unexpected_joy.gifRemy has, wrapping up two of our differences into one package which he feels to be most clever, referred on this blog and elsewhere to the use of holy images in prayer as “prayer condoms”. He believes they place something artificial that need not be there between God and the supplicant, as condoms place something artificial that need not be there between the couple in their conjugal act (is that word related to conjugating a verb, by the by?).

I will, as I have in the past, magnanimously ignore what amounts to something like 2nd degree blasphemy in Remy’s speaking of holy images that way, but that aside, I was thinking about Remy’s analogy today and found it wanting, here’s why: While it’s true that condoms do put a barrier between the couple, that’ not necessarily the inherent problem.

After all, you could enjoy the marital embrace with your shirt on and not do any damage to the nature of the act. The problem with condoms is that they place a barrier where life is transmitted.

I think Remy could even agree that, although he views the one who prays with icons as his weaker brother (in an act of incredible condescension to the great majority of Christians who live now and have ever lived), that doesn’t mean that his prayers aren’t getting through. That doesn’t mean he’s not receiving life from God when he prays.

For an icon to be a “prayer condom” it would have to attempt to stop the life of God getting to the supplicant while still allowing the supplicant to enjoy the pleasure of prayer.

Icons do no such thing. In fact, if anything, they enhance the life received for the “weaker brother”. Condoms are hostile to life, icons foster life, even if it’s not the “pure” life that has no material expression which Remy so desperately craves (quick, someone ring the Gnostic bell!).

Icons=incarnation. They use our sense of sight, one of the most powerful we have, to worship God, who has revealed himself in things that can be seen, both in flesh and in His Saints. These things, which were seen on the earth and are not forbidden to see, we image in icons. I applaud the FV crowd for teaching me to know Gnosticism when I see it, I’m surprised they can’t see this most apparent example of the genre.

Up above, btw, is the icon known as “Unexpected Joy”. It tells the story of a notorious sinner brought miraculously to repentance by the icon of the Mother of God holding her Son.