My modern icon painting subject matter often turns to St. John the Silent.
St John presses on his lip in act of silencing himself. I might practice a bit more meditation and prayer with this image.
The image of St John depicts a visual state of consciousness or a snapshot of a mystical moment you walk in on unexpectedly. Silence. A fine icon has the potential to shock the viewer into seeing and being seen, moving the viewer into deeper mystery, prayer and meditation.
Iconographers believe the beauty of humankind and our potential to see the divine in all things will save the world. I will take it a step farther and declare that love of beauty will save the world. Our minds are being battered daily with so much noise which is not of God. Mystical silence, love and beauty are experienced in the realm of a still, quiet mind. Icons like St John the Silent must be painted with a still mind and a quiet atmosphere or you cannot reap the benefit of Christ’s presence within.
The deeper we go into blind silence, the deeper we encounter clear, distilled, invisible love. Meditation enables us to experience detachment from purpose, inviting us to embrace quiet inactivity. The revived interest in icons today is a glimmer of hope for the continued expansion of our awareness of beauty and the divine. These images are windows through which the viewer is beckoned closer and closer, to go deeper into a wider horizon.
If you stand in a large room with a window at a reasonable distance from you, you can see some of the exterior and detect what is outside the building. But, if you walk up to a window and press your face against the glass, then you will see the entire outside world. Icons are like pressing your face to the glass. The individual who pauses to gaze at an icon is invited to contemplate what is not seen. Stillness is the place we work out our own unique relationship between self and world.