Orthodox America

Orthodox Practice -   On Venerating Icons

As a boy St. Seraphim would humbly place his candle not right next to an icon but somewhat off to the side. Our veneration of icons should reflect a similar spiritual sensitivity and a sense of our unworthiness before God and His saints.

Traditionally, we venerate an icon by making the sign of the cross and bowing from the waist, the right hand extended to touch the floor. We repeat this, kiss the icon and then make the sign of the cross and bow a third time. It is improper to kiss the face on an icon as this implies a presumptuous familiarity. We should bear in mind that the honor accorded the icon redounds to the prototype, and were the person depicted to come into our midst, awed by their sanctity we should not dare to kiss them on the cheek but would bow down and kiss their feet. If the image is depicted in full stature, we kiss the feet; if half-stature - the hand; in the case of the Icon "Not-Made-By -Hands" (Christ's head on a napkin) or the head of St John the Baptist, we kiss the hair.

Needless to say, leaving lipstick smears is not only grossly irrereverent, it is also disrespectful of others venerating th eicon. (Blessed Archbishop John forbade women wearing lipstick to kiss the cross or approach the chalice.)

(Compiled from The Shepherd, October 1991, and Blagovestnik, Parish Bulleting of the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, November 1989).