St John of Damascus: On Holy Images

This is the first of the posts sharing the works of St John of Damascus: On Holy Images. The original text is in three parts, and this is shortly after his introductory passages, asking readers to be kind and remember his aim is to defend the church and icons, rather than seek glory for himself.Here he sets out not only his completely orthodox belief in the triune God and the incarnation of Christ but shows clearly why it is permissible to show Christ in His human form, as we do in our icons. Having taken flesh - and transfigured it, being both fully human and fully God - we are not … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: on Icons

This week I will be painting an icon from beginning to end (having already gilded the board) on retreat with Aidan Hart down in Shropshire. It is such a treat to have him as a guide and mentor, he is a wonderful teacher with a gift of clear sight, talent and communication. The subject of the large icon - which will be for sale in the shop next week - is St John of Damascus.Wait, Damascus? Isn't that... you know, in the middle of an awful civil war right now? Yes. Yes, the whole of Syria is suffering from the ongoing battle between just about everyone and the tide of refugees seeking to escape … [Read more...]

St Kentigern of Glasgow & growing

I recently completed my icon of St Kentigern (Mungo) of Glasgow and will be sharing a much better photograph of him soon - this is a snap on an overcast day using my phone (as most of us do these days!). He is the second of my 'Native' Saints for this year - mostly painted in March, so I am not too far behind. I aim to complete the icon of his mother St Theneva (Theneu) and St Constantine of Strathclyde before Pascha at the end of April, and so four saints in approximately four months so far this year, along with a few commissions has been keeping me too busy to prepare the baptism … [Read more...]

Abbey Summer School 2016: an Icon workshop

After loving my time presenting “the Ninth Hour Prayers: Prayer in the Orthodox Tradition” last year, I am honoured and so happy to be going back this year doing some *painting* – I will lead a short workshop on a small icon on glass. You get to take something home with you, as well as listen to me talking you through the meaning of the features of the icon and their use in Orthodox prayer and interpretation in our understanding of personhood/Transfiguration. I am so excited to meet this year’s participants. http://abbeysummerschool.com/home/abbey-2016/workshops/ … [Read more...]

Not a tame lion.. and yet our very own.

One of my great joys as a parent is sharing both my faith and my love of books with our daughter. She is eight this summer and we are now reading chapter books together. She reads widely but we make it a rule to always have a story at bedtime, always. This year, we are reading our way through the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis. I am using the boxed set my uncle gave me when I was just a little older than her - the box is almost falling apart and the books themselves are fragile, 25 years old and hanging on just enough for us to read one more time. They were my almost constant companions in … [Read more...]

Almost there.

It may be the first week in February but because of an urgent last minute commission, I am about to finish St Columba this week and begin St Kentigern - rest assured that the next newsletter will be out later in the week and photos will follow very soon. In the meantime, I am plotting to get started on periscope - it's an app that allows me to talk live! directly! to you! OR would youtube be better, for those without phones within reach? Do let me know what you'd like to hear about, if you have questions or just want to watch some techniques.  … [Read more...]

A prayer for our feet.

Be Thou a Bright flame before me Be Thou a guiding star above me Be Thou a smooth path before me Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me Today, tonight and forever, Amen. - a prayer attributed to St Columba. While we have limited contemporary resources that are directly connected to the saint, there is enough to suggest that this kind of prayer would be one he knew. While my personal favourite is the one that I wrote last night next to the initial drawing of the Saint, this one is appropriate at the end of the secular year. I always feel out of step just now - I am looking at … [Read more...]

A year of Grace

Dear friends, todays second post brings details of my big plan for the coming year.  As you know I tend to only produce icons for commission - I seem to find myself with deadlines looming constantly but I have accepted that God knows I need a sense of urgency to produce work on time. "The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints" Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877 In spite of this, I have felt for a long time now that there need to be more icons of the Saints of this country, particularly in what is now called Scotland. The icons which are … [Read more...]

A great and most glorious mystery

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Whether you have just celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Christ or (like me) have another two weeks to wait, I wish to share the joy of Christ's birth with all of you who have become friends through commenting on my facebook page or this blog. It is a wonder that this technology which we so often see used to share information which causes suffering or fear can also be a great tool for good - look at Abbot Tryphon or Sister Vassa, for two great examples of this. I wanted to share two things particularly with you today - time is short at this season, with … [Read more...]

St Triduana of Restalrig

Yesterday in the daily Liturgy here in Edinburgh we commemorated the Saint Triduana of Restalrig. She was one of 12 holy people who accompanied St Rule on his journey from Constantinople to Ireland with the relics of St Andrew the First-Called.  A monk on the island of Patras asked him to take the relics "to the end of the world" which in those days was Ireland!  God's providence blew them to thevkingdom of Fife in Scotland, where they were greeted by a very suspicious local chieftain. Their strange clothes & language made him believe these visitors were unfriendly but on seeing St … [Read more...]

Hymns and worms: an aside.

Have you ever heard of an 'ear worm'? It's when you get a tune or a phrase of music stuck in your brain that won't leave. A friend of mine once said that the best way to get rid of them is to sing "Lord have mercy" as we do in the litanies - and it certainly works. Today however, I found myself singing the hymn from the black and white version of The Bishop's Wife - one of my favourite films from many years ago, when I found myself watching television over an interminable Christmas break. I managed to track down the hymn and it is actually very beautiful. One to add to my list of 'happy worms' … [Read more...]

A New Icon: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

This year I've been blessed with some unique commissions from outside the Orthodox Church - I love the opportunity to talk with Christians from other denominations and share our understanding of icons and the Gospel. One of these is the new icon of "Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" for the Dean of St John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, the very Rev. Charles LaFond. Most icons are commissioned, discussed and then go onto my waiting list. This one would have to be different and would have to jump the queue to be completed in time. Normally I would have said no straight away, but something … [Read more...]

Is there anybody out there? Why does God not answer?

Today I am very happy to share with you a sermon written by our much loved Archimandrite John Maitland Moir, who died in 2013, which Fr Raphael read out to us a few weeks ago. It touched me so much, and reminded me so much of Fr John, that I've asked permission to share it with you. It will also be available to download from the 'Articles' page. Why PETITIONS are “not answered” And How INTERCESSION Works by Fr John Maitland Moir “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain “Move hence to yonder place”, and it will move” You probably know the story of the … [Read more...]

Dunblane: the Parish of St Nicholas & St Blaine

I am blessed to live in a beautiful country, and in a beautiful city but sometimes, I long for the countryside. In Scotland, we are never too far from quiet green hills or coastal rocky beaches full of memories of the saints. The best way to travel is train, from the glories of the Victorian built Waverley  Station - here is the iron & glass roof, and some rather bonny modern art in the concourse. After only an hour, the train arrives in Dunblane - a city in the country. It has a cathedral and medieval town centre, a babbling river and it's very own Orthodox Church, in a converted … [Read more...]