Shropshire and exciting news

I recently returned from my second trip this year to see Aidan Hart at Walcot Hall in Shropshire. I think it is fair to say that I am in love with that part of the world and Walcot, with its dreamy arboretum, unusual accommodation and friendly staff in particular. The five day workshop is a joy - not just in the creation of new icons but in the forming of friendships, the softening of our hearts and the joy of escape (there is very limited internet access and often no phone signal!). How rare in these days to have true rural bliss! Shropshire has this in abundance. On the first day, there … [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (old calendar) or, to give it the full title: The Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. The tradition states that the Emperor Constantine sent his mother, Saint Helena, to find relics of Christ in Jerusalem on pilgrimage. While there, she discovered the three crosses (of Christ and the two thieves), establishing which was the Cross of Our Lord when a dying woman touched it and was healed. The Patriarch (Macarius) of Jerusalem carried the cross into the ambo, where many venerated it. It is one of the … [Read more...]

Ancient techniques, modern technology

One of the contrasts I enjoy most in current iconography is how, in this ancient church with such a strong sense of Tradition (and tradition) modern technology is connecting people. This allows the sharing of information and techniques and bringing us together as individuals. All of this is possible now, in a way we could never have even imagined twenty or thirty years ago. I now have friends now all over Europe, America, Russia and even New Zealand and Australia - and we can chat whenever we want! At the same time, I have maintained my use of ancient techniques in iconography, especially the … [Read more...]

The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

I don't normally do this but I was so struck by the richness of today's Gospel reading - "a Gospel within the Gospel", I wanted to share it and a few things which came to me during the reading of it in Liturgy and on the train, as I travelled to Dunblane this morning. First, the reading (a substantial one, detailing the longest recorded conversation between Christ and another person in the New Testament - clearly he spoke at length with many people but this is the one best recorded). John 4:5-42At that time, Jesus came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: an icon & iconographer in progress.

One of the questions I've been asked in the last couple of weeks is: "wait, you're going on a course/retreat? aren't you able to, you know, just paint an icon already?"There are two answers and the short one is "Yes I am and yes I can" but that wouldn't really explain what I'm doing or be worth sharing with you.The second answer is Yes: My journey and ongoing growth as an iconographer means that I will never stop learning, changing, developing, praying for the life that means the icons are not simply copies or reproductions of images. Yes: I can paint icons already! No matter what saint a … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: On Holy Images 5

As the last post sharing the words written by St John almost 1300 years ago, I make no apology for this being a LONG ONE! It is clear and understandable if we go slowly and carefully, and explains why icons are so powerful. I am incredibly glad that their place in our spiritual lives is being recognised and accepted outside the Orthodox Church and I have worked closely with other denominations on icons for use in worship and in private prayer before. I hope this will continue! Those who sign up for the newsletter will be able to see the icon before it is listed for sale in the online shop this … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: on Holy Icons 4

Saint John repeatedly asks us to think carefully about the difference between worship of God and the honour we pass to the icons bearing His image or those of His saints. Just as we might feel warmth or love looking at a garment - a scarf perhaps - of our loved one, we do not in any way love that actual garment but that it represents to us. EVERY one must recognise that a man who attempts to dishonour an image which has been set up for the glory and remembrance of Christ, of His holy Mother, or one of his saints, is an enemy of Christ, of His holy Mother, and the saints. It is also set up to … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: on Holy Images 3

Why should we permit icons of the saints? One of the arguments is laid out for us to think about here: "We depict Christ as our King and Lord, and do not deprive Him of His army. The saints constitute the Lord's army. Let the earthly king dismiss his army before he gives up his King and Lord. Let him put off the purple before he takes honour away from his most valiant men who have conquered their passions. For if the saints are heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ, (Rom. 8.17) they will be also partakers of the divine glory of sovereignty. If the friends of God have had a part in the … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: on Holy Images 2

Further on in this first part of his text "On Holy Images", Saint John summarises the inherent goodness of matter.  Christianity has, in the past, tended towards a kind of dualism which can demote the physical and material to a 'lower' level; in fact, God's Creation is inherently capable of being "doxological, eucharistical' - capable of giving glory and thanks - to Him and we, as the priests of His Creation, are given gifts to use the Creation in a way to worship Him clearly.Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, … [Read more...]

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...]