Know Your Story: Church Traditions
Just as colors have important symbolic meaning with regard to the colors used during the seasons of the Christian Calendar, the different colors used in icons are very significant. Blues are intended to reveal heaven and mystery. Green is the color of youth, fertility, and the earth’s vegetation. Red, the color of blood, suggests life, vitality, and beauty. White is purity, the divine world, and innocence. Gold indicates sanctity, splendor, and the glory of God and life in the heavenly kingdom. Purple reveals wealth, power, and authority.
When a Christian shows respect to an icon by kneeling or bowing before it or by kissing the icon, they are not giving honor to simply wood and paint (as an idol). Instead, they acknowledge that the icon represents much more and that the link between the icon and the person in heaven is real. They believe that, in some mystical fashion, the veneration given to the icon will be received by the person it portrays. Basically, honoring the image upon the icon gives honor to the person them self. So, honoring an icon of Mary would be to pay respect to the woman God chose to deliver salvation to the world. Praying to an icon of Jesus allows the believer to see through the image and pray directly to Jesus Himself.
Iconography has been a very important element in worship for many believers throughout history, especially in times when literacy was limited and even discouraged. When people were not able to read the Scriptures, they were still able to learn the stories through the images and symbolism depicted on the icons. Even though we live in an age where illiteracy is less prevalent, sharing the story through images and symbols is effective and adds a beautiful element to our faith lives. I encourage you to look at icons, to begin studying them and seeing the deeper meaning and greater reality they point to. Let this tradition of the Church add to and deepen your own faith journey!