Column: Way of the Icon
Just as in any art or science there are rules to follow, so it is with the art of the icon, both for the success of the art piece as well as for the spirit of the artist.
Since we have chosen to focus on the Icon of the Holy Face this Lent, I would like to give you a way to understand the way of the Icon from the inside out so to speak. We can catch a glimpse of this by following some of the rules for the Icon painter.
There are approximately nine rules in general that we can name, but today I would like to introduce just the first three rules. They are brief but so worth reflecting on as we bring our life to light and color.
First Three Divine rules for the Icon Painter:
- Before starting work, make the sign of the Cross; pray in silence and pardon your enemies.
- Work with care on every detail of your icon, as if you were in front of the Lord Himself.
- During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually. Avoid all useless work and keep silent. Pray in particular to the Saint whose face you are painting.
Prayer before the Icon
Keeping these first three rules for the icon writer in mind, now consider the words of St. John of Kronstadt below:
You gaze upon the icon of the Saviour and see that he looks at you from it with brightest eyes:
This look is the image of how He actually looks upon you with His eyes, that are brighter than the sun, and sees all your thoughts, hears all your heartfelt distress and sighs.
The image is an image, and represents in lines and signs that which cannot be delineated, cannot be given in signs, and can be comprehended by faith alone.
Believe, then, that Saviour always protects you and sees each one of you—with all your thoughts, sorrows and sighing, in all your circumstances, as upon the palm of the hand…
Therefore pray before the icon of the Saviour as before Himself.
The Lover of man is present in it by His grace, and with the eyes depicted in it really looks at you… while with his ears as represented on the icon, He hears you.
But remember that his eyes are the eyes of God, and his ears are the ears of the omnipresent God.
—St. John of Kronstadt
Matthia Langone, D. Min., is a Vancouver-based artist and iconographer whose work has been exhibited in Canada, Rome, Portugal, and in private collections. She also serves... MORE »