Last Saturday about a dozen of us spent the day making personal icons at the third annual St. Alban’s Creative Retreat. The purpose of these retreats is to invite believers to express their faith in creative ways. The day began with prayer and then a short presentation on traditional Icon writing and continued with conversation among the faithful about the “countenance” that they hoped to convey in the personal icons they would produce during the day. Participants brought personal memorabilia which served as the inspiration for their icons or actual components incorporated within them. We worked side-by-side, helping each other and sharing ideas; a peaceful, playful and creative (shall we say divine?) energy flowed.
At the end of the day we gathered all of our icons together and shared the stories behind them.
Every story was beautiful, as was every icon.
One of the icons was lovely because of the way in which it conveyed a traditional interpretation of what icons are – that they are windows through which God sees us and through which we see God. This icon utilized an xeroxed image of William Tanner’s Annunciation mounted in a three pane window found in a woodshed at the farm where the retreat was held.
As the artist explained her icon, the top window pane is without glass and represents how clearly God sees us; the center pane represents an image of Mary that has been inspirational for the artist and has been pinned to the wall by her writing desk; and the bottom pane has been left as it was found – covered with grime – representing how we see God “through a glass, darkly” (notice the cool reflections of the windows in the room in the bottom pane of the photo!).
The day ended as we presented our hosts with an icon – the icon or widow through which all Christians see God and the window through which God see us – the Cross of Christ our Savior. The cross was made from hewn pieces of wood found on the property and was signed by the day’s icon writers.
Many thanks to Leo Coco, Sandy Wilson, Bob Pettit and to all the artists for such a wonderful day of imagining our Maker. And thanks be to God… the creator of all!