Sunday, January 24, 2016

Icons – The Bible of the Busy

Icons were widely known and used as the Bible of the illiterate. This applied in the past; however, today we do not have that problem, at least on the same level that it existed in the past centuries. Nevertheless, the icons seem to have adopted a new and important role. Many people today, due to work, family issues and obligations and life moving much faster than it did, in general, they do not seem to have enough time to read the Bible or examine their faith in depth. Now, this is another issue (important, yes), which will be probably analysed in another post; nevertheless, it seems to be a reality today. However, upon entering an Orthodox Church, or opening a book quickly, one sees an icon and understands a number of events and beliefs we have as Christians.

Also, the fact that we live in the digital age, where icons (pictures) and short videos prevail it is only logical that an icon will attract someone, even for just a while. Therefore, we could state that the icon is the ‘Bible of the Busy’. Maybe the Church could use the icons more than it currently does, in order to proclaim its faith and message to the Christian believer. St John Damascene gives a beautiful exegesis of this, explaining: ‘What the book does for those who understand letters, the image does for the illiterate; the word appeals to hearing, the image appeals to sight; it conveys understanding.’ [Treatise I, 17]. A modern understanding of this phrase would be to replace the word illiterate for the term busy, and thus we can apply it to our time. 

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