Icons and Worship

Anjelica Aguirre
4 min readJan 17, 2021

Images, in current times, are visible through a screen or in a physical presence. Oftentimes, images are presented to be enjoyable or enviable since one often presents oneself as a perfect human especially on social media. Thus, it leads to people creating idols due to them becoming what one wants to see them as based on one’s own desires. However, images can be contemplative such as if an image is religious which it then becomes an icon. An icon is where Christ is represented in a piece of Christian art, and when a person gazes upon it, Christ’s and the invisible Father’s gaze is returned back to the viewer. Icons are manifestations of Christ’s presence that are meant to be venerated, and through the viewing of the art and its relationship to the past, present, and future, one sees salvation that leads to worship. In order to see Christ, one has to learn how to see in an iconic way. Ghent altarpiece, Florentine frescoes, and Madonna altarpieces are very well known religious images that are icons based on their ability to see Christ’s presence.

Iconic images present the manifestation of Christ’s sacrifice for huaman’s redemption which are eternal representations of human beings’ salvation. In the Ghent altarpiece, there are many depictions of important religious characters and scenes. Adam and Eve are standing at the outer corners of the altarpiece as they gaze upon Christ in eternal head priest robes in the upper center of the piece. On one side of Christ, Mary is in elegant robes while wearing a crown to signify her position as Queen. She is Christ’s mother, but she is also the protector of the Church as she reigns over the Church in a protective stance. John the Baptist is standing upright and pointing at Christ, and he is placed next to the 12 Apostles. The background of all the upper portion characters is gold and contains clouds which suggests they are all in Heaven. Due to the physical placement of Christ, the upper portion of the piece is His eternal offering of Himself to God. The bottom portion of the altarpiece is heavily focused on the sacrifice of the lamb on Earth. The portion is directly below Christ which is interpreted as the scene representing the people rising to meet their Judge. The lamb on the stage has blood spewing out of it such as a sacrifice while there are others below the stage worshiping it. Since altarpieces are meant to be the physical representations of Mass, it appears to mimic a Mass where parishioners are presented with Christ’s eternal sacrifice through his body and blood. One then sees the physical representation of the Eucharist taken during Mass, and it connects Christ and the parishioner closer into one.

In the Saint Dominic and the Crucifixion, a Florentine fresco, one is able to see the presence of Christ through blood dripping down his body while nailed to the ground as He sacrifices himself for humans, the blood and body. The dissemblance of the background is noticeable by the blueness since man did not know what the scene would look like. One would be moved by the presentation of Christ as his “weakest point” that is actually the most powerful show of his love to man. Through the image, man is able to see his own life in relation to Christ’s sacrifice and man’s salvation. Love is also visible through the gaze Christ has upon the priest below him. Through the three theories developed based on the frescos, the crucifixion is representing the thought of how the image is meant to show the position meant to worship Christ. While Christ gazes down in a protective manner, the priest is holy and dedicated to Christ. The kneeling manner in which the priest is in is an open and entrusting stance as he embraces the cross Christ is on. It is meant as a way for humans to look upon it and want to give Christ everything they can in an open manner since He will take care of them.

Oftentimes, Mary is presented as nurturing Christ where she is seen as the altar in which man can visibly see Christ’s sacrifice and man’s own salvation. The images are known as Madonna altarpieces, and Mary is the protector of the Church. Thus, Mary is breastfeeding Christ to depict the physical connection she has to her son but also to the entire community within the Church. In Virgin and Child before Firescreen, the image of them is viewed as Christ’s rebirth since Christ is representing the Eucharist especially with the handing of the breast to him. The connection between the Church and Christ is further enhanced through the use of the white linen similar to that used during Mass. in addition, the small window in the background presents the city outside. It is the union between the public and private world once the Eucharist is taken during Mass since man becomes one with Christ. The altarpiece is meant to further development the contemplation man makes when the sacrifice of Christ is seen which evokes Christ’s gaze. The gaze will allow one to be seen, and love of a Father will enter