The first step in applying the colors for an icon is to paint the darker, base colors. From this base you then “build up” – adding lighter shades in order to bring depth and movement to the image.
It is a valid art technique and, for iconography, it lends itself to a spiritual/theological interpretation. The interpretation being that the very life of the Christian is a life of being transformed from darkness to light or from glory to glory.
In Western Christianity we have tended to primarily emphasize the atoning and redemptive aspect of our faith (Christ took on the weight of our sin thereby setting us free) often to the diminishment of the transfigurative aspect of the Christian life – an aspect that Eastern Christianity has maintained in its thought. Through Christ (which means living the Christian life; i.e. receiving the sacraments, loving God and neighbor, worshiping God, living community, serving others, etc.) we are transfigured. We are changed from glory to glory. It could be said that living these aspects of the Christian life allows Christ the brush strokes necessary to make of our very lives an icon to God’s glory – bringing depth and beauty to our existence and revealing, through us, God’s Glory to the world.
Advent as a season of hope is a perfect time to deeply reflect on this transfigurative dimension of our Christian faith. This transfiguration has begun through our baptisms and it continues here and now.
Two verses from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians can aid us in reflecting on the transfigurative dimension of our lives in Christ.
So, with unveiled faces, we all reflect the Glory of the Lord, while we are transformed into his likeness and experience his Glory more and more by the action of the Lord who is spirit.
(2 Cor. 3:18)
God who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness’, has also made the light shine in our hearts to radiate and to make known the Glory of God, as it shines in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)