I’m taking a moment to step back from sermon preparation for Holy Week to write you this letter of introduction to a new dimension of worship being introduced and Epiphany… iconography. We have had icons in our midst since I’ve arrived at Epiphany. We have had icon writing classes and classes teaching how to pray with icons. I have icons filling in my office, and I have preached on them every so often. You’ll even see icons tracking the stairwell going up to the vestment room.
The most simplistic way to understand icon prayer is as a window that one gazes through into the kingdom of heaven. The idea is that the featured saint in the icon represents the perfect acquiescence to God’s preference for the life of the person featured. The saints lived their lives as Jesus would if Jesus had their life. And so, to gaze upon the saint is to immerse one’s own life in patterns of saintly living.
While in Bethlehem this past February our group of pilgrims stumbled upon an icon that seemed to perfectly represent who we are at Epiphany Parish. There are two features about this mid 18th century icon painted in a rush in a monastery that seem to capture the gestalt of Epiphany. First, it is filled with 555 saints. To my mind, that says something about the radically inclusive nature of the kingdom of heaven. As I gaze upon this icon I see you, I see all the saints that have gone before us, and I see all the saints that will come after us. It is an icon that perfectly reflects the Epiphany aphorism… “Wherever you are on your spiritual journey…“
And that is what we are going to write on the plaque that goes under this Pilgrim’s Icon when it is permanently situated in the Chapel. We are currently in the process of designing its home there. That said, we will also have a place in the main sanctuary where the icon can reside when we use it in worship.
The second characteristic of this icon is that it is an ancient liturgical calendar. That fits perfectly with our view of Epiphany as a spiritual gym. One of the key spiritual exercises of time is that of the liturgical calendar. The other four are prayer, Sabbath, worship, and pilgrimage. Now we have an outward and visible sign of a core spiritual exercise we practice at Epiphany.
I want to thank the pilgrims who donated toward the purchase of this icon. It will be known as the Pilgrims’ Icon. If there are any other pilgrims who would like to contribute to the cost of this icon, I would be grateful.
I encourage you to invest time in getting acquainted with this beautiful vehicle of worship. We are in the process of putting together a small booklet that gives details on the icon itself. Hopefully it will be ready by the fall.
Blessings to you this Holy Week. You all are in my prayers.
Peace upon your souls.