Today I saw a sweet little girl, about seven or eight years old, dressed in pink and purple, wearing a hat, with cowboy boots on her feet, walk straight up to a homeless man and give him a hug. It totally took me by surprise. It appeared as if they were related but, they were not, right after this brief encounter to my amazement the girl jumped back into her Mothers car and they drove off. This child was extending her heart out to this man and I was a witness My imitate thought that came was; the meeting of Christ in you and in me. Small things such as a hug can seem irrelevant but, human touch has been proven to heal scientifically. It uplifts the human spirit, strengthens our hearts, extends our lives, give us hope, joy, and courage. Jesus used touch to heal and in Mark 1:41 it says, Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said, be healed. Are we willing to take a chance like that little girl? Will we allow simple human touch? Today I witnessed the icon of Jesus’s love in living color, through an act of a child, sharing a hug with a homeless man on the street. Today was a gift, a rare, fine, genteel moment, reaffirming this truth in me that I know, the icon of Christ lives within and can be shared with others.
Being a traditionalist it is important for me to have found a master teacher who taught me the icon painting process. When we work in a tradition, it is a responsibility to up hold its integrity. A place keeper or holding to the work is the true essence in traditional iconography or any other traditional work. Changing the tradition through, self-imposed ideas, self-exploration is a disrespect to that in which holds the very tradition or lineage in place. When someone tries to change the style of the tradition, it dismantle the richness acquired through the ages. Disrupting an ancient traditional practice is obvious and the changes become visible to the enthusiast. A lineage works to hold a tradition through, a line of masters, who hand down their expert knowledge to the student. Master to student relationship is part of the legacy and that line of painters can connect for centuries. When I paint I know that the iconographers before me are behind me pushing me forward to success.
When we look at a bridge we see a structure joining two separate places together. Bridges are a great way to get from one place to another. The Dictionary’s definition
of a bridge states this; a bridge is a structure carrying a road, path, railroad, or canal across a river, ravine, road, railroad, or other obstacle. In most cases without the bridge we would be stranded. We want to get to our destination but, we can not. The bridge provides us a way.
Icons are a bridge. They join together two worlds, Heaven and Earth. When we look at an icon we experience God’s presence in our lives. The icon brings Heaven to us by bridging a gap, between the two worlds. When we look at an icon we are carried away by God’s grace. We then experience, the seen, unseen, and then we can explore Heaven’s path.
We are on Earth but, when we look to an icon we are invited to Heaven through the divine icon image. St. John of Damascus said, “An icon is the visual of what is invisible. It is given to us that our understanding may be filled with sweetness.” We are invited to experience this through the icons language, theology and beauty. The icon contains volumes of knowledge, yet its objective is simple. The icon reveals light to us, and its message is love.
Genesis 1:1-3 “Says in the beginning God prepared, formed, fashioned, the heavens and Earth. The Earth was without form an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light; and there was light.”
In icon painting this idea is represented in its use of lines. Without form we would have nothing, but dark empty space and nothing to fill with light. The lines lay the foundation for light to follow. Icons bring light to us through lines which create form. This is the task of the icon painter. There is a direct order of lines in the icon. If we look close, we can see the lines follow a sequence, a system, and a language through out each icon. These lines represent divine order that teaches us about the cosmos. The cosmos is divine perfection, that follows a direct order. Without order the universal, or orbital system would not operate smoothly. To us the cosmos may seem chaotic, it is exact with complete perfection that follows the nature of Gods plan. In the Practice of long hours Iconographer’s try to understand how to depict them. After a long study they will produce an exactness to the sculptured lines which people will recognize as authentic in the icon. Ancient icon painters developing the icon were faced with creating this task in designing a system of lines that represented divine order. This system of lines emanates perfection, it has been carried through the ages by icon painters by the rubrics and canons which hold true the integrity. That portrays the iconic image of God. When God formed man in His image and likeness he was perfect. Line perfection is not always visible to the on looker staring directly at an icon but, if we look, we will see it become reveled in time and the order in the icon will become visible.