On Friday, the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Most Rev Richard Moth, blessed two new icons, during a Mass in the church of St Michael's, Hayling Rise, High Salvington, Worthing. One depicts the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus and the other is of the Archangel St Michael.
The two icons were commissioned by the parish to celebrate 50 years since the church was built in 1965. One was obviously of St Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of the parish and the other of the Virgin Mary with Jesus as it reflects the important place in the faith of the Church of Jesus and his Mother.
The two icons were commissioned following the visit during a parish pilgrimage in 2015 to the Holy Land to the Bethlehem Icon Centre which is home to an Icon School and its Icon Workshop, and is based in Bethlehem, the city of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is dedicated to the renewal of iconography as a living part of the spiritual landscape of the Holy Land through a commitment to the highest standards of sacred liturgical art.
The Centre by restoring an essential element of their ancient culture seeks to renew the dwindling Christian population of the city and of the region. It is the only project of its kind in the Middle East.
During the Mass and blessing, Bishop Richard emphasized that "they are not just beautiful works of art but also works of prayer."
The ancient Christian understanding is that they are not only things of wonder and beauty but are a window into the divine life of God if we pray with them and through them.
Bishop Richard, Father Chris Ingle and the parish congregation were joined by Mr Ian Knowles who produced the two icons and is director of the Bethlehem Icon Centre. He was in the parish to finish them off by applying a final wax varnish to both Icons to protect them from damage.
The parish deacon, Rev Mark Woods said: "Thanks to the foresight of our parish priest Fr Chris Ingle and many parishioners we now have more amazing art in our church to nourish our souls and prayer life."
He continued, "It was appropriate that they should be blessed just before Holy Week as they help direct us in prayer to the God who became human like us, suffered and died for us but rose to new life at Easter that we might share in God's divine life which we glimpse here in these icons."
Anybody is welcome to visit the Icons when the church is open and to spend some time there in prayer and contemplation.
Diocese of Arundel & Brighton - www.dabnet.org
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