Protopresbyter Božidar Mijač

The function of icons

pages: 66-77

Abstract

The icon is a created picture in which the uncreated Reality is pointed to, and which itself is functional and communicative. Through the visible painting, the icon emmanates invisible energies. In its unique way, the icon strives to effect theosis: the power of the icion provokes a reaction in the viewer; the viewer is thereby able to grasp and penetrate into essence of the icon. In this manner, what is initially an aesthetic perception of the icon is transformed into a religious experience. The picture becomes holy and religiously functional in the framework of the Church, where the consecrating powers of the Holy Spirit act upon it — in the Church’s rite of blessing (icons. With this rite of blessing, a relationship between the icon and its prototype is established. The sacred value of the icon, on the one hand, is found in the painted image which reflects the prototype, and on the other hand, is found in the coming to life of the icon through grace.

The function of the icon is three-fold: A. Liturgical — the liturgical rites served in the Church or in the home are the most ideal surroundings in which the icon may work; the liturgical service itself is illustrated and reflected in the icon. B. Instructive-Kerygmatic — based on the potential power of the icom to communicate the word of God as if spoken. C. Miraculous — God may employ the icon in order to help the faithful overcome their physical ailments. This excludes the possible misconception of the icon as a magical object, but rather is an instrument of the free action of God.

Although the icon, in spite of its location, contains in itself the potentiality of performing works of grace, it is nonetheless most effective in the milieu of liturgical services and prayer (i.e. in the Church, in the Christian home, etc.). When the icon is removed from these surroundings, or when it lis employed for commercial gain, or in museums, it is blasphemously used and thereby loses its identity as an icon.

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