The meaning of the Icon: The sacramentality of the Icon

Father Daniel Rousseau, an icon specialist, wrote: "Christian iconography, over and above the attempt to represent Christ, is rooted in the Incarnation. Just as the theologian’s medium of expression is thought, the iconographer expresses the living Truth through his art, a Truth known in the Revelation faithfully handed down by the Church through Tradition.

The religious artistic tradition of making icons cannot be an arbitrary creation of artists

Consequently, the religious artistic tradition of making icons cannot be an arbitrary creation of artists. Better than any other sacred image, the icon of Christ known as "the Holy Face, Not Man-Made," expresses the dogmatic principle of iconography. (This is the miraculous 12th century icon of the Holy Face, also known as "Acheiropoietos.") That is why the 7th Council of the Church (A.D. 787) gives it special attention: To commemorate the final triumph of holy images, this icon of Christ is worshipped on the Day of Orthodoxy." (Taken from "L'Icône, Splendeur de Ton Visage" Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1982.)

In fact, the iconoclastic quarrel unveiled a crisis of incredible scope: the question of images is fundamental because it is closely linked to the very essence of Christianity, the Incarnation ... Taking note of the cult of icons and its long history, we understand that the icon is more than a work of art: it is the image of the invisible, and even the presence of the Invisible, that is to say that it demonstrates faith in the Incarnation of Jesus the Son of God...

When we cannot pray, we can always look at icons that are so intimately associated with the experience of love

While St Benedict, who set the tone of Western spirituality, calls us first to listen, the Byzantine Fathers invite us to look. In his book "Behold the Beauty of the Lord, Praying with Icons", Father Henri Nouwen said: "Just as we are responsible for what we eat, and we are also responsible for what we look at. It is not difficult to become the victim of many visual stimuli around us. Yet we can make choices. When we cannot pray, we can always look at icons that are so intimately associated with the experience of love. "

Just by looking at an icon of the Mother of God, we are already in her presence, and through her and with her we enter into the presence of her Son who is the unique Source of grace that consoles, saves, protects, frees and transforms.

A presence of the unutterable that flows from a material form

Let us end with those words from Fr. Egon Sendler SJ: "The essential feature of the icon is a presence of the unutterable that flows out of a material form" (excerpt from “The Icon, Image of the Invisible” 1981).

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Bibliography:

DONADEO Maria, Icônes de la Mère de Dieu, Paris, 1987

NOUWEN Henri, Behold the Beauty of the Lord, 1991

ROUSSEAU Daniel, L'Icône, Splendeur de Ton Visage, Paris, 1982

SENDLER Egon S.J., L'Icône, Image de l'invisible, Paris, 1981

SENDLER Egon S.J., Les icônes byzantines de la Mère de Dieu, Paris, 1992