Introduction Symbolism
  Theology of Icons Kinds of Marian Icons
Veneration of Images
  Technique Bibliography
Veneration of Images
In a time when the general population was illiterate, those who could not read Scripture could meditate on a picture to learn their catechism. Images of saints reminded the congregation how specific heroes had applied the teaching of Jesus in a variety of ways, and hopefully would inspire them to do the same. More than lessons in history or dogma, a sacred image brings people into personal contact with the holy. Needs are entrusted to the intercession of the Mother of God and saints that they might join in prayer with them. When a particular image is connected with answered prayers, the faith of the people grows, and more and more join the community of those who prayed before, perhaps for generations or even centuries.

As embodied persons we need tangible signs to unite us with the divine. An icon of itself does not magically answer prayers. It is a sacrament that channels divine energy into this world of space and time. As the shadows of the apostles could be signs of special presence and work miracles, so can miraculous power radiate from the icon of a saint. Often icons are related to a special blessing or event, perhaps linked with a vision or are attributed to a miraculous origin. There are numerous stories of saints who miraculously appeared to pose for an icon and there are a number of ACHEIROPOIETES, icons not made by human hands, such as the one sent to King Agbar. Icons are invoked to protect against illness, prevent disaster, and save cities from an enemy. Most cities in Byzantium and Russia had a miraculous icon that was the patron of the city.

To show reverence to icons as sacred objects, people might kiss them, touch them, decorate them with flowers, a veil or candles. During liturgy, priest and deacon recite prayers before the iconostasis and cense the icons. There are special blessings for a sacred image that establish it as an icon. In the Orthodox Church it is enthroned in the sanctuary for forty days; when blessed it is anointed with holy oil used for consecration of sacred vessels or a church.

In the homes of Eastern Christians icons are given places of honor. They will be the focal point of the family transforming a house into a domestic church, reminding its inhabitants that the sacred liturgy continues in daily life. It is not just a decoration but a shrine which is venerated through touch, burning candles and incense.
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Baumer, Remigius and Scheffczyk, Leo. Marienlexikon Band III. St. Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1991. 281-285.

Beinert, Wolfgang and Petri, Heinrich. Handbuch der Marienkunde. Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1984. 849-853.

Brenske, Helmut. Icons: Windows to Eternity. Kirchdorf, Germany: Berghaus Verlag, 1990.

Evdokimov, Paul. The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty. Redondo Beach, CA: Oakwood Publications, 1990.

Fortounatto, Mariamna. "The Veneration of the Mother of God and Her Icon in the Orthodox Church." Priests and People Vol.2, No.4. 1988. 140-145.

Galavaris, George, Icons from the Elvehjem Art Center. Madison, Wisconsin: Elvehjem Art Center, 1973.

_________. The Icon in the Life of the Church. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1981.

Maguire, Henry. The Icons of Their Bodies: Saints and Their Images in Byzantium. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Muzj, Maria Giovanna, Transfiguration, Introduction to the Contemplation of Icons. Boston: St. Paul Books & Media, 1987.

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VII. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. 324-326.

O'Carroll, Michael. Theotokos. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc. 1982. 176-177.

Quenot, Michel. The Icon, Window on the Kingdom. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1991.

Sendler, Egon. The Icon: Image of the Invisible. Redondo Beach, CA: Verlag, 1990.

Stuart, John. Ikons. London: Faber and Faber, 1975.

Temple, Richard. Icons: A Search for Inner Meaning. London: The Temple Gallery, 1982.

Ware, Kallistos. "The Spirituality of the Icon." The Study of Spirituality, Cheslyn Jones, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. 195ff.

Photo Image Sources

Bornheim, Bernhard von. Ikonen. Munchen, Germany: Battenberg Verlag, 1985.

Brenske, Helmut. Ikonen. Italy: Schuler Verlagsgesellschaft Munchen, 1976.

Donadeo, Maria. Les Icones. Montreal, Canada: Mediaspaul, 1982.

Evdokimov, Paul. The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty. Redondo Beach, CA: Oakwood Publications, 1990.

Schonborn, Christoph. God's Human Face: The Christ Icon. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994.

Weitzmann, Kurt. The Icon. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1982.

This article was written by Sr. Marcia Vinje for a Mariology course at IMRI.
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