What Are Icons for the Orthodox Church?
When you step into an Orthodox Church and look around, one of the first things you notice is religious icons. Kept in the churches and monasteries, they represent an integral part of praying and worshipping God. So, what are icons for Orthodox believers? Why do we have them? Here is a detailed look at the significance of these shrines within Orthodoxy.
What are icons for the Orthodox Church?
The first thing to say is that icons teach us theology. Orthodox icons are full of sacral symbols aimed to render the theological meaning of the True Faith. Due to colors, scenery, lighting, and clothes, we learn the story of Christianity and understand who God is. The festal icons, for example, depict the major biblical events every Orthodox believer should know. Icons teach us the lives of the saints we revere and allow us to be part of their history.
Veneration instead of worship
Veneration and worship are completely different concepts. Icons are not idols but holy pieces through which we can glorify God, the Virgin, and saints. In the Orthodox Church, believers express their respect and love to the Lord by creating religious icons and praying with them.
Focus on the prayer
To answer the question “what are icons for the Orthodox Church?” is impossible without mentioning the prayer purpose. The icon painting technique includes the prayer before and during the process. Unlike other types of art, icons are meant to help people focus on the prayer and dispel the distracting objects, thus connecting them with God and saints.
Icons are not paintings
Even though icons depict real people, they are not just portraits. Orthodox believers view religious icons as symbolical images and representations of biblical stories and saints. A fine art painter uses their imagination and artistry to create a beautiful painting reflecting both their ideas and a particular plot. An icon painter creates icons according to certain church canons, following strict rules.
So, what are icons for the Orthodox Church? Icons are sacral mediums connecting the viewer with the heavenly realm. They bring peace and gratitude to our souls and help us be closer to God.