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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Icons "Living Prayer"

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ January 24, 2013

I have long been enamored with the beauty and the deep sense of the spiritual in icons. I have many hanging above my desk and find them an enhancement to my own morning prayers. So I use the theft of an icon as the inciting incident in A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, book 2 in my Monastery Murders:

 

I then continue to explore the meaning and history of icons as Felicity races from convent to convent across England seeking her vocation and the killer of a dear friend. I was surprised when a reader responded, "Icons? I always thought they were ugly."

Well, like any other art form, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am drawn to their rich colors and lavish gold leaf, their religious subjects and the sense of the mystical they portray. But perhaps some understanding of their background and meaning might help other readers who are wondering, "What’s the deal about icons?"

The first thing to understand is that, although icons can be appreciated simply as art, they are much more than that. An icon is a living prayer. Icon painters are most often monks or nuns themselves and paint from their own devotion. It is said that every brushstroke in an icon is a prayer.

As part of my research I visited The Temple Gallery in London. Sir Richard Temple is one of the world’s greatest experts on icons and his gallery is probably the finest collection of icons in England. Sir Richard (fictionalized in my book as Sir Robert Tennant) very kindly gave me several of his books, which Felicity explores in the novel, learning that:

 

" Felicity read. Yes, that was it. Intimations of another life— the life of eternity. Icons spoke at a deep, subconscious level. She continued reading, "They represent realities our scientific age has largely lost and yet we continue to feel the longing for authentic spirituality and order."

If you are interested in exploring further and learning more about this very special type of religious art that has been so central to the worship of many in the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican faiths through the centuries, a good place to start might be with your own visit to the Temple Gallery: http://www.templegallery.com

 

"In icons we find a profound sense of being in touch with spiritual practice through the centuries and from a culture so different from our own

                                                    Inside the cool stone arches of the Community church the ever-lingering scent of incense greeted her and the ancient quiet enfolded her. She turned to the side aisle to make her reverence to the icon of Our Lady of the Transfiguration, as was customary.

Her eyes were still adjusting to the dim light as she bowed her head and crossed herself, then raised her eyes to look into the gentle face she knew so well: the Madonna with her head tilted so gently toward her infant Son, whose hand was raised in blessing and pointing to the background scene of Christ on the mountain top with Moses and Elijah. Felicity always loved the way the candlelight on the glowing gold background seemed to propel the dark-veiled Virgin and Child toward the votary and the flickering light could seem to make the Transfigured Lord shimmer as He must have done to the astounded disciples seeing him in his glory.

But no tender scene of Mother and Son met her uplifted eyes. This time only the bare stone column stared back at her. The votive candle on the small shelf was cold. Only a smudge of smoke on the stone attested that it had ever been lit.

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Reader Comments:

Thanks for the great post. This makes me want to visit the Temple Gallery while I am in England this May.

Reading this post brought to mind your Glastonbury novel. It was great. Glastonbury would be another wonderful place to visit while in the U.K.
-Carole Lehr Johnson, January 26, 2013

The Temple Gallery is at 6 Clarendon Cross in lovely, leafy Holland Park. Definitely worth a visit. Tube station is Holland Park.

Yes, I never tire of visiting Glastonbury and once had the joy of taking a group of readers there.
-Donna, January 26, 2013

I have a good friend who has been privileged to paint some icons--wonderful!
-Sheila Deeth, January 31, 2013

That must be an amazing spiritual journey. My son-in-law corresponds with a nun in England who paints icons. he has ordered several for their church and home--they are wonderful.
-Donna, February 1, 2013

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