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Icons and the Practice of Prayer – Rowan Williams

March 31, 2010

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

As we approach Easter, here is another chance to listen to this fascinating talk by the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Dr Rowan Williams.

Icons are – among other things – practical aids to meditative prayer, and painted in a climate of prayer. Dr Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury, looks at some aspects of how this has worked in the past and still works today. Another audio recording from the concurrent lectures with the Byzantium 330-1453 exhibition. Listen here. You will have wait for it to download but it is only 21 Mb.

Related article:

A Sinai Illuminated Manuscript of the Heavenly Ladder: Spiritual Ascents through Art
Icons and Iconoclasm: Religious Imagery in Christianity, Judaism and Islam
The Byzantine music of Cappella Romana

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2010 5:16 am

    As a baptised and once again practising Orthodox Christian (Slavic variant), I am deeply grateful for the observations – and dare I say – teachings of the Archbishop of Canterbury on the subject of the veneration of icons, so misunderstood in the West. As it happens, tomorrow, Sunday, I will be attending an early morning service (Book of Common Prayer style) in the lovely old stone Anglican church of St George of the Pines here in Banff town, in the Canadian Rockies. It is the closest I can come to to an Orthodox Liturgy, and I shall look with new interest on the images, such as they are, mainly in the windows, as “harmonics of the future form” of Creation, as Rowan Williams put it, even though these windows have probably not been blessed with prayer and incense to transform them from pictures into icons. (There is a whole Liturgy of the blessing of icons in the Orthodox Church.)

    Incidentally, I note that the Archbishop consistently spoke of the “painting” of icons, whereas the Slavic verb is “to write” icons. There is probably a theological importance attached to the difference, but I don’t know it.

    Thank you so much for these posts.

  2. proverbs6to10 permalink*
    May 16, 2010 7:20 am

    Myrna – I am glad that you appreciated this lecture. Rowan Williams is a very thoughtful person and I am sure he wishes he did not have to bear the pressures of being Archbishop at this time. Writing/painting? It is something to consider and perhaps explore; it may of course merely have been an error.

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