Iconography extends roots into the past, but it also stretches out branches into the present and future, for it is part of the Church's mission to "preach the Gospel to the whole creation."
[Icons are becoming increasingly familiar to us in the West, but quite often are assimilated to our own tradition of religious images and pious portraits of the saints. What we urgently need to understand is the spiritual tradition and what might be called the ontological context, of iconography. Brother Aidan is a convert to Orthodoxy from Evangelical Christianity. He has lived on Mount Athos, and now lives at the Hermitage of Saint Antony and Cuthbert near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England. He was an artist in the Western sense before he became a monk and iconographer; he is therefore well able to understand the deep differences between the two attitudes-the artistic individualism of the West with its craving for novelty, and the deep contemplative spirit of the iconographer, with its love of anonymity and continuity in a still-living tradition of sacred art.-Stratford Caldecott]
"When the light becomes his pathway, the real man rises to eternal heights; he contemplates metacosmic realities without being separated from matter which has been part of his being from the beginning. Through himself, man leads the whole creation to God." (St. Gregory Palamas)
Real humans are small gods; in Christ they are corulers of the universe. The universe is contained within man: when man falls, all creation falls with him and in him; when man rises in Christ, all creation rises, and sits with him in heavenly places. Man is to the cosmos what his own heart is to his body; by him the universe is offered as a hymn of praise to God, in the same way that the saints offer to God their whole selves-body, soul and spirit-upon the altar of their hearts. Through this transformation and offering of the physical world (grapes are transformed into wine, wheat into bread), man theSource: http://www.ewtn.com/library/HOMELIBR/SACICON.TXT Icons Explained: http://www.iconsexplained.com/iec/iec_idb5s.htm
makes the good very good, the beautiful very beautiful. In his humility the great God wished man to be his co-worker, and thus ordered the universe in such a way that it needed man's priestly work, one means of the Church redeeming and offering the material world. As such, icon painting today, as in any other age, is to be something creative and dynamic. It must certainly be guarded against stylistic changes, such as sentimentalism and naturalism, which do not correspond to the spiritual realities which icons represent. But is must equally be guarded against a legalistic conservatism that equates tradition with mindless copying. Today we are in danger more of the latter than of the former. Iconography extends roots into the past, but it also stretches out branches into the present and future, for it is part of the Church's mission to "preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15).