An icon is a window, or, better, a door,
through which we pass to eternal realms,
glimpsing and tasting, in this life,
the homeland that is inviting us.
Some say that this occurs through a kind of frustration,
the crippling of our natural way of seeing,
so that the spirit may reach out further,
seeing in a way we are not accustomed to see.
There is a certain truth in this,
that it is necessary to unlearn base and sinful seeing,
which sees only in fear or possessiveness,
so as to learn to see with eyes of love and faith,
burning with the hope that yearns for fullness.
And yet there is also perhaps a misunderstanding,
as if we could see better, automatically,
through the process of seeing less.
Fasting of the eyes and heart, indeed,
is a part of the process of gaining sight,
but the end result of such purification
is not dwelling, exclusively, in a celestial realm,
living divorced from the concreteness of life and thought.
And certainly it is not simply “letting-go” itself,
for this could not possibly be the end,
finding meaning only as part of the process of receiving.
Rather, the fruit of this loving purification
is a dwelling, beautifully, in two places at once:
in the realm of eternal love and mystery, inner sanctuary,
and in the simple reality of the everyday, apparently profane.
Indeed, it is the discovery that the two
are not separated and divorced, but interpenetrate,
living in one another through the purity of grace.
And the two are to be espoused together
in the inmost sanctuary of the heart,
a meeting-place of body and spirit, God and man,
beating unceasingly here and now,
yet reaching out, longingly, to heaven.
Yes, there is a kind of iconography
alive in the very concreteness of everyday life.
Eyes weaned from sinful seeing through love’s longing
learn to see and rejoice in this way anew,
touched by the truth and beauty ever present here.
Something as small as melting snow dripping from the roof,
or the way that a tiny piece of wood
can prop open a door fifty times its size,
or the way that people come into church,
taking their “usual” seats, hinting to a thirst,
perhaps hidden, for the comfort of true belonging,
yet also their joy in having found it.
An iconography of the everyday, yes…
and the icon invites us above all to pure rejoicing.
For whose eyes gaze more purely, deeply,
than the eyes of a little child,
filled with wonder and awe at the slightest thing?
Perhaps we have forgotten the amazingness
of something so simple as a falling stone,
something so beautiful as a sunrise,
or the pure, awesome gift of dull and long hours of the day.
Why does a stone not, instead, rise into the air,
and why does the sun continue to rise
as the harbinger of another day of life?
I think this is why we write fairy-stories, isn’t it?
…To rediscover the fairy-story in the everyday,
the miracles wrought every moment, Father,
by your loving and gentle hand.
This is why trees bears golden apples
and why a woman must kiss a frog:
so that we may learn to see anew
that trees bear apples that are red and green
and a woman has the chance of kissing a man,
things so awesome, unimaginable.
Pure, loving, undeserved gift…
yet ever flowing from you tender arms.
Dearest Father, this is the burning heart of it all,
of everything, everything that there is.
Draw us only beyond the veil
that falls over our eyes as we grow old,
old through years, old through sin, old through woundedness,
old through forgetfulness of the miracle that we are,
the miracle that each and every thing is.
My God, touch and heal us with your love,
making us thus young again,
little children who can see and rejoice,
receiving the gift given in every moment,
silent in awe and reverence, yet crying out in gladness.
And let us know, deep within the heart,
that the ultimate Gift given in every gift
is you, my God, yourself.
And how, God, do you approach us?
…Rejoicing in awe and delight, like a child,
at the beauty of what you have made.