Sunday, May 15, 2005

Interpretation of Icons - Events

Many of my Christian friends who are not Orthodox have asked me about why we use icons, what they mean, and sometimes how is it not worshipping an image.

In the case of icons of the Saints, they allow us to have something of that person's presence, just as a sailor may take a photo of his wife or sweetheart to sea for the same reason. The Saints are not dead and are considered to still be members of the Church.

In ancient times, most people were illiterate. They needed to have icons as aids to learn and remember the Gospel stories, events in the lives of the Saints, and events in the history of the Church. In the case of the lives of the Saints, an icon of a Saint may be surrounded (framed) by smaller images depicting events in the life of that Saint.

The Holy Myrrhbearing Women

In the icon shown above, we see an event associated with the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection was discovered by the women who came to annoint Jesus' body with myrrh. They were the Theotokos (His Mother Mary), St. Joanna, St. Mary Clopas (the mother of James the Less). St. Mark also reports that Salome, the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee) was there.

The story is of the arrival of the myrrhbearing women to the tomb of Christ with the intention of anointing his body with oil and spices. This icons shows the women at the tomb
"and entering the tomb, they saw a young man [an angel - ed.] sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed" (St. Mark, 16.5)
This Sunday was the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women in the Orthodox calendar.

Read the wonderful story of the discovery of the Resurrection of Christ according to St. Mark in his Gospel, Chapter 16;
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; -- it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

9 Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
14: Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

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