Icons are “windows into Heaven” and these windows are two-way, for as we look into that blessed world of Eternity and Love, God and those depicted in the icon are looking back at us with attention. This is a wonderful opportunity to develop our living relationship with the Lord of Life and His Holy Ones, (CS843) which will take time and conscious attention, as does any other meaningful relationship. Earthly relations have meaning in this world, but Heavenly relations can really be forever and ever, so it is important to work with good attention on loving and caring and also having a lively two-way interaction with each icon that we look at. (CF724) This awareness that icons are not just pictures but are alive is the beginning of how to relate to icons.
Relations can develop in both positive and in negative ways, however. Just as we would show respect to someone very dear to us, especially someone whom we recognize that is venerable and wonderful, or in a position of great honor in this world, so we should show honor and respect to God and those He has sanctified. They will be our eternal companions if we are able to rise with Christ’s help to live with them in Heaven.
So, in particular, to honor an icon, the best way is to put it in a place of honor, like in an icon corner, or in a respectful place, or at least in a place where we will go to pray or think about God and His Holy Ones. (CS1275) In the next blog we will describe how to set up an icon corner in your home. Also, for respect, we don’t put icons in the bathroom.
The best way to relate to an icon is to stand before it and pray in a lively and direct and personal way. Think about the Lord, or the Virgin, or the Feast, or the Saint or Prophet depicted and their life and what they did in this world and try to relate to them. We can say formal prayers, like from their church services, or akathists (published hymns of praise said while standing), and yet we can also just tell them our wishes, desires, and concerns, but do this with respect in a personal way.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. There are no secrets from Him. We don’t have to worry about whether He is near to us, or to appear different than we are. He is always near, whether we are drawing near to Him or not, or we are blind to His love and presence. Let us look through the icons, those “windows into Heaven”, and then humbly touch that Heavenly Realm and those Heavenly persons who love us with a pure love and a lively concern and care for us, and in our own small way love them back. O Lord of Life, help us love you and Heaven today! (CJ779)