The Orthodox Icon
Theological and Dogmatic Dimension
The Orthodox icon is a special kind of self-revelation of the Church; it is a spiritual field within a physical space, a crossing point of the radiuses of the Orthodox canons, of mystics, of soteriology and of esthetics (beauty seen as an aspect of God).
The Orthodox icon expresses the concept of beauty as something holy and sacred. Beauty is an ontological rather than an esthetic category, a guiding light in the search for the absolute truth. From the point of view of the dogmatic Christian theology (the contemplative truths of faith) the icon is an evidence that the God's Son became Son of Man, that God's word became flesh and the Divine Hypostasis became a being of both Divine and human nature - unique and real. God accepted human nature in perpetuity so as to show people a path leading to His perfection, to let man, the peak of His creation, participate in the freedom and consummation of the Absolute Being. The Orthodox icon reflects the greatest truths of the faith in Jesus Christ the Savior - it is at once a sermon and a prayer, and a means for spiritual transformation. The icon is not a picture containing solely religious information, it is something more than a simple representation. After an icon has been consecrated it becomes a vehicle of the blissful presence of the invisible God, Who became visible through Jesus Christ. That is why St. Simeon of Thessaloniki said: "What is represented in paints is truth in a painting, as is what is written in a book, and God's grace lives forever in it, because that which is represented is holy"
According to the definitions of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 AD) "the praise for the image is transferred to the original image"
We should distinguish between an icon and an idol. The idol is an image of false and imaginary deities, while the icon is a sacred representation of the one, true God and His holy angels and saints. The Orthodox icon is much more than a visual aid that makes up for the written word for the illiterate. Its role is not passive; the icon is an active mediator that allows the presence of the original image and conveys God's grace to the worshippers.
God reveals His power and grace in a peculiar way in some icons, places and objects that possess extraordinary powers. The most essential quality of these icons, places and objects is not inherent to them - it is to be found in God's grace and love and in His generosity to send His power through whoever and whatever He chooses and wherever He chooses. The devout Christians need to show firm and perform good and holy deeds in order to receive God's grace.
Among the most popular wonder-working icons in Bulgaria are those of Virgin Mary in the Rila, Bachkovski, Rojenski and Troyan Monasteries. The relics of St. Ivan of Rila in the Rila Monastery and the relics of St. King Stefan-Milutin in the Sveta Nedelja Church in Sofia are also capable of supernatural powers.
There should be an icon - of the Savior, of Virgin Mary or of some saint - in every Orthodox home. The icons, whether they are in a church or in our homes, are not meant for decoration, they are meant for prayer. They remind us that the eyes of God, of the angels and the saints are constantly watching us. Standing in front of the icons, at home or in the church, we must immerse within ourselves, and forget all our mundane worries. St. Ioan of Kronshtadt advises: "With the strength of spirit with which you start praying in front of the holy icon … with the same strength the Spirit of the one that is depicted in the icon is attracted to it" In front of the icons at home we light candles. This way the blissful presence of the icon spreads throughout the home and the everyday life of the Orthodox Christian.
The icon protects the home!