icons in Orthodox worship
In further response to your interest in what icons add to worship I would offer some thoughts on Hebrews 12:22-24, ?But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling??
Commenting on this passage Paul McPartlan ('Sacrament of Salvation') writes: ?If we read this passage sitting a room by ourselves, we may well puzzle at its meaning? Here is an outstanding example of a passage that doesn?t make sense until we recall that it was first directed to a community gathered for the Eucharist, a hard-pressed community, moreover, perhaps few in number? Though it appears to be only a modest gathering to which they have come, the writer urges the local Christians to see with eyes of faith what they have really come to?? McPartlan goes on to refer to example ?the great Renaissance churches of Italy? with ceilings ?frescoed to show the proximity of heaven when the central act for which those churches were built, namely the Eucharist, is celebrated. Looking up, it is as if the roof has been torn away and heaven is thrown open?Christ in the glory of the Father, with the Holy Spirit hovering and angels and saints crowding the scene.?
When I enter an Orthodox Church with icons on the walls all around me, I look around and I am ?compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses? (Hebrews 12:1), then I look up and see our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in the dome of the Church above me? then I know ?that this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven? (Genesis 28:17). And then it is the time of the Divine Liturgy and the altar veil or curtain is open and I see an icon beyond the altar on the east wall of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ with the four and twenty elders in heaven? and I am ?come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus?? Alleluia!