Well, we had some fun yesterday here on the blog and especially on Facebook about summer reading, especially clergy detective series.  (See yesterday's post and chime in with your own suggestions here  as well as your reasons why you love detective novels, which I'm really interested in hearing.)  People really do love detective stories, which I guess shouldn't be a surprise since there are so many of them.  I actually was not much of a fan until a few years ago when I discovered Dorothy Sayers; yes, I'd read the odd P.D. James and of course was raised on Nancy Drew, but I was always looking for "serious literature."  Now I find that a good mystery absorbs me like nothing else, and there are times when I just really want to get absorbed in something other than my actual life for a spell.

But today I have another question.  Do you have any icons?  Do you use them for prayer, or do you enjoy them more as religious art?  Or something else?

I was not well acquainted with icons until I went to seminary, and then I met many people who collected them and went to more churches that displayed icons somewhere - in the narthex or perhaps in the clergy offices.  I received an icon of St. Thomas from my classmates upon my ordination to the transitional diaconate (on the Feast of St. Thomas) and another of the Transfiguration when I was priested on that feast.  I have several other small icons now - pocket sized to 5 x 7 or so, including the famous Rublev Trinity.  I tend to appreciate them as art, as I do my collection of Celtic crosses.

But I know that some folks sit with icons during their prayer time.  I've noticed that there have been some icon writing workshops around.

So, tell me about your relationship with icons.


Ray Barnes said…
I never gave icons more than a passing glance even in a Serb church in Hungary where there was a fabulous collection, until about eight months ago.
The church where I spend a lot of my waking life loaned the North trancept for an icon making class.
About a dozen of us took part and were shown process by process from scratch how to make an icon for ourselves.
The amazing thing is that none of us were in any way gifted artists, yet as each part of the procedure was demonstrated we each did our best to copy our teacher, with a very interesting result.
The saint (Ephraim in this case) was reproduced by each individual in near enough the same way, yet when we got to the end of the long day, every single face was different from the others.
I was embarrassed by what I saw as a feeble effort on my part, but was persuaded not to throw him away, and now I'm glad i kept him.
His face looks quite real to me now and yes, I have actually used him in prayer - though only in private. Any future icons I encounter will be given much greater respect.
Lay Anglicana said…
'My relationship with icons'...Mmmm. It is an interesting question, because as I get older I tend to feel all I want for prayer is four whitewashed walls and a wooden cross. Nothing else.

But at the Eucharist, I find I focus on the stained glass east window over our altar. It is not that there is anything inherently particularly inspiring about this window from the 1930s, but just as in yoga you are told to focus on a lotus or a candle, I find I do need an image to stop my mind from wandering, or - more realistically - a place to bring my mind back to when it does wander. Images, particularly familiar ones, to me are a means of slowing down the chatter in one's brain to allow the subconscious to come through and enable one's whole being to think/feel in a spiritual way.

For this reason, I have real difficulty with the move for the priest to face the congregation. I think I understand the motive for this, but whereas before he was leading us in our prayers, I now find (s)he is coming between me and my prayer focus.

I love the Rublev icon. I was given a small copy some years ago by a friend and although I do not pick it up and use it when praying, it has been a constant presence in my daily life. (I have just blogged on it for Trinity Sunday, using a thoughtful piece by Dr Andre Boguslawski).
Elizabeth said…
I have Rublev's and Vladimir's (Mother of God of Tenderness). I find Vladimir very useful for focusing on God. The Trinity icon I can spend much time meditating on getting closer to God.
Ray, what a great story and testament to the power of art and prayer and perseverance.

Laura, I can understand what you are saying about focus and making sure it's not on any particular person. Whitewashed walls, candle, window, icon - whatever - can be a way to focus. Look forward to reading your post on Trinity.

EABurke, thanks for your comment. It's good to hear about people's experiences with meditation and focus in our prayer lives.