Views from the Pews: Iconic gift to mark milestone birthday

Father Paul Dowling
Father Paul Dowling

This year I passed the landmark age of 40 and the parishioners of St Mary’s were very kind in giving me an icon as a birthday gift.

I have been fascinated by icons for a long time and I find them to be a great aid to prayer and meditation.

St Mary's Church, Market Weighton.

St Mary's Church, Market Weighton.

Icons have a large influence in the Eastern Christian churches and have been widely used for many centuries there.

An icon (from Greek eikōn meaning “image”) is generally a flat panel painting depicting Jesus Christ, Mary, one of the saints or angels.

Icons may be cast in metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth, painted on wood, done in mosaic or fresco work, printed on paper or metal.

My icon is painted onto a wood panel, however, it is more than just a piece of art. Icons are images. The reverence and veneration shown to icons, however, is not directed to mere paint, wood, or stones, but towards the sacred person that are being depicted.

Even when a miracle-working icon is highly venerated, it is the true source of the miracles (God, through the intercessions of that specific saint) that is respected.

My icon depicts the Passion of Jesus Christ before His death; two angels are holding the shroud that His body was wrapped in during his burial.

Icons are part of the church’s preaching and part of the church’s prayer.

The iconographer prepares for the work of icon-making with prayer, fasting and study. The production of icons is a mode of prayer; they come from prayer to be used in prayer and worship.

The presence of an icon in a house blesses the house and claims it and all who live in it for Christ.

My icon hangs in the hallway and so each time I come downstairs it is a reminder to me of the love that Jesus Christ has for me, the kindness of the people who commissioned the icon and the prayer of the iconographer who created it for me.