The process of writing icons has been very important to me since studying abroad my junior year, when I first learned the practice. I have continued to work with Iconography throughout my formation. This year I took a new turn in that endeavor when I was able to study the theology that informs the Church’s understanding of what Icons are. This was a fantastic course, set up as Directed Readings, where the professor and I created a syllabus, and had conversations every other week about the various authors we read, spanning from the early Church to contemporary Catholic and Orthodox writings. These readings helped me to expand my own understanding of this incredible discipline of the Church, one that has become so dear to my own heart.
The most important thing that I learned in this was the importance of continuing to work with icons. They cannot be isolated as works of art, or as theological exhibitions. They are meant to be written, venerated, contemplated. Icons are meant to draw all Christians into a deeper contemplation of who God is, and who we are meant to become. Everything about the icon points to the life of the Resurrection. Everything is re-created in a new light, the light of Easter. Icons, I have learned, are personal. They are meant to affect each of us as we look through them to the eternal light.
This is why I have continued my devotion to icons. In studying the theology and anthropology that underlies what an icon is. I have discovered how essential it is that they be more than just an intellectual or artistic project. They are personal. They speak to me and to you. They are prayers from beginning to end. I have been very glad to continue to use the icon workshop set up on the third floor of Moreau Seminary.
I am currently working on a triptych of the Evangelists and Christ. Icons provide us such an important form of prayer. We do not just think about the Evangelists and Christ. We do not just pray to Christ, and ask for the Evangelists intercession. Icons help us stay grounded. We see something to contemplate. We have an image before us which points toward the eternal. I know that I have been greatly blessed by being introduced to the spiritual practice of writing icons. Having studied them in depth has only increased my love and devotion for this incredible form of prayer.
Mr. Matthew Hovde, C.S.C., is in his second year of temporary vows and Master of Divinity studies as a seminarian at Moreau Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. Matt is originally from Miami, Florida.