Session 1: Icons
The objective of this session is to introduce the beauty and diversity of icons and their rich theological importance to our faith.
Begin with an opening prayer. Show a DVD about icons. A suggestion is to use a DVD produced by the Getty museum. Following the video, show the provided Icons Power Point Presentation (Part I and Part II). Discuss the attributes and characteristics of the icons during the slide show.
Some words used to depict icons include The Almighty; More Spacious than the Heavens; IC/XC; The Forerunner; Saint Alexios is known is his icon as "The Man of God;" Saint Efrosinos is known in his icon as "The Cook."
Icons depict sacred, holy, and precious people and events. Precious metals are used in creating icons; gold leaf might be used in the background. Some icons use blue to represent the heavens. Christ is shown as a ‘small adult,' never as a baby or child. This is to show His wisdom. It should also be noted that God the Father is usually not depicted in icons, but sometimes is shown as a hand coming down from the heavens. Mary is usually shown with Christ in icons. This teaches us that everything we know, study, and learn about Mary is only important in the way it relates to Christ.
Figures in icons are shown head on, not in profiles. Show the Icon of Ladder of Divine Ascent. Point out the profile/side view of demons and/or non-believers. The figures of the icons are very thin from fasting. Things are elongated, pointing to heaven. When figures in icons have large foreheads, it represents Godly Wisdom. Small mouths and large ears demonstrate that they speak when necessary and hear the Word of God. Halos in icons are round, representing eternity and are light/gold, revealing God's light.
The use of color and symbols is important in an icon. Jesus is clothed in blue/purple with a red garment underneath. The blue/purple is to show Jesus' humanity, while the red demonstrates that He is also heavenly, divine, and royalty. Mary is shown in the opposite: blue/purple garments underneath a red garment. Green represents the Spirit, gold, heaven; and red reveals martyrdom. A martyr will be depicted as one holding a Cross. When you see a tree with a broken branch, it is a representation of Judaism.
The Byzantine style was the original style of iconography. They were not created for art, but rather for teaching. They were like books for the illiterate and windows to Heaven, as bibles were not readily available. Icons are usually peaceful. On the icon screen, icons are always peaceful, as part of the "Church Triumphant" rather than "Church Militant." For example, Saint Demetrios is holding a cross rather than a sword.
End this session with a prayer.
Continue with Session II.
Session 2: Icons
The objective of this session is to gain a better understanding of icons, the basic principles of iconography and different types of icons, and to develop an icon of self.
Throughout the session and discussions, please keep the following in mind:
- How this can affect the camper?
- How does this affect camper's relationship with God?
- How can we use this in our lives dealing with others?
- Does this offer a "challenge" for campers to take with them?
Begin this session with an opening prayer and review the objective. The following prayer is provided:
"In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Speechless be the lips of impious ones, those who do not reverence your great icon, the sacred one. Which is called ‘Directress' and was depicted for us, by one of the Apostles, Luke the Evangelist Amen." (From the Paraklesis service to the Theotokos)
For the following ice breaker, you will need note cards and writing utensils. On the front side of the note card, have the campers write "#1" at the top. On the back side of the note card, have them write "#2." On the front side, have the campers write their response to the question, "What is an icon?" Allow a few moments for reflection and writing the response.
On the backside, the campers will write their responses to a word association game. Have them write down 3-5 words that come to mind when they hear the word "Icon." Then have them write 3-5 words when they hear the word "Iconographer." Have the campers read their responses and allow a small amount of time for discussion.
Icons have been called "Windows into Heaven" or "Books for the Illiterate" because they teach and tell stories in pictures. Ask, "How long have icons been around?" The answer is in the opening prayer of this session:
"Speechless be the lips of impious ones, those who do not reverence your great icon, the sacred one. Which is called ‘Directress' and was depicted for us, by one of the Apostles, Luke the Evangelist"
What do we learn from this hymn? Icons have had a place in the Church from the beginning. St. Luke was also an iconographer, and Mary has had place of honor from earliest times.
Review basic icon principles. What are some characteristics of Icons? Refer to Icons: Session I if a more thorough review is necessary. You can choose to review these items during the time campers are constructing/designing their personal icons.
Activity: Design Your Personal Icon:
Campers will be designing an icon of themselves using the basic principles of Byzantine Iconography. Ask them to utilize as many elements of Byzantine Iconography as they can. For example they should try and incorporate symbols that relate to their life. Have them think of a title for their icon which sums up who they are and their contribution to the faith. They should choose appropriate colors and even a setting that describes who they are and what they are about.
The icons of self can be simple or complex and if campers are shy or embarrassed to draw, encourage them to come up with an icon that maybe more symbolic of self or see if there is someone in the group that can help them to draw their icon.
Campers who choose to do so may describe their icons to the rest of the group.
"We thank you Lord for Your strength and guidance in our work. You are the fulfillment of all good things. Fill our souls with joy and gladness, that we may praise You always. We also thank You, Lord our God, that again on this occasion You have opened our eyes to the light of your wisdom. You have gladdened our hearts with the knowledge of truth. We entreat You, Lord, help us always to do Your will. Bless our souls and bodies, our words and deeds. Enable us to grow in grace, virtue and good habits that Your name may be glorified: Father, Son and Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen."
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