RUSSIAN ICONS: SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL ASPECTS
VERA BEAVER-BRICKEN ESPINOLA
2 THE SPIRITUAL ICON
After the great iconoclastic controversy in the eighth and ninth centuries, the Eastern Orthodox church formulated a doctrine of veneration of icons and also a set of technical rules for their artistic production.
An authentic Russian icon is still created solely for religious veneration by a person considered morally upright who also is blessed to this purpose by a priest. Old icons were never signed since each was considered equally good, equally spiritual, and not a work of art.
An icon is blessed upon completion and probably many times more, for in the course of its existence it may reside in many homes, churches, museums, and other places throughout the world. Each time it is reconsecrated to God it also becomes the intimate icon of a new people or location. Even if desecrated, the blessed icon never loses its sacredness, regardless of its situation.
Russians present icons in baptism, marriage, as memorials for the dead, in thanksgiving, and for protection on a journey or in battle. Icons are used in churches and homes where candles and incense are burned near them and where the faithful kiss and touch them in acts of veneration and respect. Icons are never worshiped but considered a source of spiritual awakening, divine energy, and even miraculous events. Icons have become testaments of Russian faith, culture, and history.