Tuesday, 11 September 2018
The Karoussos Icons 5
After the last four week, we now know that we human beings do not simply understand things on a surface level, because certain objects like flags or wedding rings have an importance which is beyond their physical appearance. We also know that God has made us this way because He set up His Church for our salvation and the Church has at its centre the same kind of thing (physical things pointing beyond themselves), namely the Sacraments. These Sacraments are parts of our everyday world but they are transformed by the power of God to give us His grace. Bread and wine are no longer bread and wine, but become His Sacred Body and Blood - really, truly and substantially. We know as well that the Saints are there not only as our examples, but as our helping friends. They can pray for us, and they can present our prayers to God in a way which is different to us on earth. They are now in heaven, singing the praises of the One who made them.
Icons are part of this system in the theology and devotion of the East. They are not just pictures, but they participate in the thing that they represent. In the same way that the things we have been talking about for the past few weeks go beyond what they symbolise, so icons are greater than simply pictures of the saints they show. It is as if the saint themselves were there. An iconstasis (a screen where there are lots of icons) it is not just some picture gallery, but rather it is a portal to heaven itself. The icons, then, are venerated as if the saint were present. An icon is a ‘thin space’ between heaven and earth, a place where the two see each other. Like a window, you can see through, but you are not there on the other side. We will have three such windows in the Shrine in Glastonbury - Christ the Life Giver, Our Blessed Lady and St John the Theologian.
The icons were offered by the Karoussos Foundation (which takes its name form the icons’ maker, Ianis Karoussos) as a result of the twinning of Glastonbury with the Holy Isle of Patmos. Both places are touched by the presence and the hand of God. We know that many people search for God in Glastonbury, and although He is here in the tabernacle, they do not find Him, but spend their time in illusions and fantasies. Let us pray that these icons will draw new generations to worship Our Lord and Saviour, and to venerate His Holy Mother.