Friday, 11 March 2011

The Icon Changes Lives!

An icon is something that is intended to be present before a beholder, and to put that person 'on the spot'. This is fundamental to the whole purpose of the icon, which confronts us with heaven in various ways. For example, the use of inverse perspective:

Notice how the furniture is larger at the back, and becomes smaller the closer it gets to you, which the arrangement still opens up the space to present the main characters?

Anyway, writing an icon always challenges you, and if you are serious in your intention, it changes you too. David, you have experienced that in commissioning an icon, and it is as true for me as the writer of the icon. We are simply caught up in the world of heaven. Some refer to icons as 'windows into heaven' but that suggest we are a voyeur; I prefer to say they fling open the doors of heaven and dare us to enter. Passing through those doors, we have little idea where God is leading.

You have noticed all sorts of 'connections', some lesser some greater. Through these you get a sense that the Lord has been willing you to make this 'journey' for a long time, as little fragments of your life are brought together, and through this icon, which isn't written yet, it acts as a heuristic as it were, through which to re-view your past and so understand better your present, and so stand before your eternal destiny.

This is true for me to.

Let me share something. Here are two photos of a little plastic thing I keep in my wallet.
As you can see, on one side is an image of the Sacred Heart, on the other one of St Francis de Sales. It contains a piece of cloth which has touched the heart of the saint, and comes from a Visitation convent in north eastern Italy. 

I have had a devotion to St Francis de Sales since 1977, when I travelled to Annecy on a school exchange. I was brought up a practising Anglican, and had never been to a Catholic church before.  In fact as a child I was barred by my mother from pubs, betting shops and catholic churches, all places one just should not enter! However, being abroad it seemed different, and my hosts took me to the place where the saint had been buried. I found two prayer cards, one of St Francis de Sales, the other of St Jane de Chantal, and they were the first I ever possessed, and these two saints the first I ever asked their prayers of. I have them as two of my major patron saints, and have invoked them daily since that time.

I obtained this particular relic by making a special pilgrimage to the convent in Treviso. When he died his body was kept in Annecy, while his heart was sent to another convent in Italy. At the French Revolution the body was dumped in the lake, so the only thing left of him is his heart, uniquely appropriate given that he is a the great theologian of God's love. 

To be honest, I never took much notice of the  image of the Sacred Heart on the relic until David mentioned the image drawn by St Francis. So, I got it out to take a look remembering there was a Sacred Heart image there and wondering if it was the same as David was looking for, and to reflect on how I find myself taken back into the company of a saint I have come to love so much. 

And finally... a photo of today's work:

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