Icons from the Greek word eikones are sacred images. They are created in a very precise and stylized fashion. In his paper Icons: Their history and Spiritual Significance, Dr. Zakaria Wahba states icons are “,,,,not a mere artistic device. Icons are windows into heaven. A believer meditates on the person whose portrait is on the icon. In this way an icon may play a role in enhancing the spiritual life of the believer through the imitation of the life of the person in the icon. Therefore, icons can be a blessing in our lives if we use them in a spiritual way.
In April of 2015. I made the move to leave the group psychology practice I had been with for 23 years and go off completely on my own. This was a very big and terrifying move for me because I knew very little about the business side of running an office and didn't know if I could pull it off.
I was invited by a friend and former ceramic instructor, Teresa Harrison to participate in her Icon workshop which was to take place the week before I opened my practice. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to mentally and emotionally reset myself and start from a spiritual place.
The workshop took place over 5 days and nearly 30 hours. The first four days started with an Eucharistic Service, followed by silent prayer and meditation while listening to Gregorian chants. Icons are painted with multiple almost translucent layers of paint, starting with the darkest shadow and building up and forward to the brightest highlight; thereby symbolically coming out of the darkness into the light. On the fourth day the halos and accents were added in 23 karate gold leaf. Then on the last day the icons were sealed, and then placed on a chapel alter where we blessed and prayed with them.
This style of painting was dramatically different from what I had done before. Like starting my new practice, I was forced outside my comfort zone. This was very uncomfortable, but it also made everything new again. I had the heightened awareness that comes from a totally new experience. I had to let go and get out of the way allowing the divine energy to flow through me.
Unlike traditional paintings, which are designed to bring the viewer into the world of the painting, icon paintings are designed for the Divine blessings to come out to the viewer. Every layer, color and aspect of an icon has a symbolic meaning. I am far from and expert but I will share a little of what I learned.
For my first icon I chose to depict Saint Francis of Assisi. I felt a special affinity for him growing up in a Catholic home and had selected him for my Confirmation name.
Saint Francis was the first Christian saint to receive the stigmata or wounds of Christ. The nail holes are depicted in the hands as well as the spear wound in his side.
The birds depicted in the saint’s halo are a reference to Saint Francis’s love of nature and animals which he called his brothers and sisters. In a famous story, the saint gave a sermon to an enraptured flock of birds. He is the patron saint of animals and ecology. Pope John Paul II wrote, "It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of 'fraternity' with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created."
The large T on the Bible the saint holds is called the Tau Cross or the “The Cross of Saint Francis.” It is traditionally worn by Franciscan friars. It predates the cross of the crucifixion. In Ezekiel, an angel, traditionally believed to be St. Gabriel, is instructed by God to go and mark the foreheads of the faithful with the Tau symbol.
This icon has been in my office blessing me and my clients since day one. A friend who saw my posts on Facebook, repeatedly requested to have a copy of the icon. She connected me with The Stackhouse Fine Art Printing. They create Giclee quality prints with archival ink and paper. I now have those prints available in my store.
The five day progression of painting.
In January of 2017, I took the icon workshop for a second time, to bless my new year and learn more about iconography. I chose the Archangel Raphael, the angel of healing. His name means “God Heals.”
Saint Raphael is the patron saint of healers, physicians, travelers, and matchmakers. Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit, in disguise, as a traveling companion to the young man Tobias. The Angel expels a demon from Tobit’s fiancée and then tells him how to heal his father’s blindness.
In icons, archangels are often depicted holding a staff and a ball or disk. There are different interpretations for these items. Like a scepter and orb they can reflect that they are members of the “royal court” those who stand near the throne of God. Both a staff and a plate with the royal crest were medieval symbols of a messenger, and the word angel means “messenger of God.” Saint Raphael’s staff is at times depicted as a caduceus or healing wand and is also seen as a walking staff. The symbol in the center of the globe is the Greek letter “X” or “chi,” the symbol for Christ.
The five day progression of painting