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"The Holy Icon | Doorway to the Kingdom"

On Sunday 26th November 2023, we blessed and dedicated an Icon and Candle Stand designed by the Coventry Sculptor and Artist Dr George Wagstaffe. The congregation were thrilled with this new addition, which joins some other Wagstaffe pieces in our beautiful Church.

We are delighted that our Chapelfields Icon will be used as a dedicated space of prayer, where the faithful come and light candles for loved ones and for the life of the world. What follows is the Vicars' Sermon on this special day. Fr Edward writes:

"As children, my friends and I loved to memorise ‘knock knock” jokes, and then we would compete to see whether we knew more than the other. I don’t have to tell you that by the end of these competitions, these jokes became either very silly or very rude.

But you’ll be please to know that I’ve forgotten most of them, as it is seasonal we will try one…

The reason I mention this is because for the past week there has been a verse from the Bible that’s been in my mind a great deal. It comes from the Book of Revelation Ch. 3. V . 20

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me”.

The Lord will never force his life, his love, his grace on us. But as the text says, the Lord knocks on the door of our hearts and invites us all into a lovely relationship with him. It is up to us to respond to God’s invitation.

His invitation is for everyone, it doesn’t discriminate, and it is absolutely inclusive, in the truest possible sense of the word.

But I would like us to think about this door for a moment, because today we welcome a beautiful new addition to this wonderful Church. George has been a great friend to this parish, in fact he is one us. He has designed us the beautiful Icon and candle stand behind you.

When we commissioned the Icon of Jesus, we quickly realised that we needed something special on which to place it. And how very special it is.

But what of the Icon, and the candle stand… what does it all mean and what is it for?

The Icon of Jesus at the entry of our Church is certainly beautiful, and the artistry and the use of gold and colour is very impressive.

But, as beautiful as it is, it is not the purpose of the Icon to be a pretty picture. But what we have is an aid to our prayer. When we stand before the Icon, and light a candle and say a prayer we are standing in 2000 years of Christian tradition. The Gospel writer, Saint Luke is said to have made the very first Christian Icon in the first century, which was of the most holy Mother of God, Mary, Jesus’ mother.

But what is an Icon, and what is it for?

The word Icon refers to words like, “image, likeness, reflection”. When we stare into the mirror, we see an Icon of ourselves.

When Icons are used for prayer, they are Holy Icons, and one of the best descriptions of what they are was made by St Stephen the New in the 8th Century.

He says, ‘The Holy Icon is a door, a way of entry, a means of access, it is a point of meeting and encounter.”

Now I am sure St Stephen wouldn’t be telling “knock knock” jokes at this door, but for Stephen, the Icon is a door into the kingdom of heaven, and a means of access to the age to come, where God will restore his creation in the new heavens and the new earth.

So an Icon makes persons of events present to us. In our Icon of Christ, the Pantocrator, we see the one through whom all things were made. Through our Icon we meet Jesus Christ, and we participate in him. So, our Icon makes Jesus present to us and with us in a very special way.

Thinking of an Icon as a doorway, is much better than thinking it a window. We look through windows at something beyond us, but God stands at the door and knocks, and invites us to share in his life and love.

It is also worth remembering, that a doorway goes both ways, and as much as we meet Jesus when we gaze upon him, so the Lord enters into our hearts and the Heavenly Kingdom meets us… it truly is a place of encounter.

And so I would urge each and every one of you to use the Icon of Christ as a means of your prayer. Stand before the Icon, light a candle and pour out your heart to the Lord. “Come to me”, says Jesus, “all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” “Behold I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

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