Have you heard about the orthodox Christian tradition of icons? I’m sure you have seen them. Icons have been used since the earliest days of the Christian faith. They are painted images, sometimes with silver or gold. And they are images of religious figures, of biblical stories. Icons are mostly of Jesus and of course his mother, Mary.
Christians who use these do not worship the wood itself or the paint or the gold. Instead they pray with their eyes wide open so they can take in the mysteries of God revealed in the icon. Icons are called “windows into heaven” and “windows into the divine.” The hope is that praying with icons might provide just a glimpse of the throne of heaven, just the tiniest sound bite of the choirs of angels.
Praying with images might seem uncomfortable, different or weird. But go ahead and open your eyes. See what beauty God is revealing herself in.
What you will need:
• Images, photos, paintings
• Quiet environment
• An open mind and open eyes
• Need an image? Find some here!
1. Find an image. Traditional icons are great, but don’t be held to just that. The world is full of icons that can open the eyes of our hearts. Stained-glass windows, old Christmas cards, a setting sun, and even human beings can all be used as icons. Creation is full of divine images.
2. Pray and get lost. North American Christians may feel uncomfortable with keeping their eyes open during prayer. Many of us have memories of our grandmother’s stern look when she caught us looking around with our eyes open during worship. But trust yourself. Open your eyes and begin to move throughout the image. Invoke God’s name as your eyes examine the beauty, the colors, the details. Get lost in it.
3. Imagine. As you move through the icon, imagine yourself there—within the icon. Feel the water splashing your face. Smell the burning candles. Imagine the life of the person depicted. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander and expand.
4. Reflect. Once you have finished dwelling with God in the image, reflect on what God was saying to you. What did the experience of meeting God in an image reveal about you, about God? How are you living as an icon? How is your life giving glory to God?