Main Functions of Orthodox Church Icons
Eastern Orthodox iconography is a sacred art that is spiritual not only in its essence but also in its aims. Thus, religious icons help sanctify and transform us. They show the virtues of holy persons and arouse us to imitate them. They constantly remind us of the Christian faith. They enhance the adornment of a church. They serve as a means of veneration and worship. Holy icons actually have a lot of functions, the main of which we are going to underline in this article.
- Orthodox Church icons are a means of worshipping God and honoring His saints.
When we give the veneration to a church icon, it passes over to the prototype represented in that icon (for instance, to Jesus Christ, to the Mother of God, or to one of the saints). It is one of the primary functions of any icon.
- Orthodox icons instruct in matters of the Christian faith.
In fact, they serve the same function as religious books. The only difference is that books teach and instruct by means of words, while church icons – by means of colors and forms. In some respects, they are even better than books, as they can vividly present many holy persons and objects in one place simultaneously.
- Religious icons serve to remind us of spiritual things.
These beautiful masterpieces of the religious icon art can easily bring to our mind the story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Thus, another function of icons is to remind us of the Orthodox teaching, as people have a tendency to fall asleep spiritually and forget about even the most important things.
- Orthodox icons lift us up to a higher level of feeling and thought.
Religious icons are created to lead us from the psychophysical and physical to the spiritual realm. In other words, they lift our souls from a lower level of feeling and thought to the higher one.
- Orthodox Church icons arouse us to imitate the persons depicted in them.
They show us the virtues and good acts of the holy persons, encouraging us to imitate them. Thus, religious icons remind us of our true values and aims that lead to the salvation of our souls.
- Holy icons help sanctify us and transform our character.
It is believed that icons of Jesus Christ and saints are filled with the Holy Spirit. This simple means that when we contemplate the persons depicted in religious icons, their virtues and sufferings, we are sanctified.
- Hand-painted icons enhance the beauty of the house of God.
Depicting the likenesses and forms of holy persons, hand-painted icons are also intended to adorn the walls of the church building. Thus, they enhance the spiritual beauty of the sacred place, where people gather for worship.
These are the main and most important functions of religious icons. However, they also serve a number of other purposes in the life of Christian believers. After all, they are “windows into heaven” and our means of communication with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.