Icons, prayer and being a visual learner

The new oratory (prayer room) at the Fenland Hermitage near Spalding has a copy of an icon that makes me chuckle and I just can’t help but smile when I look at it.

With the child-like big eyed friendly depiction, the simply drawn painting draws me in. The icon is known as the ‘Icon of Friendship’, the original belonged to the former Prior of the Taize Community, dating from the 7th century is one of the oldest known icons.  

The writing that accompanies it helped me immensely today: 

“… Jesus is shown putting his arm around the shoulder of his friend Abba Menas, a hermit, who represents each one of us, reflecting the Gospel quote: ‘no longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what the master is doing; instead I have called you friends, for what I have heard from the Father I have made known to you.’ (John 15.15) 

The icon demonstrates the change of status we have in Christ. Jesus does not face his friend, rather he stands alongside him… He accompanies him, sharing the burdens of life.” I connect with the ‘visual’ as a means of learning and communicating far more then words. This icon spoke volumes to me today. Paintings such as the Icon of friendship have a knack of reminding me something hidden or forgotten about my relationship with God. They reinforce simple truths that words alone can’t. 

For example, take this powerful icon from Bardsey Island which I enjoyed when I served as chaplain. It is beautiful in its depiction of God’s presence and readiness to meet with us. In this place of wonder he makes himself known to those who love him.  

What do you think of these two icons? 

2 thoughts on “Icons, prayer and being a visual learner

  1. In the Fenland icon I am particularly drawn to the space that Jesus gives “us” – he doesn’t crowd us. There is no sense of holding us at a distance rather that he lets us know of his presence but allows us our space.It is in that space that we can work out so much about ourselves – about Jesus and about others – sometimes a reclusive space – a reflective space – a space to be ourselves but knowing that he has his arm around us. Perhaps in our endeavours we need to allow others that space and not crowd in?

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