Michael Daly CJ Blog

A Companion of Jesus

Why Do We Pray Before Icons?

Here is an interesting article that I picked up on the Internet by some Orthodox brethren in the USA.

Br. Michael.

May 2013


Why Do We Pray Before Icons?

One of many reasons: TO INSPIRE US

The icon is an invitation to raise our minds and hearts to higher things. Just as a billboard for McDonald’s tries to instill desire for a hamburger, the icon tries to encourage us to become saints. They show regular people like each of us, sinners, who found repentance, who relied on Christ, who turned away from relying on this world and heeded the call to put God first.

Another Reason: TO TEACH US

Centuries ago people could NOT read. The Printing Press was not yet invented and books were costly and time consuming to make and copy. The average person relied on stories and hearing the Gospel in Church of which the entire book of St. Mark was read…on one Sunday! So with a symbolic use of colors different teachings could be portrayed visually. The Color Blue for example taught of the Heavens above and the Color Red taught of the Earth Below and Humanity. Christ is both from Heaven, Divine and He became a man on Earth, So He is wearing Red and Blue and thus this teaching is shared in the image for some people tried to teach that Christ was not a man and we fought against such heterodox or wrong beliefs while defending the Apostolic teachings and Traditions.


Before Jesus of Nazareth took on flesh, before the first Christmas, before that silent night which was everything but silent, God did not have a face that we could look at. Images were permitted in the Jewish faith but never of God because the Invisible God had yet to reveal Himself to us in Jesus. He had only ever spoken to us Himself or through the Prophets or the Burning Bush but never as a visible man, until Christ. When God took on flesh He sanctified creation. He sanctified matter because man had become corrupt and fallen through sin. So we see the Divine God the Pure God put on matter, put on flesh to raise it up from the darkness and give us His Light. So we use mosaics of glass and tile (tesserae), we use paint of minerals and egg yolk (ancient form of painting) we use wood carvings and all that we have to render an image of God because He Himself now has a face to see.

The Holy Kiss and Kissing Icons: VENERATION & THE SENSES

Some believe kissing icons is an act of worshipping idols. It is not. In fact it is no different than greeting another person in our Orthodox way (three cheek kisses – Slavic, Two Kisses – Greek, as we recognize the image of Christ in one another) Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say images are forbidden. Was it not God who set forth the patterns of Old Testament worship, including the images of the cherubim which were to adorn both the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant and the veil of the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:9, 17-24; 26: 31-33).

Graven images however is another story. A graven image is something that is worshipped as though it is God. For example a golden calf that is paraded around town and told to BE God is wrong. An icon however is a symbol in that it points to the prototype. An icon is also a visual rendition of teachings because of how it is painted, composed and rendered for they do not look like photographs for a reason, because they tell the story of salvation in Christ. When we kiss an icon it is as if we kiss the pages of the Bible because the words hold a teaching of truth! The reverence also transcends to the one depicted but never is the image of wood and paint considered to BE GOD for that would be blasphemy. The icon is a style of painting and teaching inspired by the Holy Spirit that makes use of our visual senses so we are fully involved in offering God ourselves during our Worship of Him.

A woman once told a priest, when I enter a church with white walls and no icons I want to look around, but when I enter an Orthodox Church with icons I want to bow my head and the knee of my heart.



May 20, 2014 - Posted by | Thoughts

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