St. John of Kronstadt on Venerating Holy Icons

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

By reverencing icons – firstly, I reverence in them God, Who has begotten before all worlds the Son, His living Image, Who gave material being to the infinite thought of God the Father, by creating the worlds and all the creatures that were in the thought of God, and man, created after the image and likeness of God; secondly, I honor in them the image of God incarnate; thirdly, I honor in them myself, my own image of the immortal god-like man, called to be a partaker of the divine nature, to union with the Lord, to be the temple of the Holy Ghost. Also I am involuntary incited to venerate icons because I see manifested in them the power of God, saving the faithful and punishing unbelievers, in the same way as I see and feel this same power in the sign of the Lord’s cross, which is called life-giving by reason of its miraculous power. For all these reasons, icons replace for me the persons themselves whose names they bear. The images of the saints upon the icons represent to us the nearness in the spirit of God’s saints, who all live in God and are always near to us in the Holy Ghost, through our hearty faith and prayer to them. For what can be far away for the Spirit of God, Who is everywhere present and filleth all things, “going through all understanding (gifted with understanding) pure and most subtle spirits? (Wisdom 7:23) “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:7, 10) This means that the disposition of our souls lies open, not only to God, but also to the angels, “Standing before Thee and before Thy terrible holy angels, I bring before Thee my evil and wicked doings, and confess them and reveal them.” (Fourth Prayer of St. Symeon Metaphrastes Before Holy Communion)

If anyone would ask you why you pray to soulless icons, what profit you derive from them… say that blessed power and help to our souls always comes to us from icons, saving us from sins, sorrows, and sicknesses; especially from icons of the Savior and the Mother of God; that one single look with faith upon them, as upon the living and those who are near to us, saves us from cruel sorrows, passions, and spiritual darkness; that if touching the Savior’s garment, and the garments and handkerchiefs of the Apostles could restore health to the sick, much more are the images of the Savior and of the Mother of God powerful to heal every affliction… (On Prayer [Extracts from his Writings] Chap. XV On Prayer Before Icons)

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