Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Venerating Icons

Living in the United Kingdom and visiting a number of Anglican Churches, I have come across various icons, either given to them by the Orthodox or painted by western artists or icon painters. However, it is interesting to identify how there exists a lack of understanding in regards to what one does in front of an icon. For an Orthodox it is a given, we see an icon, we straight away do the sign of the cross, say a prayer, kiss the icon, i.e. venerate the icon, showing our respect and our continued relationship with the saint pictured, and therefore with God. Veneration is a crucial part of Orthodox practice. St John Damascene explains, in regards to veneration:

 ‘Veneration (bowing down) is a symbol of submission and honour. And we know different forms of this. The first is as a form of worship, which we offer to God, alone by nature worthy of veneration. Then there is the veneration offered, on account of God who is naturally venerated, to his friends and servants, as Jesus the son of Nave and Daniel venerated the angel; or to the places of God, as David said, “Let us venerate in the place, where his feet stood” [Ps 131:7 LXX]; or to things sacred to Him, as Israel venerated the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem standing in a circle around it, and then from everywhere bowing in veneration towards it, as they still do now, or to those rulers who had been ordained by Him, as Jacob venerated Esau, made by God the elder-born brother, or Pharaoh, appointed by God his ruler, and his brother venerated Joseph. And I know that such veneration is offered to others as a mark of honour, as Abraham venerated the sons of Emmor. Either, therefore, reject all veneration or accept all of these forms with its proper reason and manner.’ (Treatise I, 14).

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