Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How icons come to my home

Emily asked me about how I choose my icons. I started writing back a comment to the question, and realized I wrote a blog post instead. so here it is!

The Saints I am referring to are from the Icons I recently got from the Greek Monastery I went to this past Saturday.

Well, I had been thinking more of St. Panteleimon after hearing about Sylvia's story about how St. Panteleimon has interceded for her family. Also we have an icon of him in the back of our church that I have been aware of for a while. I often like to get icons of the Saints that are in my Church - bringing the comfort home as it were.

The icon of the Theotokos I recognized from a small icon I always noticed in my Church hall on the wall. I was overjoyed to see a larger reproduction of it in the Monastery chapel (I was in their store before I went into their chapel). When I saw this icon, I immediately picked it up.

I have a dear friend whose patron is St. John the Theologian and I have learned a lot about St. John through this friend. Also I think St. John of Rila is named after St. John the Theologian; the Akathist to St. John of Rila that I have speaks a lot about the love of God, which makes sense with St. John the Theologian as his name Saint! (FYI St. John of Kronstadt was named after St. John of Rila).

Also on the car ride up to the monastery, my friend and I were talking about the icons we own. He had one of St. John with St. Prochorus. So when I saw this icon of St. John the Theologian with St. Prochorus, it went in my to purchase pile immediately. Before doing so, I verified with my spiritual father that it was the icon I thought it was. I am no expert and depend on others as well. At monasteries of course you can also ask the nun who is there in the store!

Also at times I buy an icon of a Saint who I know to be an intercessor for a certain need. I got an icon recently for a friend I am concerned for and will pray especially to those Saints for assistance on behalf of this person. I find that the icons I need often come when I need them. For instance, I do not yet have an icon of St. Elizabeth the Mother of the Forerunner, my name's Saint. I believe I will have this icon when I am supposed to - not that it is wrong to order an icon at a particular time. This is no 'one way' to icons! But I do find that in general an icon comes to me when I need it. Often also I am drawn to certain ones instinctively. Or they draw me to themselves. Take your time with building an icon corner. It will come as it is needed.

Also icons are given to us. My first icon of the Holy Trinity was given to me just a few months before my chrismation. I had no idea what it was and asked one of my Orthodox friends in BC on the phone what it was. I told him it had three Angels on it and he quickly knew what icon it was! Now this is a fond memory and that particular copy is on the my apartment door.

I really love icons. They help me pray. I often find myself looking for one in my house, feeling a particular need for help. I love having icons everywhere for they speak of comfort and ready help for us. Also I am still learning to pray church prayers with proper attention. Saying brief prayers before icons helps focus me and is an encouragement to me.

It is important to give oneself room and time to grow in our Orthodox faith. For my first years I did not have many mounted icons - mainly just paper ones taped to my wall. It takes time to learn how to be Orthodox when we are converting. God will give us what we need as we are able and He is merciful. I read this past Christmas Jim Forest's book, Praying with Icons. I found his book to be a lovely introduction that was very personable as opposed to academic and complicated! But even this book, I did not read until I was in the church 5 years, which I mention to show merely the time and patience and gentleness with ourselves to grow and learn.

I thank God for His Saints and Holy Icons!


Emily H. said...

Thank you so much Elizabeth! Your post was really helpful and full of good advice.

It is important to give oneself room and time to grow in our Orthodox faith. ... God will give us what we need as we are able and He is merciful. - I will have to hold that one close to mind and heart.


elizabeth said...

My honour! And I only do it, I pray, as God helps me! I have been given a lot of wonderful churches, a loving spiritual father and Orthodox communities that have helped teach me - and monasteries. And time in the church... I have been in the church regularly almost 6 years now and I still have so much to learn. We are babes in the Church and thank God we are able to worship in God's temple!

The concept of God giving us what we need and as we are able is very Orthodox, from the tropariaon for the Transfiguration (here is one translation of it):

"Thou wast transfigured upon the mountain, O Christ our God, showing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they were able to sustain. Shine forth also upon us sinners, Thine everlasting light, by the prayers of the Mother of God. O Giver of light, glory to Thee."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, sage advice.

And you have some beautiful icons, too!

elizabeth said...

Thanks A. - I thank God for His goodness in bringing me to the church!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Your icon corner is really lovely !

elizabeth said...

thank you Elizabeth!

Jewel said...

Hi. I was wondering if you decorate your whole house in icons and if that is all you decorate with. I am feeling drawn to discard everything but my icons and what I need. I get too caught up in decorating styles, etc. It's a total distraction.

elizabeth said...

Hi Jewel:

I've moved house since this post! :) While I do have lots of icons in my home (I am no minimalist) I do have other decorations in my home; lots of pictures of family, friends; a few art prints, plates and Dutch pottery.

I like making a home that is reflective of the life I am trying to build as a person who is from a culture (Dutch, American, Canadian) and who is Orthodox and create a home that has a unity of this.

Everyone has their own way and processes in this and patience I think is key.