About Icons

 “Christ is the icon of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15)

Picture of Saint Luke painting an icon

An icon is literally  an image (Gr. eikon), nothing  more or less than that. The worth of an image depends entirely upon who or what is being depicted. Thus Jesus Christ, being an image (icon) of the Father – the invisible God, is worshiped as the firstborn over all creation. This site is devoted to images worthy of more than a cursory glance. This site is devoted to images which portray eternity.

The icons explored here don’t portray eternity because of human design, but rather of Divine action. The icons themselves are natural, human, outward acts of devotion. The gift of art is one given to humans and is worthy of being devoted to God.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name (Psalm 102:1)

“All that is within me” refers to all of our gifts and capabilities, including art. And so humans have always shown devotion to those they love through depicting them in art. And the depiction of the “invisible God” is not impossible now that God took on human flesh and was incarnate as the man Jesus Christ.

Whatever we give to God is only what He has given to us first – whether it is a burnt offering, a word of praise, or even time. Yet even so God will bless us for giving to Him what is already His. He will reward burnt offerings with a cornucopia, a word of praise with inspiration, and time with eternity. Therefore it is no surprise that those who have been compelled by love to show devotion to God in art are rewarded with images that inspire both the observer and the artist.

And so Holy Icons are acts of worship which depict eternity. They are reflections of the eternal glory of Heaven, literally frozen in time. And in time they are accessible to us.

Some articles to begin with:

15 Responses to About Icons

  1. Pingback: The Holiness of Icons | A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons

  2. amy says:

    I came across a picture at a goodwill and it looks like a pretty old and worthy picture and have been offered 1,800 dollars for it and i need to know if its a good idea or not..

    sincerly amy

  3. Elena B. says:

    Dear Amy,
    It is hard to tell from your description what you have. The one who made you the offer of money clearly sees only the market value of your find. You, on the other hand, need to determine what the find means to you and to you alone. If, indeed, you have an Orthodox icon, then it is a sacred object made to be addressed in private prayer or during a church service. I would consider the find of such an icon a profound blessing, a priceless gift. Nothing could persuade me to part with it. If, on the other hand, I were not sure what I had, I would take it to the nearest Greek, Russian or other Orthodox church in your area for an opinion from the priest in charge. The spiritual father will know the spiritual value of your find. If you are looking for market value only, then the nearest reputable museum should be able to direct you to a reliable appraiser, who may give you a fair market value for a fee. Before you make any decision, look into your heart and ask for guidance. It may come from there. With best wishes,

  4. How can I obtain permission to print a photo of one of these icons in an academic journal. Please advise.

    Sincerely,
    Nadia Pandolfo

  5. Ginny says:

    I can’t find on this blog who is posting the information. Can you please identify yourself? I’d like to direct some parishioners here but would like to offer some background info to my priest. Thanks!

    • iconreader says:

      Hello Ginny:

      I am a member of the parish of St Cuthbert in England, which is part of the Exarchate of Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, under the Ecumencial Patriarch:

      http://www.exarchate.org.uk/parishes-communities

      The link to the parish website is also on this blog (the website has recently moved addresses and is still under construction – it does have pictures though). I am a lay-member of this parish, and have been for about three years. Before that I lived in Beijing and attended the church in the Russian Embassy (under the Moscow Patriarch, obviously), my parish priest there being Fr. Dionisy Pozdnyaev, who is also a PP in Hong Kong.

      I have no training in theology, nor in iconography, but I do love the holy images of the Church and try to discover as much about them as possible. I also enjoy writing about them, but am humbled by the increasing numbers of people who actually read these articles, and link to them on other websites. I’d sometimes rather they didn’t, as I doubt what I write should be taken as seriously as it is; but my priest encourages me to continue. Now that the blog gets more people visiting than I ever thought they would, your post has reminded me that I should really add some of these details in an easy readable place on the site.

      Please remember all the above mentioned parishes and their clergy in your prayers, and by doing so you will be praying for me too.

  6. Steve says:

    Can you direct me to an internet source for descriptions/explanations of icons (color, symbols, meanings)?

  7. Carolyn Clark says:

    Last Sunday, June 16, 2013, my church bulletin has an elaborate Greek icon of the Fathers of the Ecumenical Council. St. Constantine is seated on the right with three bishops seated next to him, and four bishops are seated on the left side of the icon. St. Spyridon , crushing the brick, and Arius are in the front, with a deacon writing at a desk on the left who I think is St. Athanasius who came to the conference with St. Alexander of Alexandria. In the upper part of the icon is a tabernacle. Does anyone know the identities of the other saints seated to the right and left of St. Constantine?

    • iconreader says:

      It would be difficult to name them without seeing the icon, as there can be variation in composition. You are probably right about the deacon being St Athanasius, and of course St Spyridon is also distinctive. Other Holy Fathers present at the Council are St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, St. Basil the Great, St. Alexander of Alexandria, who you mentioned, and St.Paphnutius. Saint Basil is quite distinctive (https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/icon-of-the-three-holy-hierarchs/), but it may be that some of the saints shown are just meant to represent some of the 318 present at the council.

  8. Pingback: About Icons - SHALOM

  9. Chere' says:

    I’m interested getting an appraisal on a “1821 Saint Nicholas II Icon.” Orginally from Romainian. It is a reverse painting on apprx 8 x 10 glass, hand painted in bold colors of gold, red, blue robes, arms are crossed, blue fingertips touching, hold objects in each hand, gold halo surrounding his head, black bearded face, looking you straight in the eye; top corners of glass: gold painted hand writing w/date w/notation in Russian alphabet. The back of painting seals the painted glass with fine paper with name: St. Nicholas II, 1821 w/ blue ink from pen and quill. Hence it is a Icon reverse painting, sealed, signed, dated. Thank you in advance for any advice as to where I could get a trusted appraisal.

  10. orthodoxchristian2 says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. With Christ’s birth, incarnation, death and resurrection, came a new economy of images that glorified the Divine and His Saints and Holy Mother. We could then make images of Christ’s human nature. By the way, I think that St Basil was probably not in that picture, since he was born in 329 or 330, and died in around 379 or 380 A.D, so he was born after the Council of Nicea (325 A.D) , and before the first Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) Nevertheless, he is one of the great fathers of the Church, and a Cappadocian Father, together with Saint Gregory of Nyssa and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. He also founded monasticism of the Greek tradition, based on the monasticism of Coptic Egypt and the Desert Fathers. This was a very important development for Constantinople and the rest of the Byzantine Empire, as well as, of course, the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  11. I just wanted to say I am not even a Christian but I find this site extremely fascinating! Amazing and wonderful to read🙂

  12. Patricia says:

    The most important thing in writing Icons for me is the wonderful peace and inner stillness I contact, it is beyond words, that is my prayer and practice.
    I just gathered my art work to share in a new website
    http://www.iconart.karuna.dk

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