A close friend of mine gave me a gift, once, as I left a place that I had called home for about 3 years. A small, carved crucifix. I tucked it into my pocket, but it was shaped to go in my hand. It was meant to be a reminder. This friend knew how much I was fascinated with the notion of icons, and tactile reminders of the spiritual. Things that can be touched to remind us of those things that only seem to touch us.
As I walked up to the church the other day, I was overcome with the whole purpose of icons, and with one of the terrible and sad aspects of icons. On the one hand, literally, they have the power, when applied appropriately, to transport our minds to the proper object – Christ. However, in another hand, applied inappropriately, they can trap our attention in themselves and become no longer icons, but idols; structures intended to direct our attention properly, but which merely enslave it.
I have known long, and know that it will always be the case, that it takes a measure of time, effort, concentration and discipline to direct one’s attention to those things that are of proper and real significance – to the Gospel, to the Cross, to Christ and to God. Our daily food and drink ought to be the Word of God, a sustenance offered through communion with the Holy Spirit.
I mentioned the cross because as I walked up to the church this week, I was overcome with how easy it is for me to be loyal to Christ when, in my mind, I am kneeling at the foot of his cross. How easy it is for me to be loyal to Christ when he is seated at a table and dining beside me. How easy it is…
And yet how elusive. How weak willed I am. How strong the flesh is (Rom. 7:21-25). I cannot (or will not?) stay long at the foot of the cross. But I must keep returning there. I must delight to keep vigil with my and for my Savior. This week – indeed every week – I ought to and shall give myself over to prayer: that God will grow a love and a delight in me to be found in those places where, beholding his face, I can be turned to no other pursuit but only delight in the refuge I have beneath the shelter of his wings, and in the shadow of his cross.