Why Do Orthodox Christian Believers Use Religious Icons?
What are Orthodox Christian icons? As you know, the word “icon” originates from the Greek word “eikōn” that means “image.” Today, we use this term to refer to a specific work of art, most commonly a painting depicting Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, the saints, or an important scene from the Bible. Thus, religious icons are visual representations of God, holy persons, and significant events that can be traced to the early days of Christianity. Along with that, religious icon paintings are much more than just images – they have a spiritual meaning that is rather difficult to understand or see for those who are not familiar with the history of the Orthodox Church. However, the question is, why do Christian believers use religious icons? What’s more, why do they purchase icons for their homes? Here are some important facts that will help you figure it out!
Church icon veneration
Religious icon veneration is customary in the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, it is not limited to only the church building, as Eastern Orthodox Christians also venerate holy icons at home in the special icon corner. However, please note that “venerating” something is not the same as “worshiping” something. In Orthodox Christianity, to venerate religious icons means to pay deep respect not to the icon itself but to what it actually represents, which makes a big difference between these two concepts.
Technique and style of painting icons
You may have already noticed that Eastern Orthodox icons are not lifelike images of holy persons but rather their abstract two-dimensional depictions. It is made on purpose. For example, icons of Jesus Christ serve as reminders of God’s presence instead of being His literal portraits. It is actually one of the main features distinguishing Orthodox Christian icons from many others.
Religious icons are not idols
As it has been already written above, being visual representations of those alive in heaven, holy icons are not created to be worshiped as God. What they do is they help the faithful convene with Jesus Christ and His saints. That is why they are also called “windows into heaven,” which means that Orthodox icons are not idols in any sense of this word.
Praying with icons
One more thing to remember is that Christian believers don’t pray to the religious icons – they pray near the icons, which is another proof that Orthodox icons are not idols but rather beautiful reminders of God’s presence.
Church icons focus the mind
Hand-painted Orthodox icons help people focus on God during church services by reminding them of where they are. The same applies to the icon corner that can be found in Christian believers’ homes. It helps keep the mind on Christ instead of on other things that may distract from the prayer.
In this way, holy icons do play an important role in the life of Orthodox Christians, and now you know why. Directly connected to the actual presence of God, they make the invisible visible, which turns these unique creations of religious art into true “windows into heaven.”