Icons in the Holy Orthodox Church - Belief and Description

	It is impossible to visit Italy, Greece, Germany, Yugoslavia,
Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, or the Middle East without becoming acquainted
with a form of religious art known as the ICON.  Used extensively in
churches and homes in these countries, it has now become quite popular in
the West where such art is being used more often than we care to see for
decorative purposes.  Orthodox Christians consider this use of the ICON a
blasphemous distortion of the original intent of the ICON.

	The word ICON comes from the Greek word, "Eikon" which means IMAGE.
A famous German camera Zeis Ikon uses this word as a trade name.  St. Paul
speaks of Christ as the Icon of God; St. John refers to Christ as the
Incarnate Word of God, so as put together, the ICON begins to gain new
meaning for those of us unfamiliar with the ICON.  Christ is the Icon of
God, and the whole New Testament is written on the basis that if you want
to know what the Eternal God is like, you look at Jesus and see.

	So, a new purpose for icons manifests itself in a three-fold way:

  1.  to create reverence in worship.
  2.  to instruct those who are unable to read.
  3.  to serve as an existential link between the worshipper and God.

Here listed below are some of the main points about the theology of Icons:

	The icon is theology in color.  It acknowledges the Incarnation:
God became man in Jesus.  To deny the icon is to deny this very basis of
our salvation.

	The icon attempts to portray the two natures of Jesus: human and
Divine -- not just the human.  Icons of the saints portray also the
transfigured state of the saint who has been sanctified by the Holy

	An icon is more like a portrait than a photograph in that it
portrays what happens to people after God touches them.  Filled with the
Holy Spirit, the physical body is transformed and becomes like the
spiritual body which we shall receive at the Second Coming of Jesus.

	The icon, blessed through the priest by God, becomes like a
sacrament.  It participates in the event it depicts and becomes, as it
were, a 'making present again' of that event, making it truly alive for the
believer existentially.

	The icon is the distinguishing feature of every true Orthodox home.
It transforms each home into a "church" where God abides and where prayers
are offered daily.

	Iconographers (those who paint icons) have treaditionally been
monks who, living in Monasteries dedicated to God's service, prepare
themselves for the painting of each icon through fasting, prayer, and Holy
Communion.  It is believed that in order to paint Jesus better, one must
truly know Jesus better and better and better.

	The best icon of God is men and women who are made in God's own
image.  This is why the Orthodox Priest during the liturgy turns and censes
the living icons of God in the congregation (the worshippers) after having
censed the icons on the iconostasis (icon screen) and walls.  Censing of
icons is done to represent our prayers wafting in a continuous way into the
Kingdom of Heaven from the Faithful here on Earth.

	The whole Bible is about this image (icon) of God in man: how the
image was marred by sin and how Jesus came to restore the image of God in
each one of us.  Through the icon, we represent Jesus, who through His
Incarnation restored God's image in us.  Additionally, we represent the
saints who through their constant openness to the Holy Spirit, have
acquired the true likeness of God and have become living icons.  Our
purpose as Orthodox Christians is to develop the gift we received in
baptism: to proceed from image of God to likeness of God and thus become
living icons of Christ in the world today.