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Praying with Icons

Fr Simon Ckuj shares the following insights about icons and deepening our relationship with Christ through praying with icons. Fr Simon is Parish Priest of St Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic parish in Lidcombe, Sydney.

Individuals and groups are encouraged to read this reflection and, following the guidelines at the end, spend time contemplating the face of Christ.

 

He is the image [Greek: icon] of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Col 1:15)

When an iconographer creates an icon, they are said to "write the icon", not paint it. This is because it is a prayerful exercise in humility before God. They are highly symbolic using shapes, colours and forms to symbolize different spiritual realities. They are not signed by the artist on the front, if at all. The best iconographers are not famous artists, but holy saints.

Praying with icons is an ancient prayer practice that involves keeping our eyes wide open, taking into our heart what the image visually communicates. We focus not on what is seen in the icon, but rather on what is seen through it -- the love of God expressed through God's creatures.

Religious icons are commonly referred to as "windows to heaven" or "windows to the eternal". They idea that a piece of artwork can give us a glimpse of the invisible comes from Christology - the study of the person of Christ - which focuses on the Incarnation. Because God took on human flesh, He allows us to see the person of Christ, who is God.

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