If it is valid to venerate icons, it follows that it is also valid to venerate each other, seeing as we are also in the image of God and sanctified (or in the process of becoming sanctified) matter. This is appropriate, according to Orthodox teaching, but seems to be rarely done. In the Orthodox church, a dead saint seems to be more worthy of veneration than a live one. If all followers of Christ are in the process of being sanctified, then it would be appropriate to venerate all members of the body of Christ, whether living or dead. Although this seems appropriate, there are definitely some dangers.

151 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 103.

Problems In The Idea of Beauty

Ouspensky suggests that beauty should be inherent to the icon.152 However, beauty is a difficult thing to determine. There is much discussion of beauty in regard to icons (and to art in general); yet, beauty is usually a cultural thing. What one culture perceives as beautiful, especially when it comes to human form, another finds unbeautiful. It is clear that the idea of beauty in relation to icon focuses more on the transcendent than the visceral. Natural beauty is no longer important in the face on an icon.153 But even this understanding has potential problems. Some find images of nature to contain the transcendent. Yet the icon does not focus on the natural. It seems that beauty in the icon, in spite of historical attempts at standardization, is subject to the ideas of people who live in certain cultures and certain times. This is not inherently problematic, however, it does raise some questions around the idea of what transcendent beauty is. It is truly remarkable that the style and appearance of icons have remained so consistent throughout the history of icon painting.

152 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 346-347.
153 Quenot, 1991, p. 91.

Eliminating the Personality of the Icon Painter

Key to the understanding of the process of painting icons is the idea that the icon painters must eliminate their personality from their work. The basis of this idea is that individual personality in an icon would be distracting.154 Yet, this is inconsistent with much of the communication between God and man. The biblical writers often identified themselves and their personalities were evident in their writings. Ironically, the subjects in the icon itself are identified personally. Maybe if the iconographer considered himself a saint, he would feel it could be appropriate to be identified. In any case, it is considered inappropriate for the iconographer to identify himself in any way, either through technique or by actually signing the project. This seems inconsistent even with the biblical writings where the authors often identified themselves. The necessity of identity is, however, more an emphasis of western individualism and autonomy than a biblical principle. It just seems that enforced anonymity has the tendency to be non-incarnational. This tension exists in almost every area of practices surrounding icons.

Problems Related to the Iconostasis

According to Orthodox teaching, the iconostasis tells the story of how we are able to directly approach the holy of holies. Though it appears as a barrier, the icons are meant to be windows to the truth, more than a wall separating us from this truth. It opens the door to the faithful.155 Yet this seems a possible contradiction in that only the clergy are allowed to enter through the royal door into the sanctuary. This reflects Old Testament restrictions on who may enter the Holy of Holies.