Let’s just be honest: ikons are cool again. We don’t know when it happened that non-Eastern Orthodox Christians began to be fascinated with the tradition of Christian iconography, but we can certainly see that it is legion today amongst Christians from nearly every sub-tradition of the faith. Whether we are evangelicals, Catholics, emergent types, or neo-monastics, the lure of the ikon as a tool of spiritual formation is ubiquitous in the church today.
In light of this I am wonder how and to what degree ikons shape the theology and spirituality of people. Are they used in your attempts to pray? To write? To contemplate? To teach? How is the resurgence of ikons in the global church significant to us and what are we doing with it?
Personally, I have devoted almost no time to the pious use of ikons, and honestly I don’t really understand it and am not actually sure I agree with it. Certainly I enjoy Rublev’s depiction of the hospitality of Abraham or the imposing visions of Christ Pantocrator (even if I’m not sure this ikon makes the right sort of Christological statements) and sometimes I even gain theological insight from them (or think I do). However I am, at heart, something of an iconoclast, both theologically and spiritually. Certainly this has its own share of problems, but I think there is something central to the apocalyptic gospel of Jesus that lends itself to an iconoclastic style (if you will) of theology and spirituality.
But, I digress. The crucial question I have is how ikons are actually being used by non-Eastern Orthodox Christians. What role are they coming to play in the life of the church and what sort of significance should we ascribe to that?