I have been reading “The Way Of Simplicity” by Esther de Wall. This book is a historical treatment of the habits of Cistercian monks and how silent prayer came to be such an integral part of their practice. Much of what is written regarding silent prayer could apply to the experience one has with an icon. And, it has been my experience as I paint and gaze into the icon’s eyes, as I’ve written about in previous posts.
” …everything helped them to discover the face of Christ so that by gazing on him they might come to know him and knowing him be changed, transformed into that same likeness…” p. 63
and a beautiful poem by Gilbert of Hoyland regarding slow, meditative reading of biblical passages
“hold fast to what you hold hold and touch lingerly and lovingly the word of life, the scrolls which Jesus unrolls or rather, which is Jesus. Wrap yourself in him wrap yourself in that fine linen in which he was wrapped for he was clothed as light in a garment.” p.65
How beautiful an image. Ms. de Waal reminds us that as humans, we are “programmed” to respond to beauty or the visual or imagery. As she says it “symbolic theology is the most powerful type because it strikes at the guts rather than the head”. p60
Perhaps the Cistercians had icon painters at work in their scriptoria at some point in time, keeping company with the brothers or sisters performing their opus Dei along those who printed illuminated manuscripts of bibles and psalters.
Today’s icon painter still perform her opus Dei, in a monastery, in a workshop, or just at home. Making a quiet space within oneself and in one’s world calls us to Christ. Gazing at Christ leads us to be transformed.
see my icons at http://www.frangelicoblueicons.com