Shortly after contemplative prayer commenced at this centre in September, 2000, we were joined by a local, retired priest, Fr. John Reynolds. He had a great interest in and love for iconography. Over the next number of years, he attended regularly at the evenings of prayer here and gradually, a number of icons, written by his hand, came to live here. He died on December 12th, 2009 having left the following eight icons at this centre :
Different icons are chosen for contemplative here prayer depending on the liturgical season and the spiritual theme which is being explored at a particular time.
Furthermore, this centre searches for an ecumenical Christian spirituality. The pondering of these icons is also an act of honouring the Orthodox tradition of the Christian faith, which has gifted us with a profound understanding and respect for the divine gift of iconography.
In the Articles section of this website, one can find the address given by Eltin Griffin O. Carm. on the occasion of the Blessing and Anointing of the Icon of the Crucifixion at this centre on February 11th, 2005.
Cards of each of these icons are also available for collection from the reception room of this centre.
There are certain recurring themes in iconography which are outlined below. The quotations, which are in italics below, are taken from ‘Meeting Christ In His Mysteries : A Benedictine Vision of the Spiritual Life’ Gregory Collins OSB (2010) Columba Press.
A. THE ICON AS AN OPENING
The icon is an opening – an opening to the mysteries of Christ. It is another filter through which the one great mystery can manifest itself and reveal its power.
“Divine and uncreated beauty, revealing itself through the beauty of the icon,
offers us access to and experience of the presence of God in a particularly
intensive way. It calls us to contemplation.”
B. THE ICON IS WRITTEN NOT PAINTED
An icon is written not painted. It is a form of sacramental activity meant to take place in the context of prayer and worship. This is the art of communion and cannot come into being unless there is a real, personal kenosis.
“The Spirit-bearing capacity of matter taken up by God in the incarnation of
Christ and continued in the Eucharist is given artistic expression in the icon
which thereby becomes a privileged disclosure-zone of grace.”
“It is a supremely liturgical art, fashioned life all the sacraments by the power of
the Holy Spirit who brings it out of the darkness of contemplative prayer and
into the light through a marvellous co-operation (synergy) between the
painter’s skill and divine grace. Through the harmonious activity the divine
energies lying concealed and latent in the material world are given symbolic
expression in the faces of the Lord, his Mother and the saints.”
C. THE ICON WRITER AS A MEDIUM
The icon writer becomes a medium through which the mysteries of salvation find a fresh dwelling place once again in the sacred images which emerge under the brush.
“Heaven opens its doors and the epiphany of the sacred occurs. The process is
analogous in some ways to the celebration of the Eucharist, in that it provides a
Spirit-filled space, a ‘place’ for the invisible to manifest itself through the
“Yet the Orthodox Church insists sharply on the essential qualitative difference
between the icon and the Eucharistic liturgy. In the Eucharist, the holiest of
sacraments, the fullness of Christ’s presence is intrinsically linked to the
sacramental forms of bread and wine after their consecration : they yield their
deepest inner being to God’s transforming touch, so as to give place to him.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit they are transfigured into the glorified
body and blood of the risen Lord. Making himself present through the
sacramental appearances of food and drink allows Christ to penetrate into the
deepest recesses of bodies and souls of those who receive him. In the
production of the icon, no such yielding of being or absolute identification
occurs between the being employed and the one depicted. The carved, woven
or painted image retains its essential being, becoming a dwelling place and
vehicle for the disclosure of a presence rather than being so transformed that it
is intrinsically identified with that presence. It is a medium used by Christ and
his saints through which they disclose themselves.”
E. CHRIST AS THE EXEMPLAR
Christ the incarnate Word in his individual person and in his saving mysteries is the fundamental basis and exemplar for the icon, while the possibility of depicting the Mother of God, saints and angles flows from this. The icon, cannot , however, simply be identified with the reality it depicts.
“ … [Icons] … are sacramental objects that operate as effective symbols,
mediating invisible realities to us and in turn allowing us access to what lies
‘beyond’, ‘behind’ or even (in a carefully qualified sense) ‘within’ them : thanks
to the union of divine grace with artistic skill purified by prayer, a certain kind
of presence dwells in them and is mediated and manifested though them.”
F. BECOMING AN ICON OF CHRIST
The still, calm, poised and beautiful presence of the icon points to the final vocation of all created beings which are called by God to become bearers of divine light in his glorious kingdom.
“It is a pointer towards Christ’s fullest presence on earth, his mystery-presence
in the Eucharist and a reminder to Christians of their vocation : recognising
God’s presence in other human beings – the definitive icons of God – we are to
venerate Christ in them and become one with them in communion. Realising
that we are, each one of us, his icon, is a call to ascetical kenosis, to pray and
work that, purified from illusion, fantasy and sin and transformed by grace, we
may be made into Christ’s living likenesses through communion with him in
prayer. The fundamental iconic disclosure-zone is the human face. The beautiful
faces of the icons, created images of Christ, his Mother and the saints mediate
the uncreated beauty of God, the source of all beauty. They point to the goal of
the entire mystery of salvation : the final transfiguration of the world through
grace when the risen Christ, the cosmic shepherd, will return in glory at the end
of time to gather all his scattered sheep, visible and invisible, into communion
in the kingdom of the Father’s love.”
“Christians are called to become icons of Christ, to reflect him. But we are called to
even more than that. Ikon is the Greek word for “image of the God.” We are called
to incarnate him in our lives, to clothe our lives with him, so that others can see
him in us, touch him in us, recognise him in us.”