I have made two resolutions for this new year: 1. to finish an icon of Christ the True Vine that has been sitting untouched on my desk now for about six months and 2. to learn Italian.  Both are invitations to friendship. 

My friends in the Community of Sant’Egidio have been on me for a while now to learn Italian and I know that it is an invitation made in friendship.  Languages carry so much.  The encouragement of friends to learn a language is an invitation to friendship because a language (its structure, cadence, poetry and rhythm) reveals the heart.  In humility and reciprocal friendship I hope to learn my friends’ language this year.

In iconography one does not “paint” an icon.  Rather, one “writes” an icon because an icon is considered visual theology.  Icons also have rhythm, movement and structure to them and in the encounter with an icon one encounters the heart of God himself – open in friendship to us.  I find that when I write an icon or reflect on one my own heart finds peace and a needed healing … often from the debilitating effects of worldly images and distracting thoughts thrown at us all day.  The peace and healing come, I believe, from the encounter with God’s own heart who in sublime condescension comes to our lowly condition through Christ and invites us to friendship. 

On the icon St. Theodore the Studite offers these words, “For is it not glorious for the lofty when they humble themselves, as it is shameful for the lowly when they exalt themselves?  Thus for Christ, who remains on His own summit of divinity, glorified in His immaterial indescribability, it is glory to be materially circumscribed in His own body because of His sublime condescension toward us.  For He who had created everything became matter (that is, flesh).  He did not refuse to become and to be called what He had received, and it is characteristic of matter to be circumscribed materially.”  (taken from “On the Holy Icons“)

God comes to us in Christ and in his body, the Church, and invites us into friendship.