The Church from the beginning as part of Holy Tradition has used images of Christ, the Saints, parables and biblical content in liturgy and prayer. The icons are not magical. They are representations; however, Ex. 20:4 tells us not to make carved images or likenesses of anything and not to serve such idols. Is the Church in violation of this commandment?
The incarnation of God the Son ushered in a new era, the Kingdom of God now available to us. Col. 1:15 tells us that Christ is the image of the invisible God. When God the Son became God the Man, he became the icon of the invisible Father. When an iconographer creates a two dimensional representation of Christ, he creates an icon of the visible Son. Icons of Saints are representations of those who were images of Christ in their earthly lives. When Christians reverence icons, they are worshipping the ultimate reality behind all holy images – God.
Jesus said, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father,” Jn. 14:12. During His earthly ministry Christ directly performed great works. After Pentecost, He performed the same through mere humans making the works even greater. Saintly icons testify to those whose lives fulfilled this prophecy. They encourage us to follow in their footsteps.
Saint Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, drew icons and is considered to be the founder of Christian iconography. Ancient icons can still be seen on the walls of caves used by early Christians who were forced underground due to persecution. The video on this page shows some of these cave churches.
This same tradition is practiced in Orthodox churches today. Saint Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas, Texas is adorned with the iconography of Vladimir Grygorenko. While he employs the Byzantine style of the 10th-12th centuries, the similarity of his work to the iconography of the Cappadocian cave churches is striking. The icons of Christ and Saint Paul on this website are by his hand.