An Orthodox Church in our area hosted their 3rd Annual Iconography Conference. There were several speakers, the Sitka Icon was there to venerate Saturday afternoon, and the Weeping Icon of St. Anna from Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church in Philadelphia was there Saturday early evening.
The first speaker on Friday evening was phenomenal. I could have listened to him all weekend. He is priest at an Orthodox church about 45 minutes from here and spoke on intercessory prayer to the Saints and the use of icons in an Orthodox person’s prayer life. He was quite emphatic in his explanation that icons are used for veneration not to worship. To worship an icon is to engage in idolatry. When we stand in front of an icon during prayer, it is as a prototype of the Saint to whom we ask for intercessory prayer just as we ask our family and friends, all of whom are part of the Christian community.
For the last week or so I’ve been contemplating the teaching that we sin individually and are saved in community. What started the thinking was a free Summer Issue of Handmaiden that came with a subscription offer. It was chock full of excellent articles on forgiveness & reconciliation, anger, rooting out bitterness, how are sin effects us and ripples out to those around us in the community. The Handmaiden articles, a couple of email exchanges, and then the Friday evening speaker all coalesced into this vision of understanding. It was like it smacked me right in the head! I got it! And ya know what? When I went to confession Saturday evening, as I spoke to God, understanding how I sin individually and how that impacts the community, which ripples out like a pebble thrown into a pond, confession meant all the more to me.
It was interesting to learn some of the symbols that are common from icon to icon which help us learn things about the Saint who is depicted. For example, if a Saint is holding an Orthodox cross, it generally means the Saint was martyred. Colors are important as well. Jesus usually has a gold or red stripe on the robe on His right arm to signify His royalty as the Son of God.
Today Sunday School went exceptionally well. We discussed the phrases in the Creed, “Light of Light, True God of True God.” We noted the importance of the word “of” which clues us that Jesus is “of” God. If the word were “and” it would signify Jesus was a 2nd god, which we do not believe. One student said, “He isn’t?!” to which I quickly replied, “No He’s not a 2nd god. He is God.” The questions came fast and furious after that. I used the poor analogy of the three forms of water to give them some hint of the Trinity. Water can be in three forms: liquid, solid, gas yet is the same substance – water. So it is with the Trinity. The same substance, God, but three forms. The collective, “Ohhhh!” indicated they got it!
As we discussed “Light of Light” I brought a mirror and flashlight to demonstrate how we are to be reflections of God, to have God manifest in us. They thought that was cool too. One boy piped up, “Yeah, just like the sun and the moon. The moon is like a mirror and reflects the sun’s light. So we should be like the moon!” I was proud of his making that analogy because when I first was reviewing the student list with various people, one or two said this young man is a little slow and awkward, often not grasping the more difficult concepts. Hmmm…seems he taught the class a thing or two today, not me! Glory to God!
Later this afternoon I spent a good couple hours tweaking the church’s website, adding a few links, changing the “Wisdom of the Fathers” saying, and updating the calendar. I’ve got to get the dates for the various feast days to put on there.
The Sunday School Movie & Pizza Night flopped tonight. I cancelled it because only one boy was going to come. All the rest of the 14 kids were otherwise occupied and one was sick. When I told Father not to come, he was most discouraged. I told him not to feel badly. This was a new venture for the church as they’ve never done anything like this for the kids before so I’m sure there was some of the “What? Change? New? No way!” going on. So we’ll try again in January. Maybe schedule a “snow party” outside and then have hot chocolate and a short movie one afternoon. We’ll see.
In all a good weekend. I’m trying not to look over my shoulder and worry about when the other shoe is going to drop – things have been good lately. Lord have mercy!