Inspiring Stories and Reflections from our Customers
Over the past few weeks we've received over a hundred entries in our "What Icons Mean to Me" Contest - inspiring and personal reflections and stories about the important place of icons in the lives of the faithful. As we share some of these with you over the coming weeks, we hope you find these as uplifting and enlightening as we have.
A Place of Peace, Prayer, and Thanksgiving
I cannot express to you how deeply important icons have become to our family in the last few months. Perhaps a week before the pandemic lockdowns began, my husband and I decided to invest in creating a home shrine. We chose icons of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a patron saint for each family member, and icons of saints that have meant so much to us over the years. Here's looking at you St. Augustine! ;) A statue of St. Michael guards over them all (when my toddler doesn't sneak him into his superhero collection to" fight bad guys.")
As churches closed, we consecrated our family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and as fear spread, we learned how integral icons were to growing our Domestic Church. Saint Patrick (my husband's patron saint) stood on our mantle March 17th while he made bangers and mash. In April, Saint George (our newborn's patron saint) got a kiss before bed on his feast day. And, May 1st, on the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker a lit candle stood by his icon as we prayed alongside every bishop in the United States for an end to this pandemic.
While our shrine is simply a corner wall in our bedroom, it has become a place of peace, prayer, and even thanksgiving in uncertain moments. It was where I dropped to my knees when my husband treated his first COVID-19 patient, and it is where my toddler joyfully picks out a new saint icon each night to pray his bedtime prayers with him. Our icons remind us that our Domestic Church is forever connected to the greater Body of Christ no matter how far apart we may be separated. It reminds us that our family and the family of God are so much greater than our struggles, and that miracles can happen.
Melissa S., Virginia
A Personal Journey
I have been an Indian Orthodox Christian for my entire life of 24 and a half years. I grew closer to the faith and my church in my later years, and part of that growth was my new found interest in icons. I have always seen icons in my church, as well as in the homes of many of my church members' and even in my priests homes. What I did not fully understand, was the purpose of them. This was until I decided to buy one for myself.
I bought my very first icon of Jesus Christ I placed it in my prayer corner of my room and sat and looked at it trying to figure out what I was supposed to do now. Looking into the eyes of Christ on the icon, gave me a sense of comfort, and I decided to start my prayers. That days prayers felt different than the rest They felt more pure, and more Christ-driven, than my usual everyday prayers. I ended up buying more icons, for myself, my family and for my friends. Icons became my window into a deeper connection with Christ and my spiritual life. I can sit in my prayer corner alone and not feel as though I am alone.
Icons have become more than just some Christian paintings to me, they have become religious and sacred ideals of my faith. Icons are not pictures, they are a spiritual guidance. They are a constant reminder of our faith and those who loved the faith so much. Icons show us how to love our God and how to be more devout in our prayer lives.
- Kripaya V., Pennsylvania
Icons are a constant comfort and reassurance to us all. To see, touch, feel that which cannot be seen, touched or felt, right before us, positioned in the familiar spot in our lives... I have to laugh when I think about how icons make me "feel." Did you ever come home after a long day's journey, pull up in the driveway as the automatic garage door opens up and say "we're home".....That would be it.
Icons are the images, the cherished, trusted images, that make us feel, just by looking at them or having them near, as though we have been wrapped up in a blanket of God's love and protection and placed in His arms. "We're Home."
- Miss Elizabeth M.
You become what you contemplate
Though I was never of a Calvinist bent, growing up as a Pentecostal and later Evangelical Protestant, I had absorbed a distrust of religious images. Yet my first conscious encounter with icons was one of those watershed moments that happen occasionally in one's life.
It occurred in a Pier 1 Imports, of all places. I was either in my late teens or early twenties, but there was something magnetic, heroic, and masculine about those holy images of Saint George and one of the archangels. I was transfixed--even if I was in an aisle of a retail store.
Fast forward to my early 40's, I had taken Evangelicalism about as far as it could go spiritually. I explored Catholicism and Orthodoxy, trying to figure out where God wanted me. My first time in an Orthodox church was almost visually overstimulating (and that particular parish was still in the process of writing more icons on their walls). Veneration? Oh, that was a bit too much at the time.
Even though I landed in the Roman rite, I am still drawn to icons. They have a lively presence, as opposed to statues--they are "windows into Heaven" after all. Now, I get away to a nearby Byzantine rite church whenever I can. When I walk in and look around I know I'm surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses." Six days a week I pray in my icon corner--I face a diptych of Jesus and the Theotokos, along with other icons of Saint Brendan the navigator, Saint Kateri, and Saint Seraphim of Sarov--along with a seasonal one (currently the Ascension).
My favorite, however, is of the Lord, Christ Pantocrator--the earliest surviving icon. At times, I swear He smiles at me. There is a mercy in beholding an image of our Lord rather than just imagining Him. I pray with icons because "you become what you contemplate."
- Scot M., Michigan
For every difficulty, an icon helps me
When my 'faith' is faint, the Icon restores that link to heaven...
When my 'spirit' is weak, the Icon adds strength to keep up the fight...
When abandonment fills our thoughts or heart, the Icon reveals you're not alone...
When 'hope' feels distant, the Icon hugs the soul to ward off despair...
When 'fortitude' seems exhausted, the Icon looks back at me, to 'never give up'...
When we feel defeated, the Icon shows the Holy Angels / Saints are working to our aid...
When the world injures us and 'our liberty,' the Icon shows that The Holy Ghost has not turned away...
When 'trust is broken' by family / friend, the Icon reassures that Christ Jesus 'is faithful and cannot lie to us'...
When we see how little we are, the Icon confirms our worth that The Holy Trinity will Never forgot or surrender us... Amen.
-- James B.