Almost there. Tonight is the last night of the Akathist services for the Orthodox churches around the world. I am home solo tonight with the kids so there was no chance for me to make it. This has been my experience throughout Lent this year. I’ve only attended a single Lenten service besides Sundays. Kind of pathetic.
My journey this year has been much more oriented toward personal prayer (out of necessity, not design). Being confined to the house at night has become a regular occurrence with the addition of a new baby this last August. Luckily, I have a really nice icon wall at home which makes prayer almost feel like I’m in church.
This will not be a theological treaties on why the Orthodox use icons, nor will I try to justify their use here. It seems that whenever an Orthodox Christian speaks about icons it’s an apologetic sermon rather than a thanksgiving. My experience is that icons have vastly improved my prayer life. Let me insert a photo here to show you what my icon wall looks like at night when I go to prayer:
Tell me that doesn’t draw you in. Come on! If I were an atheist and walked into a room with this wall I would have to at least fake being religious for a few minutes, do a few prostrations just for fun.
I took this photo the other night just after prayer. Today I took a few shots of each one and thought it would be fun to introduce them to my readers and maybe give my own psychological attraction to them.
This one is a classic Orthodox icon of Christ. Notice how the left and right hemispheres of His face are different. The reason for this is to portray the One who was both God and man. I’ll let you guess which side is God and which side is man, the important part for me is the constant reminder given by this icon of who my Lord is. He sits, of course, higher than the other icons to help psychologically accent His place in the scheme of things.
This one is of course the Holy Theotokos (Mother of God) with Child. Revering Mary was one of the more awkward things I undertook when first becoming Orthodox. As a Protestant for most of my life I was taught that such reverence was wrong, if not altogether evil, so it was a hill for me to climb psychologically. Now when I see Mary I see my mother. Not my bio-mom but a mother much closer than anything physical. In her is captured the mystery of the feminine; the mystery of motherhood; the mystery of that part of me as a man that is always missing, always suppressed, yet always summoning me to a place in my soul that is confused and wanting. I will not pretend to have solved the mysteries or to have ventured to that place within, but it’s there, always there, waiting, inviting. It’s scary.
This is my patron saint, St. Nilus. I chose him as my saint after reading his works in the Philokalia. He made such an impression on me that I wanted to always be related to him in some way, choosing him as my saint seemed to do the trick. When I see this icon either on my wall or on my phone (of course he is my screen saver) it reminds me to live my baptismal vows, to not reduce my Christian life to a bit of playacting, to always strive to become that which I claim to be—one of Christ’s faithful. That was his message in a nutshell. He makes using my phone to do evil things a litter harder.
These three icons are my kids patron saints. From left to right its St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Irene, (then the three archangels with the icon of Christ in their hands, not related to my kids, it just looks good there), and lastly St. Sophia. I ask these three to intercede for my children every day. Seeing their icons reminds me that my kids are baptized Orthodox Children and I have the grave responsibility to raise them in godliness and sanctity, to always treat them as God’s children first and mine second, and that only on loan. When I look at these icons I literally see my children; the connections made within me psychologically—connections made between my own flesh and blood and the Spirit—are difficult to put into words. I’ve been processing this for some time and feel that I’ve only scratched the surface in understanding it, so I won’t attempt any explanation here. It’s one of those things.
There you have it! Hope that was worth the time you spent reading it. If not leave me an angry post below.
Thanks for reading!