Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Open Door

Have you ever wondered what the deal is with Orthodox Christian icons?  Maybe you've seen some icons before and wonder what they mean, or why they look so funny and flat.  Maybe you've criticized churches that display icons for being too image-focused, or for improperly worshiping saints.  Or maybe you're just curious to learn more about a strand of Christianity that doesn't get a lot of public focus.

Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote a lovely little book called The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer that helps to answer a lot of these questions.  She's an Orthodox Christian laywoman, a very thoughtful and pastoral woman whom my husband has met and for whom he has a tremendous amount of respect.  It's a short and accessible little book containing twelve plates, some in color and some in black and white, of twelve of the most significant icons found at her Orthodox Christian church.  In each chapter, she describes an icon and teaches her readers about why it looks the way it does, what it symbolizes, and how it expresses aspects of Orthodox Christian theology.  While Orthodox Christians share all of the same core beliefs as the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, they often focus on very different nuances of Christian theology, and there is a lot they can teach us all about our relationships with God, each other, and the earth.  The Open Door is a conversational and poetic introduction to these beautiful works of Christian artwork, and I loved my time with Mathewes-Green's glosses on a few of these masterpieces of human artwork.

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