Icons - the Sacred Art

Icons – the Sacred Art

Followers of The Global Architect Institute, saw beautiful images of Christ through the Futuristic Christ project. How come we are focused on images in The Global Architect Institute? Just as our Creator has put us in the world we can observe, images often convey more than words. There is more to that. The Christian tradition also cared for images, but there is a reason behind it.

In the Old Testament, the Revelation of God was realized through words, and in the New Testament through both words and images (icons). Therefore, God does not reveal himself to people only by word, but in the person of the incarnate Logos, he dwells among the people: “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17). The disciples had already directly seen and heard the incarnate God announced by the prophets, but we have to wait for his second arrival and the end of this simulating cycle.

Christianity justified the value of art by talking about the special aesthetic and above all, the religious phenomenon of icons. Proclaiming the dogma of icon worship, the holy fathers defined the nature of fine art as unconditionally valuable. The pinnacle of an aesthetic phenomenon, an icon – and art, in general – is not just a combination of external impressions that surprises our ability to excite. But since the appearance of existing reality is possible only through the mediation of the sensible, it is unconditionally worthy and eternal. Of course, our guiding bond with God is through our soul, but we need to use our senses to experience the divine.

An icon is, first and foremost, what the word itself (Greek: εικων) signifies: a picture, a portrait. An image in the sense of a thing extracted from a character, copied, but an image of a person (face) and not an image in general. Therefore, an icon can only be a personal, hypostatic image. Taken more broadly and originally, it can also be an image of non-religious content. However, taken more narrowly and specifically, it is an image of exclusively religious meaning. It is, in fact, a picture of Christ, the Mother of God, saints, and other heavenly beings painted on wood, wall, or other suitable material to be used for liturgical prayer.

But portraiture alone cannot exhaust the icon’s being. It has a physical and a metaphysical dimension, which significantly sets it apart from the category of ordinary painting as pure art and makes it a sacred object. The icon as an art form connects the perceptible and the intelligible reality, the historical and the glorified figure, real and simulated. Icon offers the observer a historical reality from which they are spatially and temporally distant and, at the same time, an intelligible reality that transcends the sensible form but manifests itself through it. Sensible and intelligible are clearly distinguished in the picture but not divided.

There is a specific relationship between the image that is painted and the prototype, the image being painted. This relationship does not consist only in the fact that the painting contains the form and appearance of the original, which to a certain extent can be said for all paintings, but in the actual participation of the original in the picture. It is, therefore, about the presence, presentation, and manifestation of the person in the picture. That is why the icon and the one it depicts are one.

There can be no question of their identification. The prototype (celestial figure) is experientially unfathomable, as one is an image and the other is an original image. Icons, such as you can see in The Global Architect Institute, have the task of coming as close as possible to the original images to be their likeness. This is one of the essential factors in ensuring a mysterious, invisible, but real and living connection between “earthly” and “heavenly.” Hence, the figure (image), which always hides within itself the gracious presence of the archetype, becomes a saint that seeks the most pious relationship toward itself and can influence man again with the gracious power of the original image: “And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

A picture or icon is a means of communication between the one who accesses it and the one who is painted on it. When Christ is depicted in the picture, the believer achieves that contact with him through prayer and worship sent. The icon, then, serves as a means of a more immediate connection with its origin. The icon is described as advertising with the colors of the spiritual world and as a material window that is placed between two worlds, earthly and divine, between a world that is not substantially evil but really lies all in evil: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5: 19), and the world of absolute good.

As daylight enters through the window of our room and the sun’s rays illuminate its interior, through the icon, the light of grace enters the nature of matter, illuminating it with exceptionally gracious rays and transfiguration both soul and body: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). That is why the metaphysics of light is the basic characteristic of icon painting, because everything revealed is the Divine Light, as The Global Architect Institute perceives: “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (Ephesians 5: 13). Separated from light, the icon is merely a piece of wood.