A World of Speculation


Grace went to see the Sitka icon when it came to her parish. She ended up taking an inkjet copy to a sick friend and witnessing what is quite likely a small miracle.

My miracle was even smaller.

I actually don’t like the Sitka icon very much. It’s in the “realistic” painting style that characterizes the Western captivity of iconography that has finally been broken, mostly, over the past several decades. The garish riza, or gold covering, eliminates the color symbolism, and it has these spiky haloes, instead of the traditional ones identifying the persons of Christ and the Theotokos. Maybe most significantly, the depiction of the “Father” at the top is against the canons of iconography.

And yet.

When you’re in the presence of the icon, it’s as if it really is a window into heaven, and the prayers and devotion of undemanding people brush past you like a breeze. You realize that what’s required for sanctification is not so much perfection as devotion.

We should by all means aim for perfection, timeless beauty, faithfulness to the Tradition of whatever endeavor we undertake. But we should also understand that our best human efforts, the works of Michelangelo and the Pyramids and Dostoevsky and Mozart, are like a toddler’s finger painting, stuck on God’s refrigerator more out of love for the artist than appreciation for the art.

Even as we aim high, we need to realize that at the end of our works, love is enough.

Grace’s miracle was more miraculous, but mine was what I needed that day.