Icons vs artwork

Hi all. From a Roman Catholic (primarily) and Eastern Orthodox perspective, how do artwork (including framed prints) and statues compare to icons crafted in the eastern tradition. If properly blessed and treated with reverence, are they all equally worthy of veneration? Do they all equally glorify our Lord when allotted a prominent space in our homes and churches? Do they not all confer similar graces, if it pleases the Lord to grant them?

I’m aware that the production of an icon is a little more involved. I’m also aware that blessings may be conferred during the process, but such blessings lose merit as soon as they are priced into a sale. It is the blessing after a sale that’s relevant, as far as I know, as it turns the icon into a sacramental. So then are all such sacramentals equal? I guess the bottom-line question is, if I can get an image of an icon on a fraction-of-price print, is it equally worthy and beneficial in the spiritual sense?

All sacramentals are equal in “amount” of blessings when they are blessed but when sacramental is sold it loses blessing. That is why we need to go to priest to bless it after buying.
But amount of graces doesn’t depend on icon itself or on person who made it or place where we put it but on our heart, prayer and God who gives graces.

It is equally worthy when blessed by priest after buying. Icon isn’t blessed by itself if priest didn’t bless it.
Things aren’t sacramentals until they are blessed. Once blessed sacramental shouldn’t be sold.
If someone is selling blessed water from Lourdes it isn’t forbidden to do it if price is just for bottle, to cover expenses of purchase and simmilar but it shouldn’t be price for sacramental itself.

3 Likes

Hi Thomas,
I moved your thread to Eastern Catholicism because I think you will get better answers there pertaining to icons.

2 Likes

First, we have to understand iconography. Icons are not merely artwork, or pictorial representations, icons are not drawn or painted, they are “written”.

Icons, or works of art (religious paintings or statues) ARE NOT worthy of veneration. The message of Icons, and the saints represented in these works are worthy of veneration.

And, as far as the grace conferred by God, that grace does not come from the work, but the disposition of the heart of the individual using them as an aid to meditation or prayer.

Pax et bonum!

5 Likes

I can only answer from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.

The 7th Ecumenical Council clarified that icons are holy because of what they depict, and they are therefore not in need of a blessing, just like you would not have to bless a Bible. I know that blessings occur in some Orthodox traditions, but it is not necessary.

As for the craft of making icons: The icons are ideally painted during fasting and prayer, and the depiction should be done in accordance with tradition. Some refer to this process as “writing icons”, but “writing” and “painting” is the same word in Greek, which is probably where this idea comes from. Anyway, the image is what is holy, and it is a common belief that an image made in accordance with tradition will attract the person seeing the image to prayer, meaning that it is a good depiction. It also means that a printed icon may have the same effect and should be venerated accordingly, with or without blessing.

I hope this helps.

6 Likes

You might like to read some of the documents from the Church council in 787AD also called the Second council in Nicaea where it (iconoclasm) was heavily discussed.

2 Likes

Agreed. Please excuse my failure to articulate this important point clearly.

Also agreed. I would add, however, that they may also grace the hardened heart that is fortunate enough to encounter them by chance… well, if there is such a thing as “chance.” :wink:

:+1:

Ten characters.

Icons are made according to definite rules and canons. They are Scripture and Tradition in color.

One of my cousins is a RO iconographer. She has to have her materials blessed, pray & fast even before she starts working on an icon.

Other religious images (statues & holy pictures) don’t have to follow such strict rules.

2 Likes

My cousin (as I posted above) is an iconographer. She made 2 icons for my brother as a wedding present. I asked my aunt (now deceased) if they were blessed. She said they were blessed twice - once with the ritual for blessing icons and they were also placed on the altar.

2 Likes

The Russians love to bless everything. :blush:

As one Greek Orthodox Abbess once said, “We do not bless icons, icons bless us.”

At least in the Greek tradition they do not bless icons, because it is understood that the icons are already blessed through the iconographer’s fasting and prayer and by the person or spiritual event that they represent.

Nothing against the Russian practice. Just different ways of practicing the same Faith.

4 Likes

Yes that is a rather widespread practice and I have also icons at home, that were either placed on the altar after they were painted or blessed with holy water. We believe we do this annually at the celebration of Orthodoxy in my parish.

I do however not think it is necessary. I found this blog post that I think should summarize my point better than myself:

Just because it is “unnecessary” doesnt mean that it isnt a beautiful and worthwhile practice. I think that more unnecessary is the opposition that the writer seems to be promoting. Blessings may not be something to lose sleep over, ok… but doing away entirely, I dont know about that one. But then, that’s just my RC perspective )

I think I understand where you are coming from. The way I see it, the only problem with this practice is that it could (but does not have to) endanger the theology of icons, as we could be lead to believe that icons must be blessed or that printed icons are not “real icons” etc. He gives examples of this in his blog post, and I know this to be true as I myself once asked a nun that painted an icon for me if is proper put it on the wall before I brought it to Church. I now know that she gave me a correct answer when she said that the blessing of icons is something rather new.

I have, however, continued to bring most of my family’s icons to Church because I psychologically feel that it strengthens the connection between my Church at home and the larger community.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.