the veneration of icons in Orthodox worship
Perhaps one of the strangest things for a Westerner to get used to in Eastern Christian worship is the relationship between the worshipper and icons. When I attended the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral at Regents Park a few years ago I walked in and sat down. Afterwards I noticed that the people coming in were all stopping to kiss the icons placed near the entrance. I don't take seriously the Protestant arguement that venerating icons is a form of idolatry, because I realise that they are not being worshipped, yet I would be interested to know what they add to worship. As a High Church person, I know how Holy Water, candles, incense and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament can help me to experience the awe of Christ's presence among us, but I haven't yet understood the true significance of icons.
I am also interested in the history and origins of the use of icons in worship. The Protestant idea that, after the Reformation they ditched all the acquired pagan additions to Christianity and returned to the "pure" worship of the Apostles has long been disproved. Jewish Temple worship was very ritualistic and I believe that much of the sacrificial tradition accompanied by bells, incense, chanting etc and the invocation of the divine presence, passed in an unbroken line into early Christianity. According to Hegesippus, James the Righteous "entered the Holy of Holies to make atonement for his people." Is it known whether the use of icons in any form is that ancient? They were certainly in widespread use in the East by the Third or Fourth centuries but don't seem to have spread Westwards. Any info on this subject would be mosat welcome.
Yours in Christ