Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Veneration of Icons


Orthodox Christians venerate icons of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints. Having said this, it is important to understand that this veneration is not given to the picture itself; rather it is “offered through the image to the person represented.” “Images receive relative or honorific veneration, proskynesis schetike, and not worship, latria, which is reserved for God alone.” (Imago Dei, Egon Sendler, pg. 57) Icons do not take on the physical nature of the holy prototypes themselves, rather they posses a distinct essence. The prototype and the image do not in any way become one and the same. After all, when one beholds an icon of Christ, he does not behold Christ Himself, at least not in the physical sense, rather by venerating the image of Christ, he venerates the prototype. 
Icons are pictures. In fact, the word "icon" is from the Greek word for image. Do you have any pictures of loved ones? It may not strike you odd to kiss your picture, showing deep love for the person in the image. However, you don't show any love to the actual picture, itself. The same is for Christian icons.

The icon of the Christ does not become the Christ in essence, yet because all matter is sanctified and redeemed in and through the Christ, because in the human body of Christ His flesh is glorified, deified, made holy through the Incarnation of the Logos, all material things can be sanctified. St. John writes, “I honor material things, not as though they were God, but inasmuch as they are replete with divine energy and grace.” (Schonborn, pg. 196) Thus material things through participation in the mystery of the God-man Christ become a “medium through which salvation is accomplished”. In the icon we behold the holy faces of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints.

For more on icons, the rest of the quoted article by Fr. Borislav can be found here.

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