Praying In Paint
Icon Writing at CLC
Undertaking writing or painting an icon is no simple task. It takes hours of focused and dedicated work, whether in the traditional egg tempera style or the more modern painting style using acrylics and patterns. For nearly two thousand years, Christians have been creating images (icons) of Jesus, his followers, and our ancestors in the faith. However, these are not just images that remind us of the stories in scripture; they present a truth greater than ourselves. They offer a way of connecting with God through images at the same time familiar and yet unfamiliar.
These images of the communion of saints, the great cloud of witnesses, draw us in and remind us of our own place in the wonderfully diverse Body of Christ. Writing an icon, then, over the course of weeks or months, is in depth and intense time spent with God, the figures portrayed, and the lessons they have to teach. For at the heart of iconography and, indeed, Christianity, is belief in the Incarnation – that God took on flesh in Jesus Christ and saw fit to use matter to redeem the cosmos. It is not that people pray to icons, rather that they pray through the icons, using matter to connect to God, or allowing God to speak to them using the everyday and mundane stuff of this world.
Slowly painting an icon, praying for direction with every brushstroke, lifting up family, friends, the church and the world… the wooden board upon which one is painting in vibrant colors becomes a microcosm containing the hopes, dreams, joys, sorrows, and struggles of the iconographer. More than a depiction of artistic talents, it is first and foremost a reflection of our prayers and our lives. Each person, concern, and thought becomes a brushstroke on the board. Sometimes, when we are fully engaged in the practice of writing an icon, it is very easy to find that the time has flown by and that we have for a few short hours stopped the hectic whir of worries, concerns, and anxieties with which we might have been preoccupied earlier. In that time, we have been able to give ourselves completely over to God and the creative process. As the prayer with which we usually begin states:
“Take away any anxiety, Lord, so that I might fully serve you this day in this capacity. Help me not to compare my work to others because this alone is my prayer before you today” (adapted by Celeste Lauritsen)
For more information about icon writing, contact Pastor Annabelle – [email protected]
Blessing our finished “Christ the Teacher” icons on Transfiguration Sunday.
Beginning, middle and end – the stages of painting the “Christ the Teacher” icon.