The preacher’s palette

A good rest this week, and the opportunity to read some of my Christmas books. One in particular has caught my imagination this time around – Neil Macgregor’s History of the world in 100 objects. The book does what it says on the tin, and takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour of civilizations  through 100 objects drawn from the British Museum’s vast collections. One particular item which made me think was the item below – the Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (c. 1350-1400 AD)

Picture : British Museum

In his discussion of the piece Macgregor refers to a medieval text The Rules For the Icon Painter, from which there are selections below:

  1. Before starting the work, make the sign of the cross. Pray in silence & pardon your enemies.
  2. Work with care on every detail of the icon, as if you were working in front of the Lord himself.
  3. During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid above all useless words & keep silence.
  4. When you have to choose a colour, stretch out your hands interiorly to the Lord and ask his counsel.
  5. Do not be jealous of your neighbour’s work; his success is your success too.
  6. When your work is finished, thank God that his mercy granted you the grace to paint holy images.

Just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me after a narrative sermon was a Romanian student who said “you didn’t tell the story – you painted it” It is highly unlikely that 2011 will ever see me painting an icon – but I hope to paint many sermons. Having a set of these rules with me as I do so may be no bad thing!

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