Icons have an important role to play in shaping the structure and content of our lives, for they are signs pointing the way to the future. How does that work? In my prayer practice and in my choice of Icons to write, I choose Icons that will be effective in directing my attention and prayers to the outcomes, wisdom, and direction I am seeking.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
Whatever your political leanings, there has never been a more important time to pray and to write Icons. For in choosing which Icons to write, we can call forth, through prayer, the guidance and assistance of the community of saints who have gone before us. Mysterious and powerful, the Byzantine Holy images that were created hundreds of centuries ago, contain a window into the Divine that is sometimes hard to locate in our contemporary world. In the prayerful atmosphere of meditation and contemplation with an Icon, we enter into that holy, creative space where we listen to God and receive Holy Wisdom.
Some examples of Icons that relate to this concept of praying and contemplation with a purpose are: Christ, calling forth Unity, forgiveness and discernment; Julian of Norwich, calling forth peace; Saint Anthony the Great, father of monasticism and defeater of demonic temptations; Saint Michael the Archangel, Protector of the world; The Madonna, protector of children everywhere; the list is endless. In fact,it would be interesting and you are invited to list your own favorite Icons and saints in the comments section below.
If you are interested in contributing to the American Association of Iconographers blog or if you’d like to become a member, please add your name and information in the comments section below.
In speaking about one of her Icon writing classes, Iconographer Mary Jane Miller states: “The main goal of the study is to cultivate a clear and conscious image that becomes a lasting window to the Divine” It is precisely this that Icons and Icon writing have to offer. The more clearly we pray, create our vision with God’s help, we bring God’s grace and intervention to the very world we live in. While Icons are most often seen in the context of liturgical worship within the Church, their place is also needed in our individual worlds outside the church, helping us to minister to those around us by granting us access to heaven through the Icons.
If you’d like to make an Icon workshop part of your 2017 Spiritual Plan, I will be teaching three this year. The first one will be an advanced Icon writing workshop held at the beautiful Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY, March 21-24. It is for those who have previous experience and wish to continue. Individual instruction and demonstrations will be provided.
May God continue to bless you in 2017, and may your prayer reach extend to all those in need in your community and in your nation and the world.