Item 1731 - Praying with icons

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00389 1-9-1-1731

Title

Praying with icons

Date(s)

  • April 15, 1988 (Creation)

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Item

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5 p. of textual records

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(1932-1996)

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This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Praying with Icons’ in the Forum section of the National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 24, No. 25, April 15, 1988, pp. 7 – 11. This item consists of edited excerpts from Nouwen’s book: Behold the Beauty of the Lord’; commentaries on four Russian icons. The first icon Nouwen looks at is Rublev’s Holy Trinity painted in 1425. Nouwen begins by stating ‘To live in the world without belonging to the world summarizes the essence of the spiritual life’ which reminds us that our true home is with God. Nouwen goes on to write that ‘I have never seen the house of love more beautifully expressed than in [this] icon. Nouwen writes that this icon has helped him to enter more deeply into the mystery of God and yet remain fully engaged in the ‘hate and fear-filled world’. Nouwen ends this meditation by stating,’ The longer we pray with the icon and the deeper our heart is drawn toward that mysterious place where circle and cross are both present, the more fully we come to understand how to be committed to the struggle for justice and peace in the world while remaining at home in God’s love’. In the second icon, The Virgin of Vladimir painted in the 12th C., Nouwen begins by describing the importance of this icon through the centuries. He then begins by writing first of her eyes, then her hands and finally, the child in her arms. Nouwen also writes, ‘Contemplating this icon was a profound experience for me. It was the experience of being lifted up through the intercession of the Blessed Mother into the inner life of God’. The third icon, The Savior of Zvenigorod, Nouwen writes first of his longing always, to see the face of Christ and in this 15th C., somewhat damaged icon by Andre Rublev, Nouwen sees a face in which he ‘saw what I had never seen before and felt what I had never felt before’. Nouwen speaks of his face and then states, ‘what finally makes seeing Rublev’s icon such a profound spiritual experience are the eyes of the Savior. The fourth icon is a 15th C. Russian icon entitled ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit’. Nouwen describes how gazing upon this icon helps move his head knowledge to his heart. He suggests that the iconographer ‘has chosen to paint the deepest meaning of Pentecost. He wants to express the inner event’. Nouwen concludes by writing, ‘ All four icons speak of a God not hidden in the dazzling splendor of the divine light, but in reaching out to a world yearning for freedom…’

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Published in National Catholic Reporter 24, no. 25 (April 15, 1988): 7-11.
This article consists of excerpts from: Nouwen, Henri: Behold the Beauty of the Lord, Praying with Icons, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN., 1987/2007.

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Accession Number

2000 01

Location

Box 297

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