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Lessons on spirituality from Icons and Saints

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Je suis le bon pasteur (personal picture of an icon i found in a Texas retreat center)

In chapter five of his book, Water From a Deep Well, Gerald Sittser describes the spirituality of the Eastern Orthodox Church,  a spirituality that provides us with examples to follow.  I suspect that most evangelicals do not affirm the value of  icons and see little value in the stories of the saints.  Living in a Catholic country, I have seen the negative side of icons and saints but I have personally seen the benefit of meditation on Christian art.  Here is an earlier post I made on visio divina. Following are some quotes from Sittser:


Icons are paintings that accomplish this purpose by inviting us to gaze upon the portraits of people whose human nature has already been transformed into something unspeakably glorious. 121

Purpose of icons: to portray realities that transcend what the eye can naturally see and to transport us into another world. . . They show us in symbolic form what the spiritual transformation of a person’s life actually accomplishes. 121 Theological or spiritual art. 125


Spiritual biographies or hagiographies are stories of the saints that show how transformation takes place in people.

Purpose of spiritual biographies: inspire the faithful to imitate the saints and to embark on the same journey of faith.  121

Rublevs Trinity (another favorite of mine)

Icons reveal the results of transformation and spiritual biographies show the process of transformation.  The stories of the saints function as written icons. 121

Sittser concludes his chapter with the following:

Icons, spiritual biographies and voices from the past remind us that the destiny awaiting believers is beyond earthly imagination and human achievement.  They reflect the reality of the kingdom, where martyrs are glorified and ascetics honored.  136

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