Praying with Icons in the Greek Orthodox Church

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The Right Way to Pray With IconsWhen it comes to the presence of icons in the Orthodox Christian Church, it is important to understand that the people don’t worship the images. They worship God. The icons are two-dimensional images, which serve as a reminder of God’s presence. They can depict things such as scenes from the Bible, Jesus, and various saints.

Icons have been part of the Orthodox Church since the early days of Christianity. Not much is known about how they really began because there is very few that have survived since those early days. Today, the art of painting icons is a very special one reserved for only a select few.

Praying with Icons

It is important to make the distinction between praying “to” the icons and praying “alongside” them. Orthodox Christians pray with an icon nearby to serve as a visual reminder. Praying “to” an icon is considered improper because this would turn it into an idol. Pagans believed that objects had magical properties. This isn’t what Orthodox Christians believe, which is why many are careful to make this distinction.

Venerating the Icons

At your home and at church, it is important to learn how to venerate an icon properly. After you light your candle at church, you should pause in front of the icon to pay your respect. Make the sign of the cross at least once and then kiss the icon away from its face. It’s considered bad etiquette to kiss the face on the icon. Be sure to remove all lip-gloss and lipstick, as well. You can also venerate the icon at home in the same way.

Displaying Icons in the Home

Most Orthodox Christian homes have a special area dedicated to icons. They are usually centrally located and could be displayed on a small table or shelf. Some homes have a place for icons in each of the main rooms. These icon centers are used as a place of prayer.

Choosing an Icon

So, how do you choose the best icons for your home? There is no right or wrong answer to this, as long as they are official Orthodox icons. Once you buy it, you may take it to your priest to be blessed. In general, choosing one of Jesus is a good bet. You can also find some where Mother Mary is holding Jesus as a small boy. You can also select your favorite scenes in the Bible and even a saint or two, especially the one after whom you’re named.

Praying at Home

If you have any questions about how to pray at home, it’s best to consult with your priest. In general, it’s best to obtain an official Greek Orthodox prayer book and follow the prayers contained within. Most of these books do contain additional instructions for making the prayers a little more personalized. Feel free to pray near your household’s icon shelf. Remember that the icon itself doesn’t contain anything special. It just serves as a way to remind us of God.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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Feb 26th, 2014