In class last night, our session was “Praying with Icons.” I’ve never done this before and wasn’t too sure what to think about it. But there was one thing I was sure of and that’s the idea of “communion with the saints.” That is, someone explained it to me like this — “Did you ask your Mom to prayer for you when she was in this world?”
“Of course,” I replied.
“Then why wouldn’t you continue to ask her to pray for you now that she’s in the Otherworld?”
See, for me, it was about my belief in the resurrection. Do I really believe that my loved ones are alive?
Jesus was asked a similar question in Mark 12.18-27. There, he responded —
“As for the resurrection from the dead, haven’t you read in the scroll from Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how G‑d said to Moses, I am the G‑d of Abraham, the G‑d of Isaac, and the G‑d of Jacob? Yahweh isn’t the G‑d of the dead but of the living. You’re seriously mistaken.” (vv. 26-27; adapted).
So, what does this have to do with icons? As one person put it, “Icons represents someone who’s already praying. When one walks up to an icon to start praying, she’s joining prayer that’s already going on” (paraphrased). It would be as if I walked into the classroom late and my classmates were in a circle praying. I would walk up and join the circle. Praying with icons is the same thing. They represent people that are already praying and we join them in prayer.
In class, there were several icons placed throughout the space. I was drawn to this icon.
However, I honestly didn’t feel anything with it. Just observations:
I noticed an “eye” behind the Christ.
I noticed that the Christ seems to be holding a scroll in his left hand.
Moses and Elijah appear to be bowing at the waist in service to the Christ.
I noted smaller halos around Moses and Elijah.
There’s a shadow on Elijah, but not Moses.
The various positions of the disciples Peter, James, and John. One looks like he fell backwards. One looks like he’s bored because his head’s resting on his hand. The last look like he’s cowering behind a rock — he’s not, though. Upon closer inspection it appears to be his cloak. Two of the disciples, assumably James and John, are covering their eyes in reverence. The other disciple, Peter, seems to be saying his (in)famous speech, “It’s good we’re here! Let’s build three shrines for you guys!”
I noticed that the “glory” of the Christ was piercing the disciples — very pointed, like a laser.
The disciples are in shadow, in darkness. Their clothing even seems to be darker (in the print last night).
My take away from this icon is this: The Law and the Prophets (represented by Moses and Elijah) were to serve the Christ, to lead the Jews to the Messiah but then, as the Scriptures tells us, the disciples saw “no one except Jesus himself alone” (Matthew 17). Jesus is the goal of the Law (as Paul says in Romans 10). The transfiguration is not just for the Christ alone. As the laser beams of glory illustrate, it’s for people, too. After Jesus was glorified, that glorification transfigures all creation. And it’s not something that happens “later,” in “heaven.” No, as the icon shows, the transfiguration takes place “on earth.” Once more showing that the Realm of G‑d comes “on earth as in heaven.” It’s for transfiguring the whole world.
So, then the take away becomes a prayer:
“Loving G‑d, creator of all that is, seen or unseen. Through the Passion of your Child, Jesus the Christ, you have rescued creation and set in motion it’s transfiguration. Help us, your people, to be co-workers with you in restoring creation and implementing your Realm on earth as in heaven. Through Jesus the Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One G‑d, world without end. Amen.”
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC