Icons of the True

Ok, if you didn't read the revised version of the last post, please go and read it first. It's ok, we'll wait up for you...

Great. Alright, so I think this section of the chapter is really really good for clearing up some of yesterday's questions in regard to "Is it good is it bad or does it matter?" Remember, I did say that the narrative of this chapter flows so smoothly from one topic to the next that I was afraid I would chop it up and it wouldn't make as much sense. The very next paragraph after where I left off? says this:

It is impossible for an artist to attempt a graphic reproduction of Jesus in any way that is meant to be literal. I sympathize with the Hassidic teaching that it is wrong to try in any way to make pictures of God or his prophets... But in a way, both miss the point which the Eastern Orthodox artists are taught when they study the painting of icons...

The icon of Jesus may not look like the man Jesus two thousand years ago, but it represents some quality of Jesus, or his mother, or his followers, and so becomes an open window through which we can be given a new glimpse of the love of God. Icons are painted with firm discipline, much prayer, and anonymity. In this way the iconographer is enabled to get out fo teh way, to listen, to serve the work...

Francis of Assisi says that "In pictures of God and the blessed Virgin painted on wood, God and the blessed Virgin are held in mind, yet the wood and the painting ascribe nothing to themselves, because they are just wood and paint..."

Sooooo. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that when Madeleine says those unrealistic portraits of Jesus are "bad art"? She means if they are taken literally, or meant to be taken literally. But Jodi is right and this also goes along with what I said about the example from The Secret Life of Bees. It does depend on the intent of the artist and the heart of the viewer. But since the viewer is not always viewing the art with the artist present? They have to view it honestly and with God in mind. And since we, as artists, may never meet our audience? We need to be aware of things that could be misread and misinterpreted. But that's it. I don't think you can freak yourself out about how everyone could possibly take your work. You'd be such a nervous wreck that you'd never be able to write or paint or knit again. And there is always someone, somewhere, that will be offended by anything, even a white canvas with nothing on it ("How dare you call that canvas 'white!' It's ecru, for the love of all things perfect and right in my little tiny world! Your lack of knowledge of colors insults me and everything I stand for!!")

So. Icons. That's not a word that was used a lot in my protestant upbringing. But there are icons in the protestant church. Our wedding rings are icons. The precious metal isn't anything holy in and of itself. But what it signifies for a husband and wife is so powerful that it changes your life from the moment you put it on. Manger scenes are another icon that's popular in just about every type of church regardless of denomination.

For me, when I first read this chapter, right away thought of my Emmaus Walk (I linked to it so you can find out what it is without me having to take time to explain it. Plus I don't think I would do a very good job!) During the Emmaus weekend you are flooded with what they call agape, which is a small item whose sole purpose is to let you know that other people are praying for you and reminding you of specific ways God loves you. These things were pretty simple -- handmade bookmarks, magnets, things you would use in everyday life. But the words on them or the notes that were sent along with them made them so much more. Every time I look at my little plastic canvas rainbow magnet? I remember my walk, the people who cared and prayed so much for me even though we'd never met and the way God works in my life. Seriously? I'm so not a plastic canvas fan. But when I look at it? I don't see that. I see the agape. That magnet is an icon for me.

We all have icons, even though we don't recognize some of them for what they are. It could be a drawing by your child that is a masterpiece of the their love for you. It could be a heartfelt gift someone picked out especially because they knew you'd love it. It can be a photograph of a place or time that's meaningful to you. I think icons are just another way God allows a part of Himself to be with us. Sometimes it's not directly. The icons I mentioned in the last few sentences don't scream "God! Christian! Religious!" but the love and friendship and happiness they remind us of are certainly gifts from God and by holding those feelings close to our hearts we are honoring the One who created those feelings in the first place.

Ok, so maybe it's time for another challenge? This one has two parts. You can do either of them or both of them. They're pretty low-key, especially the first. So, part one is to think about what little things you hold dear to you and why. Things that are icons to you. Think about why they are, what they mean for you and pray and thank God for what they represent and if someone gave them to you? Pray and thank God for that person and for their thinking of you at the moment and for Him to bless them in some way. Part two? Is think of someone you care about. Take a few minutes and make something simple, like a bookmark or a written note or a knitted hat or packet of their favorite flower seeds. Before you give it to them, pray over it. Pray that God will use that small thing to encourage that person and remind them of your love and of God's love. Then give it to that person and tell them why you're giving it to them. You can explain the icon thing if you want. You can also do it for yourself if there is something special, even spiritual, that you want to be reminded of when you look at your item. I'd love to hear what you come up with and have photos to post here if you make something. I can't wait to see what kinds of things you guys will come up with. Remember, there is no time limit or deadline. This is just something you can try if you want, to help make the idea of icons more day-to-day real for you.

Here are some examples of things you could do: two of them are postcards I made for friends as encouragment for the weight loss efforts. The small book is from a group I made for friends from my small group who are very special to me. Each one was made with that friend's personality and the trait that makes them special to me in mind. I hope that each time they use them they realize how much I care for them.


Heather said…
I LOVE them -- and I love your challenges...

AND, I have last week's challenge in my mind and hopefully in my hands by this weekend...

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