Holy Orthodox Icons
In Orthodox Christianity, religious icons are much more than just pictures of Jesus Christ and His Saints – they are a crucial part of teaching Christians about their faith. In other words, Orthodox icons are a means to show Gospel events in such a way so that anyone, even a child, could see and understand them. Nevertheless, the question is what makes Orthodox Christian icons holy? The answer is very simple – their content and the source of that content. To be more exact, we are talking about the depictions in the religious icons and their origin. So let’s highlight the most important features of holy Eastern Orthodox icons!
1. An Orthodox icon is considered holy when it depicts Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Mother of God, saints, angels, and other holy figures or revelation, specifically in the person of Jesus Christ. The latter is of particular importance, as Orthodox Christians believe that God became a man, came into this world as Jesus Christ, and lived here as a flesh-and-blood person. In this way, a holy icon of Christ tells everyone that God became a man. This is one of the most fundamental Christian teachings. Otherwise, if a picture shows some other strange revelations that are not related to Jesus Christ – it cannot be considered holy.
2. The depiction in the Orthodox icon should be true. This means that the religious icon’s content cannot be a product of human imagination. It should be derived from divine revelation and described in one of the Gospels recognized by the Orthodox Church. Only in such a case, a religious icon is considered holy.
3. Orthodox Church icons need to be blessed before veneration. However, it rather refers to modern religious icons, in particular newly painted pieces, than to antique icons. Moreover, not all Orthodox Christian icons have to be blessed by a priest. Thus, if the holiness of the religious icon’s image derives from its prototype, for example, icons of Jesus Christ, there is no necessity to bless it.
4. Holy Eastern Orthodox Church icons are inspired by God. This is especially true for antique Russian icons. The fact is that there are certain rules or canons, like praying for the cleansing of passions or fasting, which allow Orthodox icon painters to create religious icons in a prayerful attitude. It is considered that such acts affect the holiness of the painted image. Furthermore, antique Russian icons are believed to be divinely inspired. Therefore, some of them depict Holy Evangelists guided by Angels of God in painting.
5. Holy Orthodox icons have to be accurate. By saying “accurate,” we mean that a religious icon, for instance, an icon of Christ or His Saints, should primarily present the true image of holiness, bringing a life-saving belief rather than some physical details.
Finally, let us underline that talking about holy icons, we do not mean that Orthodox Christians worship an image. They worship God, but they do venerate icons, showing special respect for them!