Saint Paisios on Icons
Saint Paisios of Mount Athos Answers the Questions of his Young Visitor
The Orthodox Church uses the icons in prayer. Is this the right thing to do?
The Lord says: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not make for yourself a carved image nor any likeness of anything. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”. The Orthodox Church worships icons. Is this the right thing to do?
The saint responded. A mother whose child is fighting in a war, fears for his life, day and night. She is constantly in anguish and always anxious. Suddenly, she gets a letter from her child with his photograph inside. When she sees the photograph, what does she do? She takes it into her hands and she kisses it, and afterwards she brings it up to her chest so that it always touches her heart. Well, what do you think? Do you think that this mother with such burning desire for her child believes that she is kissing a photograph? She, of course, thinks that she is kissing her very own child! The situation is the same for the faithful people who have a burning respect and passion for the All Holy Theotokos and the Saints. We don’t venerate the icons but rather we venerate the holy persons they depict. And we venerate these holy persons not because they are the faces on the icons, but because they fought and many times they died for Christ. God is jealous, that is the truth, though He is not jealous of us venerating His own children (the saints). He is jealous when we venerate the devil and the devil’s children. The father isn’t jealous of his own children. Do not worry, the Lord is proud and happy when He sees you respecting and loving His Mother and the Saints.
From the article “A conversation with Saint Paisios” published in the journal “Osios Gregorios” a publication of the Holy Monastery of Osios Gregorios of Mount Athos 20th edition (1995), page 66.
Translated by Anna Pipinos, Elias Pipinos and Margarita Pipinos.