Anagoge: Iconography and the Ascent Towards Heaven

Ascent towards heaven
Ascent towards heaven

The process of icon painting is to reveal the process of transfiguration, from darkness to light.  Icon painting is a form of prayer. Icons prepare us for communion with God.

Iconography is a liturgical process; you ascend step by step, growing into a mystical space. This process is called Anagoge (Ascent). The goal of this ascent is Mt. Tabor – transfiguration. It’s goal is to be Transfigured by the Divine Uncreated Light. Icons aid both their creators and viewers in this process.  Icons reveal to man the present reality: that God has already saved mankind, that the new heaven and the new earth are already present. Yet, they also reveal man’s shortcoming, informing him of where he must still grow. These are the two realities that icons reveal: as a window, they reveal our heavenly perfection, and as a mirror, they reveal where we fall short. Both exist, both are real.

Ascent towards Heaven

Pure sprit is the way of angels, they can ascend directly to God, vertically. Matter is the way of the animals, they cannot ascend, their matter ties them to the earth. For man, his path lies between that of the animals and that if the angles, matter and spirit; his way is that of anagoge, accent of both matter and sprit.

Man’s anagoge is rarely straight, and never purely vertical, it is most often a zigzag path, sometimes tending towards the animals, and at other times towards the spirit.

Icons too are a creation of both sprit and matter. They reveal the union of heaven and earth, the transfigured reality of man and creation.

They call us continually upward yet remind us of our earthly nature. Icons reveal the beauty inherent in matter. They preach the goodness of all the earth, yet remind us of it’s true origin and it’s final destiny: Paradise, transfigured by God through man. This is the reality preached by the icon. The accent towards Heaven of all creation. This is not some future destination, but the ever present reality, for those who have eyes to see.

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