Praying with Icons.Praying with Icons
By Jim Forest
(Orbis, 1997, 2008)
As the world gets smaller, it is not enough simply to concentrate on the physical dimensions of a world that now stretches our consciousness beyond the local. Being able to find Novgorod or Vladimir on a map is not enough to satisfy the need to understand the people of another place. There are better ways to do that than simply studying geography: travel, art, music, literature, religion, for instance. And even better than such isolated approaches, perhaps, the art of a religion.
Jim Forest's revised Praying with Icons does just that. It blends the two to make a bridge between West and East. By using the art of iconography iconography (ī'kŏnŏg`rəfē) [Gr.,=image-drawing] or iconology [Gr.,=image-study], in art history, the study and interpretation of figural representations, either individual or symbolic, religious or secular; , Forest gives us a privileged glimpse into the splendors of Orthodox Christianity The term Orthodox Christianity may refer to:
More than simply describing icons, Forest enables the Western Christian to understand even better the spiritual perspectives that enkindle en·kin·dle
v. en·kin·dled, en·kin·dling, en·kin·dles
1. To set afire; light.
2. To incite; arouse.
3. To make luminous and glowing.
v.intr. the religious art of the Orthodox Christian, both here and abroad.
The text gives us a fresh look at our own stories, symbols, and theological customs by discovering what we each emphasize. By recognizing the theological weight of what we don't see in an icon, we broaden our own insights into the image. Just as iconographers, in the language of the art, "write" an icon, Forest teaches us how to read one. In his hands icons become a lectio divina Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or "holy reading," and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. , a holy reading, of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color .
While Forest introduces us to the art of iconography, its process, and symbol systems, he goes further. He explains the Orthodox theology the art implies. He points out, for instance, that in the Orthodox icon of the holy supper, Jesus does not sit at the head or even the center of the table, as he does in classic Western depictions. "Jesus' place at the table," he points out, "is not top center, as one might expect, but-emphasizing his choice not to rule but to serve-on the upper left of a circular table around which the twelve are seated."
The book is an excursion excursion /ex·cur·sion/ (eks-kur´zhun) a range of movement regularly repeated in performance of a function, e.g., excursion of the jaws in mastication. through the faith from the point of view of the Eastern church. It is one that enriches our own and binds East and West closer and closer as one church at the same time. We will need a book such as this for a long, long time in this changing world.
Reviewed by Sister Joan Chittister Sister Joan D. Chittister, OSB (born 26 April 1936) is a Benedictine nun and an international lecturer on topics concerning women, the poor, peace and justice, and contemporary issues in church and society. , O. S. B., an international lecturer and co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) is an international network of women and men spiritual and community leaders. The group was founded on the belief that women today have a unique contribution to make in finding alternatives to violence. , a U.N.-sponsored organization working for worldwide peace and justice. She is author of the book The Gift of Years (Bluebridge, 2008).