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Monday, November 7, 2016

"Icons: The Essential Collection" (Sr. Faith Riccio, CJ)

TITLE: Icons: The Essential Collection
AUTHOR: Sr. Faith Riccio, CJ
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2016, (120 pages).

In our familiar technological world, the word 'icon' has been usurped by computer designers who create graphical icons to represent object oriented programming images. Using what has become known as WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get), the computer icons have become clickable for users to activate various functions on the computer. They also open up a new window of applications for the user to work on. For all their creativity and innovation, they have simply borrowed the term from its original use: Spirituality.

Calling it an essential collection, author Sister Faith Riccio has put together twenty-eight icons to invite us to go beyond what we see. The word 'eikon' has appeared in Genesis 1:26 that refers to man made in the likeness of God. As far as the author is concerned, there are several reasons why these icons are useful for meditations and for gazing into the Person of God.

  • They can soothe and comfort us
  • Their symbolism stirs our imagination
  • They help gather our attention to help us focus on God
  • They guide our desires toward spiritual things
  • They aid our prayers
  • They remind us of the faithfulness of the saints of old
  • They express spiritual realities
  • They challenge our busyness and help us to unwind
  • They enable us to rest and to start the process of healing
  • ...

The book opens up to the first icon of Christ, "The Pantocrator" or Christ the Lord Almighty. Each icon is printed on the right and the accompanying words, texts, quotes, or Bible passage accompany each icon on the left page. For each icon, there is an overview picture followed by a detailed picture of the icon. We have the Cappadocian Fathers like Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa; Church Fathers like John Chrysostom, Ignatius of Antioch; Church mothers like Perpetua and Felicity; Early disciples like Paul, Barnabas, John, Stephen, Philip, etc; and pictures of Christ and scenes from the gospel. It is not meant for skimming or quick reading but for meditation and contemplation. There are several ways to use this book. I will suggest the following for your consideration.

One can read quickly the overview of each icon, followed by a slower meditative reading when going to the details. Take time to ponder on the image and reflect on the accompanying passages of Scripture. Pray along where appropriate. Sing a psalm or a hymn. Practice the Lectio Divina. Imagine the icons are guiding us toward a closer walk with God. Do not over-analyze the words but use the words as a way to get into the Bible truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to illumine our minds and to fill our hearts with the spiritual desires of God. Get a partner to pray together. If there are icons that one is not comfortable with, just skip it and move on to the next. Most importantly, do not rush. There is no need to finish all the icons at any one time. Move at a pace most comfortable to you.

This book would be a great gift for Christmas!

Sister Faith Riccio is an iconographer and a religious sister at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod in Massachusettes, USA. She has studied extensively with the late Ksenia Pokrovsky, a prominent Russian Orthodox icon painter.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Paraclete Press without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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