What does the word "icon" mean?
The word "icon" comes from Greek language and it means "a picture, portrait". Every picture with a person or with an event of the Holy history in it was named with this word at the first ages of the Christianity. And nowadays it names a picture we pray before. It can be painted, made of wood, mosaic etc. The icon is a picture of our Savior Jesus Christ, of the Most Holy Mother of God, of saints and also of the events from the Holy history and from the history of the Church.
The Church permits to paint God as the incarnation of Him as the second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity. The Logos in the mystery act of the Incarnation unites with Human flash, and everyone can see Him. So we are able to picture the Creator. The icon means the real Incarnation of God. To see Jesus Christ means to see God, because Jesus told Apostle Philip: "Who's seen Me, the one saw My Father".
The predecessor of a Christian icon isn't an idol, but the image of the Old Testament. It's obvious for the Church, that the prohibition of any pictures, which was given by God to the Jews, is just a temporary measure, only for the Old Testament. The Holy Scripture prohibits picturing images of idols and tells us to make symbolical images, like the Tabernacle and all things, which were in it. They had symbolical meanings. But picturing of idols, serving to them is changing the real God to inanimate things or praying to evil. But when we pray before the icon, we don't pray to the picture, but we pray to whom we see. For example, we pray to the Savior before the icon with His picture.
The icon is similar to the image in it, so it has the name of God. With this the icon is blessed by the charisma of the Holy Spirit. The Charisma influences us even when we pray before the icon.
The image of saints is similar, but not the same, as it was in their real life. The icon-painting image, owing to its symbols, shows us the world, the form, the image, the substance in the transformed, in the glorified condition, that will be after the Resurrection. And the aim of the icon is transforming every sense as well as the mind and other properties of Human nature. So the icon is the way, a prayer and an answer to the prayer of a Christian. The icon is the theology in visual images; it's the obligatory element of the public worship. It's one of the forms of the cognition of God and it compares with the Saint Cross and with the Holy Scripture. So the authors of the rules of the icon painting are the holy fathers of the Church.
Icon painters use special symbols to write an icon. They show a special space of an icon with many levels, it discloses around the person, who's praying before the icon, shows the subjects with many sides.
The icon has events, that happened in different times, in it. And one event discloses another.
The margins of an icon are the signs of our life on the Earth, and the icon image means the sign of our life in Heaven.
The background of the icon means the Divine Light. The Divine Favor pictures with a nimbus (it's a gold radiance around the head of a saint). Gold means, that the nimbus is namely the Divine Favor. Icon painting is also different from the realistic painting in the technique of picturing.
Colors are also symbols. Red color is a symbol of blood and of the sacrifice, of martyrs. Blue one is a color of Heavens, Divine color, color of the truth. Green color is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, of the eternal life. White color means pureness. Black one is the color of something another, inconceivable, of the hell. The action is pictured as if it happens without any rules of our existence.
For those people, who were born and grown up in Orthodox families, the language of the icon is accessible, because they can understand the language of the Holy Scripture, of the Sacraments, of the public worship. But it's very hard to understand it for modern people, who don't live a Church life. It's possible to understand the real meaning of an orthodox icon only with joining the Church life, the God's grace. So refusing the principles of the Church life leads to the closing of "the window to the spiritual world", to refusing icons.
Because of the unity of Sacred Tradition, icons - like Orthodoxy itself - exist as unchanging and ageless windows into the spiritual world. As you gaze into an icon, the calm eye of eternal truth falls upon you. And you begin to realize the true beauty and order of all things visible and invisible.
ATTENTION! This materials was copied from 'DECR Communication Service' , the Official Site of the Russian Orthodox Church http://www.mospat.ru
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