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Praying with Icons Paperback – June 1, 2008

5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Recent years have seen a marked increase in the popular and ecumenical appeal of icons (for centuries an integral feature of Orthodox Christianity). Jim Forest's Praying With Icons offers a simple introduction to the tradition of icons with special emphasis on their practical function in the spiritual life. Beautifully illustrated both with color plans and b/w photography, Praying With Icons begins with a history of iconography. Icons are not simply illustrations or "art" in the usual sense, but aids to prayer and contemplation, windows on the divine. Forest also provides a personal and practical guide to how one prays with icons. Forest then concludes with a series of meditative reflections on some of the most typical icons, including the Annunciation, the Nativity, Christ's Baptism, the Transfiguration, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, representations of Mary, the trinity, and the Saints. Praying With Icons is a superlative introduction to icons and is highly recommended for readers seeking to expand their spiritual experience to encompass the entire Christian spiritual legacy. --Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Jim Forest served for twelve years as General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. A popular speaker and writer his books include Living with Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton,The Ladder of the Beatitudes, Confession, and The Wormwood File. He lives in Alkmaar, the Netherlands --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books; Rev Exp edition (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570757585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570757587
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Prayer...the light that leads us down the narrow path into the quiet place where we come into the presence of the Holy One. Prayer...descending with the mind into the heart and listening for that still, soft voice. Prayer...the language that we must use in developing our love relationship with the Savior. Jim Forest's book, Praying With Icons, talks a lot about icons and the art of iconography, but it is mostly about prayer.
I stumbled into this book. The library I use most often has very few books in its "religion and philosophy" section. I have read most of them. This book has kept staring at me from the shelves. I did not pick it up because I thought of it as an "art" book. You see, although I come from a family of artists, I am not one of them-you might say I have an art "allergy". However, this book has been persistent. Every time I have gone to the library...there it is on the shelf (especially since it has only been checked out three times in the three years it has called the library home-me being number three). I am glad I finally caved and read it.
I am in many ways ignorant of the traditions of the Orthodox Church. One of the great things about this book is Mr. Forest's ability to put Orthodox concepts and traditions into very understandable terms. He begins the book with a short history of icons. He then briefly outlines the qualities of icons, what it takes to be an iconographer, and ends Part I with a very brief but fascinating discussion of the use of color in iconography. The section on color really intrigued me. Each color represents some spiritual quality-for instance: "Blues are associated with heaven, mystery, and the mystical life", while "Red, the color of blood, suggests life, vitality, and beauty".
In Part II Forest discusses prayer.
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I read Jim Forest's _Praying with Icons_ a few years ago when it first appeared. I just finished re-reading it, and am even more impressed this time around. Anyone familiar with Forest's other books knows how comfortably fluid his style is, and how insightful his ideas are. Both of these qualities make this the single best introduction to icons I know.

To my mind, there are three different but interrelated aspects of this book that are especially worth noting.

The first is Forest's argument that "beauty bears witness to God," and that in depicting holy things beautifully, icons enhance our relationship with the Divine. This is a point well worth considering. Too often, I fear, beauty in the context of worship is either dismissed as irrelevant (all that matters is the word), venerated for its own sake (high church preciousness), or overdone and distractingly gaudy. But Forest reminds us that the beauty of icons is intended to aid in the transfiguration of those who pray before them. Icons are images of the wholeness of God, and they convey and impart some of that wholeness to us through their beauty. It takes a great deal of artistry to manifest that kind of beauty.

The second point worth noting is Forest's observation that the writing/painting of an icon is in itself an act of worship and service, entered into reverently and prayerfully. There are traditions that dictate how the wood is prepared, how the colors are selected, what they represent, and so on. The care and love with which icons are made is a good reminder that all work with God's creation is, or ought to be, mindful and reverential. The fruits of all our mental and physical labor are, in one manner of speaking, iconic.
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Format: Paperback
Jim Forest, author of several books and a member of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and other reconciliation and peace programs, has written a masterful work on icons and prayer. There is much in the political realm where Mr. Forest and I disagree, but putting differences aside, his book here is a wonderful work.
His introduction page, about him and his wife receiving a rare and beautiful icon of Mary and their reverence in opening it grabs the faithful reader immediately. One wants to discover what makes icons so special. As an Orthodox Christian, I found his opening statements to be reverent and exciting. He brilliantly gives a concise but needed history on icons since many people have no idea why there are icons. He writes about how icons are a "transmission of Christian tradition and faith" and how they are "an aid to worship." The reader will further learn how icons are made, the prayer of the iconographer and the importance of icons in the life of the Christian faith.
The pictures in the book of various icons are a great aid and are intertwined nicely in the text (some color and some black and white photos). A great buy for any Christian and in particular the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faithful.
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By A Customer on June 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
For someone just getting into Orthodoxy, this book has been priceless. Icons are very special in Orthodoxy, and I felt it essential to know more about them. There are wonderful pictures of icons, windows into heaven. So captivating! Although there is sufficient information on icons, the books focuses on prayer of The Orthodox using icons. A great addition to any Orthodox or Christian library!
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