Seekers, pilgrims, and believers have venerated icons for centuries. An icon is an image, picture or representation. It stands for a person or diety symbolically by representing it concretely or by analogy.
Veneration means to regard with feelings of respect and reverence. Some early Christian icons were painted on the musty walls of catacombs. Later they were drawn and painted on the walls of churches, recounting pictorially the biblical stories for those who could not read God’s Word.
Icons are found in many religions, not just Christianity. And they have been hotly debated in history as being much more than objects of veneration. Some claim they are worshipped, thus becoming idols. And I am sure this claim is absolutely true… there are those who worship these drawings and the people they represent more than they worship God and His Son Jesus.
In our many international travels throughout the last decade and more, my husband and I have seen hundreds of icons, some beautiful, some rustic.. all fraught with meaning and controversy in the world of religion. I am interested in them as an artist and poet. They are filled with symbols; and to venerate them with understanding, all the symbols must be understood.
In our journeys, we have also met icon writers or iconographers.. all of them deeply spiritual and interesting people. Each adamantly opposed to the worship of icons… and using the veneration of icons to enhance their spiritual walk.
I am not weighing in here on my opinion of icons, although I am against the worship of anything outside of our Lord and Savior. I do love this quote, though:
“In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with humans, I make an image of the god whom I see. I do not worship matter: I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take his abode in matter: who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honouring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honour it but not as God.” –St. John of Damascus (8th Century