Before Father and I were engaged I went to visit him where he was teaching at a Catholic boarding school. He was living in an old house of the sort typically described as having “lots of potential!!!” in real estate circles, if you know what I mean. [Note: we lived there for two years after we married and it still had a lot of potential when we left.] In the living room he had put up icons of Christ and the Theotokos and a crucifix in between. He asked my opinion. I said it looked nice but he better stop there because “you don’t want it to look like a church.”
This cracks me up now as I look up and see the dozens of icons around the house. Obviously I changed my tune. By the time we became Orthodox we had an icon corner that was considerably larger:
As we moved and accumulated icons (and changed in taste) our icon corner changed too.
This is the simplest our icon corner has been in a long time. Partially because every bedroom has its own icon corner now.
|Current family icon corner|
Father has his own. He’s so tall that his chest of drawers is a much more convenient height.
|Notice I’m having to look up at it…|
I share Father’s and the family one. This is by my bed (notice that there are three icons of St. Anna).
|This evolved as people gave me icons.|
The children have icon corners in their bedrooms. When we used to have a nursery I loved to put up the icon of the guardian angel and Adam naming the animals (the elephant was so nice). Of course, the boys have the prophet Jonah (being swallowed by the fish).
|The boys’ icon corner|
The girls’ icon corner is a bit more feminine:
|The girls’ icon corner|
There are icons all over the house. The Last Supper is in the dining room, the Panagia Portaitissa (keeper of the gate) is by the front door, and other icons are here and there including in our room and the children’s rooms. I like these in the kitchen:
|In the kitchen (the Hospitality of Abraham is appropriate)|
Before I was Orthodox I thought that the home should not look like a church. And, of course, in many ways it can’t and shouldn’t. But in the matter of icons we should feel surrounded by the cloud of witnesses in our homes. Our homes are our domestic churches. Our children should see that there is a seamless join between the home and the church. This is not to say that there should be “house churches” as an alternative to attending a parish and engaging in community worship. The worship in the home should complement and enhance the worship at church. Neither can exist without the other. The icons in our home serve the same purpose as the icons in our churches.
We should be reminded at all times of our purpose in living – the attainment of salvation. I know that when I want to lie around and do nothing, to see the Theotokos looking down on me is a motivator to pull myself together. They are constant reminders to strive to live a Christian life, follow the examples of the saints and pray. This is similar to my prayer rope: if I wear it I’m much more likely to pray throughout the day than if I don’t.
[One more mention about the domestic church that doesn’t have anything to do with icons. I’ve found that cleaning the house is a much more joyful and contenting task if I remember that I’m cleaning my domestic church. You would always want your parish church to be clean and tidy and would not complain about contributing to the upkeep. The same applies to your home, your domestic church.]
Because you wanted to see an “official” icon corner, I’m sharing a picture of the icon corner belonging to an elderly baba friend of ours: