Guest Writer Susan Cushman More Icons Sanctifying the Sense of Sight
“Suppose I have few books, or little leisure for reading, but walk into the spiritual hospital—that is to say, a church—with my soul choking from the prickles of thorny thoughts, and thus afflicted I see before me the brilliance of the icon. I am refreshed as if in a verdant meadow, and thus my soul is led to glorify God. I marvel at the martyr’s endurance, at the crown he won, and, inflamed with burning zeal, I fall down to worship God through His martyr, and so receive salvation.” St. John of Damascus, “Icons Will Save the World,” First Things, December 20, 2007
Icons point to beauty and art as a means of experiencing God. In a time when our senses are bombarded with the base things of this world at every turn, now, more than ever, we need for those senses to be sanctified. Saint John of Damascus called sacred images “the books of the illiterate,” and asserted that icons sanctify the sense of sight for those who gaze upon them.
If this description of a first-millennium saint’s experience seems too removed from our contemporary life, I wonder if that’s because we have lost the concept of the Church as a spiritual hospital? Or because, in our fast-paced lives, we have forgotten how to slow down and let the beauty of God’s house touch and heal our fragmented psyches?
Susan Cushman has three published books and another coming out in 2018:
Author, Cherry Bomb, a novel (Dogwood Press, July 2017);
Editor, A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (Mercer University Press, March 2017);
Author, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s (eLectio Publishing, February 2017);
Editor, Southern Writers on Writing (University Press of Mississippi, 2018).
She also has essays published in four anthologies and numerous journals, magazines, and blogs. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Susan has lived in Memphis since 1988. She is a convert to Orthodox Christianity from the Presbyterian faith of her childhood.