Icons Are Windows To Heaven


Country MoonIt’s no wonder that religious icon paintings have stood the test of time; for thousands of years, they have provided a little diversion from reality into a beautiful world all their own.

I had never had the privilege of viewing an icon up close and personal, so to speak, until Marie Hemker shared her collection with me. She has been painting them since 2007, spending one week each year at the Mother Home of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to complete one. This is the old complex of Nazareth College where the nuns live. Needless to say, I was intrigued by something I literally knew nothing about.

“Let’s start from the beginning,” she says. “First of all, we do not call it 'painting an icon,' but rather we call it ‘writing an icon’ because they tell stories of faith. It’s like writing with paint.”


I soon learned that icons are often referred to as “windows to the soul” or “windows to heaven” and are actually a form of prayer. Marie went on to explain that during her week in Kalamazoo, the whole class works on the same image and, because it involves so many steps in the process, it takes the entire week to finish one icon.

They can be cast in metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth and fashioned on other mediums, but they are usually written on special wooden boards that have been carefully shaped and smoothed. The images depict Jesus, Mary, various saints and angels.

4/19/2015 6:53:11 AM

There is a Greek Orthodox church close to where I live and during a Greek festival one year they opened up the church as a chance to teach other about the Greek Orthodox religion. Inside and all across the ceiling were HUGE icons done as mosaic tile work. This particular church even brought the tile masters over from Greece to do the work. Thank you for a very uplifting article. Jim jwbgso@aol.com

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