Rev. David McAllister
Rev. David McAllister

I will share new thoughts at least once a week, and I invite your reflections and responses to them via email through the Contact tab.

May 27, 2022


Invitation to Prayer


When I was engaged in my doctoral work in the area of arts and theology, one of the most fascinating classes we shared together was about icons.  We read books about them, we discussed them, we learned history about them, and then we were privileged to visit a Russian Orthodox Church and were allowed to be enveloped by them.


To many people, icons are just art.  And for those who know little about them, icons are a stylized art form that often is not very appealing.  But, as we learned in our class and in the visit to the church, there is much more to icons that just being works of art.


Icons are certainly artistic creations, most often crafted in forms that follow centuries of tradition in how they depict Christ, the Apostles, saints and more.  Icons, unlike much of religious art, often tell a whole story rather than just one segment of a story.  For example, a depiction of the Transfiguration of Jesus would not just show Jesus glowing, or the journey up the hill, or the fear of the disciples at what they saw, but rather an icon would show all of these elements, presenting the whole of the story in one piece.


But icons do not just teach stories, they invite prayer.  This is not prayer directed at the image in the icon, but rather prayer to the one whose presence comes to us through the medium of the icon.  While this can sound odd to many who are not familiar with icons, people who cherish them in their religious tradition will understand what this means.


As I was reading in the “Seen Journal,” the periodical of CIVA that I referenced last week, I came across these words from Marcia Allison in an article entitled, “Transforming Vision”  -  “Traditional and modern icons are sometimes described as ‘windows to heaven’ or a ‘showing forth of God.’  The icon’s purpose is to represent the divine in a way that beckons the viewer.  As a form of inspiration, the icon is to the eye the same as music is to the ear; as incense is to the smell; as veneration to the touch; and as Holy Communion to the taste.  Although, these may seem superficial, the intent is to charge all our senses and guide us toward a higher and spiritual understanding.”  (Issue XX:1, p. 65)


Icons are one medium which helps to invite us into prayer.  Spend some time with icons, and see what you experience.












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Copyright, David McAllister, 2015-2022.