Icons are written. That is to say icons are theological art that represent
and make visible the written word through color and symbolism. Therefore, they are called "theology in color" and
iconographers are "theologians through color". As you view an icon an “adjustment of the eye”
is necessary in order to understand the iconic style. You may understand the style as “distorted”, not realistic,
natural or representational. However, the iconic style reveals another world and has two tasks.
The iconic style has two tasks: that of representing the Word Incarnate in image and that of revealing the Essence
of God in the image. An iconographer will create the saints and events of the Church in their likenesses or image with the
iconic style of “distorted” aspects of the body and surrounding features. Through transspatial (beyond or across
space) and transtemporal (beyond and across time) symbolism the iconographer presents the heavenly or transfigured image of
the saint or events.
The second task, revealing the essence
of the saints and events is more daunting. We know of God’s Essence through his Grace or Divine Energy.
This Divine Energy is portrayed in an icon as the “Taboric Light” or the Light of Mt. Tabor. We read in
Matthew 17:1, “And he (Jesus) was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became
dazzling white.” It is this Light of Divine Energy that an iconographer reveals in an icon. The revealing of the “light”
within the icon is accomplished by the iconographer’s purposeful use of the medium of egg tempera in many transparent
layers; but additionally, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the iconographer becomes the instrument through
which the Holy Spirit works and therefore does not sign their name to an icon. By writing icons the iconographer, through
the hand, mind, and heart, is led to transcend technical proficiency and familiarity with iconic symbolism to the incarnation
of the principles of the painting experience in their life.This ancient art is practiced using the egg tempera on a gesso-coated
wooden board. Egg yolk is mixed with vinegar, water, and finely ground pigments like lapis lazuli, ochre, or hematite
and is applied using a floating method alternating between translucent and opaque layers. The results give a special
luminosity or otherworldly quality that is highly prized in icons.
As you gaze into the faces of an icon, the
the Taboric Light or Light of Divine Energy revealed by the iconographer's hand through the Grace of God; it calls upon you
to participate in the glory of the life of the saint or event depicted and to contemplate the image of God in man.