Synopsis:The true meaning of icons is proclaimed in the Sunday of Orthodoxy Services. The "surface meaning" of an icon is that we can depict Jesus Christ as a man precisely because He became a man. We are not satisfied with such a shallow explanation, and the services delve much deeper into the meaning of the incarnation. Two examples, one from Vespers, and the other from matins, describe the wonder of the incarnation. Every time we gaze upon an icon, we must remember that we, who have nothing in common with God, can know God because He chose to have everything in common (one hymn, below, describes this as the God-man taking on all the "distinctive properties" of our flesh), with us, save sin.
Thou who art uncircumscribed, O Master, in Thy divine nature, / wast pleased in the last times to take flesh and be circumscribed; / and in assuming flesh, / Thou hast also taken on Thyself all its distinctive properties. / Therefore we depict the likeness of Thine outward form, / venerating it with an honor that is relative. / So we are exalted to the love of Thee, / and following the holy traditions handed down by the apostles // from Thine icon we receive the grace of healing. (Sunday of Orthodoxy, "Lord I have cried", Tone VI, spec. mel.: 'Having set all your hope')
The uncircumscribed Word of the Father became circumscribed, taking flesh from thee, O Theotokos, and He restored the sullied image to its ancient glory, filling it with the divine beauty. This our salvation we confess in deed and word, and we depict it in the holy icons. (Sunday of Orthodoxy, Kontakion, Tone 8)
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