On the Apologetic Nature of Iconography
Why We Must Paint Another Icon
Several weeks ago, a fellow iconographer exclaimed, “Have you heard about this black mass at Harvard? I cannot paint another icon until this abomination is over!” While I certainly understand his frustration and righteous indignation, my response was not one of sympathy: “Because this is going on, you MUST paint another icon! Don’t stop painting holy images in the face of evil; rather paint them with even greater fervor. The only way to combat darkness is to shine the Light.”
If we were to stop painting icons anytime something evil happened, or something blasphemous was planned, we would never again paint another icon. The iconographers task is to bring the light of Christ into the world. Our art is a Standard Bearer of the Victory which Christ has already won. Sacred art and iconography has apologetic power; it has the power to draw men out of the darkness and into the light.
Just Paint Another Icon
Not long ago, I too was tempted to quit painting icons. I was becoming angry and frustrated at the state of the world around us, with its growing secularization and increasing degradation. As I was venting my frustration to my spiritual father, a monk whom I have known for almost twenty years, I expected him to give me some grand apologetic mission, a blessing to do verbal and written warfare; instead, he uttered words that have stayed with me, “Jut paint another icon.”
Just paint another icon! The icon has a long history of turning the hearts of men towards God and bringing them to repentance. If the world blasphemes, then paint another icon. If the culture degrades the dignity of the human person, then paint an icon made in the Image of God. If the world puts evil on a pedestal, then paint an icon of the Kingdom and let its light illumine the dark places. In short, no matter what happens, whether good or evil, paint another icon.