Friday, March 13, 2009

Icons: an Evangelical Anglican perspective

The word ‘icon’ has been popularised through it use in modern computers. We understand the phrase, ‘click on the icon’. Apple Macintosh developed this way of highlighting the meaning of a computer application by focusing on an ‘icon’, which is a recognisable pictorial symbol of it, and provides access to it. Currently, we see adverts for the iPhone which feature the screen of the phone ablaze with icons. An interesting secular echo, perhaps, in word and image, of the screen across the sanctuary of an Eastern Orthodox church, the iconostasis, on which the icons are positioned…?

Church icons are, of course, different from computer icons – they are personal rather than impersonal – but they are still vitally symbolic and, for many, provide some sort of intriguing access. Traditionally, evangelical Anglicans have been wary of icons, though many now appreciate them for prayer. The second of the ten commandments, warning against idols and the consequent concern about veneration turning into something akin to worship, are all taken seriously.

‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them’ states the second commandment (Exodus 20:4).

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