Earlier today, I had a conversation with a good Orthodox friend of mine. We were comparing notes about icon corners when I loudly lamented that I didn’t have one of Our Lord. Technically, that’s not true because He is depicted in the icon of the New Martyrs of Russia and St. John Baptist, but He’s not there by Himself.
After I hung up, I kept mulling the problem over. I thought about going to my favorite Russian icon store and just ordering one from Moscow, but I vetoed that on the grounds that I would have to wait weeks before it arrived. Then I remembered an icon of the Resurrection that hung in my parents’ bedroom.
It is a mounted Russian icon of what the Orthodox call “The Descent into Hell.” Our Lord is standing on the doors of Hades. With both hands, He is grabbing an old woman and an old man. These are Adam and Eve, our first parents. They are surrounded by numerous other righteous ones from the Old Testament including Kings David, Solomon, and some of the prophets. Above the scene are two angels holding a cross. A fitting image of Our Lord’s Resurrection.
The icon itself was given to my parents many years ago by my father’s godfather. It had hung in their bedroom for years. When my parents renovated the house, my mother packed up most of the icons and put them in a box downstairs. She thought about sending them over to the parish church we used to attend, but I told her to keep them because I knew that someone would need it at some point down the line.
I was right because that icon of the Resurrection is exactly what I need for my icon. It shows me what Christ did for my first parents and what He has done for me. When He died on the cross and descended into Hell, He was fulfilling what the Prophets had said that He would come to do. He redeemed the world and there is no price that can be put on redemption.
Of course, some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering what an icon corner is. An icon corner is the Eastern version of a home altar. It is a special place set aside in a home that houses the family icons and prayer books. Some people have an icon corner in their living rooms and others have them in their bedrooms. My blogger acquaintance Huw even had a prayer closet. Almost everyhere, the icon corner faces East (the direction of the rising Sun).
The icon corner is a place for prayer and recollection. It is a place to talk to God. In some ways, it is the center of the domestic church. A place for parents to bless and pray over their children before they head off to school or work. A place to pray before going to bed.
My current icon corner is on top of a large case that holds my CDs. On the left hand side, I have a large icon of St. George. It was a gift from my godmother in Bulgaria many years ago. St. George has a special meaning for me. My maternal great-great-great-grandfather was named George and was a priest in Turkish-occupied Macedonia, my step-grandfather’s name was also George, and I also have a great-great-uncle with that name. In a way, St. George is the patron saint of my family.
In the center of the icon corner is the icon of the Resurrection I just mentioned. To the right is an icon of St. Alexis the Man of God, which was specially commissioned from an iconographer in Bulgaria many years ago. It is rather modernistic and different than most other depictions of the saint, but it works. Its unique and I have never seen another like it.
I also have other icons scattered throughout the room on book cases and other places. Some people call my room “the cell.” I don’t really think of it that way, though. It is a room for me to connect with God. After all, isn’t that what prayer is for?