The Secret Language of Russian Icon Symbols

Orthodox Icons as They Are

As you already know, Orthodox icons are not only beautiful pieces of religious icon art but also an instrument to transmit Christian faith and certainly a means to worship God and venerate His saints. Moreover, it is believed that the Holy Spirit speaks to people through religious icon paintings, which makes them even more valuable for Christian believers. In other words, an icon is theology written in color and images. Besides, Eastern Orthodox icons are also considered “windows into heaven” that allow people to look with their eyes at the Heavenly Kingdom. No wonder, any place with religious icons turns into the place of prayer, contemplation, and worship. That is exactly why when choosing hand-painted icons for your collection, you shouldn’t perceive them only as amazing pieces of art. Look at them as at sacred images intended to convey the truths of the Christian faith. Here are several more things you should know about Orthodox icons:

Icons are not three-dimensional

Since Eastern Orthodox icons are created to show the beauty of the spiritual realm, they don’t represent the conscious world; therefore, perspective in the religious icon paintings doesn’t exist. This is also the reason why most of the objects depicted in icons are painted in an abstract or symbolic manner. The same applies to the depicted figures. For example, most Orthodox icons of Our Lord’s Baptism show Jesus Christ as a young man, though at the time of baptism, He was already a matured man. This is done intentionally to show that people, regardless of their age, enter a new life through baptism.

Icons depict silence

As it has been already written above, religious icons turn any place into the place of prayer, contemplation, and worship. However, whether you are in the home or in the church, it is impossible to pray without silence. It is probably one of the reasons why Orthodox icons depict silence. You won’t find a single icon with symbols indicating sound, as well as you won’t find an icon with a character, whose mouth is open. There is perfect silence in all Eastern Orthodox icons, which allows believers to hear the voice of God through prayer.

Icons don’t have to be sentimental

You might have already noticed that Orthodox icons don’t reflect feelings of those depicted in them. The fact is that these religious icon paintings are not intended to be dramatic or sentimental. They are created to show the virtues, such as love, compassion, forgiveness, patience, and purity, rather than to show the feelings of the depicted figures. For example, you won’t see Christ’s physical pain in the icon of the Crucifixion. Instead, you will see only His love and sacrifice for the salvation of all humanity.

In this way, Orthodox icons are, first of all, an important means of worshipping God and venerating His saints, and only then they are masterpieces of religious icon art. Don’t forget about that when buying one of them for your own collection!