Friday, June 17, 2022

Praying with Icons

Last night's worship involved praying with icons. I wasn't sure what to expect--would we have actual icons in the worship space with us? We did in a way, but it was more like a slideshow. Still it was profoundly moving.

Our worship leader used the word icon in all of its connotations, both the traditional icon painted by orthodox artists along with more modern work. Our worship leader also included a meditation after the slideshow where he talked about how we can be icons both in the way we illuminate the work of God to others and in the way we see others as icons, even if they don't see themselves as that way.

But it was the slide show that was the best part of this service. I would have been perfectly happy to spend an hour or two meditating on these icons.

We took 10 minutes, one minute per icon.  there were several screens throughout the room so my view of the icon was not impeded. Classical music played behind the sites the slideshow.

I expected something like this icon (this version is a print that hangs in the Mepkin Abbey refectory):

Indeed a version of this icon was one of the slides, along with an icon that looked much older like it had been just dug up from an archaeological site.  I wasn’t able to find that one online.  I also was not able to find the icon of Christ wearing a crown of thorns with the crown of thorns in bloom. That one will stay with me.

We had this icon, a depiction of the Annunciation:

I thought that this work of art was much more modern but when I researched it, I found out that it was actually painted as the 19th century turned into the 20th century and painted by an African-American artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner. When I've seen it before, I thought the work was Irish.

I was much more profoundly moved by this icon, a version of the Visitation painted by Mickey McGrath:

I love the colors and the exuberance and the patterns. I loved this image so much that I brought it up on my computer when I returned to my room and spent some more time with it.

Last night was our experimentation with silence so we left the worship service in silence, except for the thunder that had been rumbling for hours. As I stared at the icon on my computer, I noticed that my west facing window was full of a strange light. I knew I could look at images of icons at any hour, but I wouldn't ever again have this exact sunset with the light diffused by the gray clouds. I watched the sky for half an hour, something I do not do very often.

I didn't even try to capture the light with my camera. I decided to use our experiment with silence as a prompt to be fully present to the light of the sunset, to the darkening sky, and to the presence of God.

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