One of the first things visitors will see when they enter an Orthodox church or the home of an Orthodox Christian are icons — images of Jesus Christ and the saints. Orthodoxy understands icons to be windows into heaven. Icons can also be viewed as making visible the invisible presence of Christ and the saints. Orthodox Christians do not worship icons as they show love and respect for the person depicted in icons.
Icons can be purchased through sites like:
Christ the Pantocrator Icon
The word “Pantocrator” means “All Ruling One.” With his right hand Christ is blessing us and in his left hand he holds the Gospel book. In this particular icon we see John 11:25 — “I am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live” in Greek.
The distinctive halo with the cross markings has the three Greek alphabets signifying: “He Who Is.”
One of the best known icon of Mary is the “Virgin of the Sign.” This is based on the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign, Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.”
In this particular icon, we see Mary with her right hand directing our attention to her son, Jesus who is God With Us (Immanuel). Christ with his right hand is bestowing on the Virgin Mary as well as on the viewer. The Greek letters next to the halo mean “Mother of God” — bearing witness to the mystery of the Incarnation.
The Resurrection Icon shows Jesus Christ in hell setting the captives free.
Underneath the feet of Christ are the shattered portals of hell.
With his right and left hands, Christ is setting Adam and Eve free from the curse of death, raising them to eternal life.
Lives of the Saints Icons
Icons are also used to remember the exemplary lives of saints. The icon of the Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion honor the Chinese Orthodox Christians who remained faithful to death. In the front of the icon is the priest Father Mitrophanes (Chang Yanfji) and his wife Tatiana, and their three sons all of whom were martyred.
In the background we see a Russian-style Orthodox church building, and on the right we see a Chinese-style building. This shows Orthodoxy’s multicultural inclusiveness.