I am not a trained artist in any sense of the term. Although both my father and mother drew and painted when they were younger. I remember as a young boy watching as my mother drew flowers and people’s faces – maybe an interest was gained through this. (A hope I have during my time here at the university is to take some drawing classes.)
Right now I copy the icons that I write – either I print them off of the Internet or photocopy them from a book. Once I have the copy I use tracing paper in order to sketch out the cartoon. I trace the lines, the tilt of the head, the movement of the hand all from the original.
I have been told that in iconography this is legitimate and accepted. There is no copyright being infringed upon – this helps to calm my scrupulosity. Through tracing one learns to write as an iconographer would write. Your own hand learns to move as the hand of an iconographer’s would across the board. The very discipline of tracing reminds one that we receive from those who have gone before us even when they are unknown to us. I do not know who originally wrote this icon of the Visitation that is my source but I am now learning from her or him. In fact in the tracing of the icon I am listening to what the original iconographer has to say about this particular moment in Scripture. I am standing with the iconographer and together we are reflecting on the mystery of the Visitation.
Advent itself leads one to a recognition of and gratitude for all the unknown people who have preceded us on the journey and from whom we have received the beautiful gift of faith. Advent calls us to remember and even stand with all those generations who yearned for and awaited the coming of the Messiah. They were the ones who learned to read the great promise in the words of Scripture and build their lives centered on the hope of the promised Savior – the unknown Simeons and Annas. Advent further helps us to remember and again stand with all the generations who have lived since the great Christ event – all the unknown people who have formed and lived what we in turn have been given and entrusted with. All these unknown people teach us how to write our own lives as Christians.
Iconography demonstrates that in faith and probably throughout all aspects of life we may not so much invent on our own as we 1. receive, 2. enflesh and, in turn, 3. pass on.
To whoever wrote this icon of the Visitation, “thank you”.