In any Orthodox Church, we are surrounded by icons of the saints. These saints are described in Christ’s parable of the sower as the “good soil” on which when the seed, the Word of God, “grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As Jesus teaches, the saints “are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”
Here is the full Gospel parable as Jesus taught it in Luke 8:5-15:
“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” A s he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
So, if the saints are the ones upon whom the Word of God comes and they bear fruit from that Word, where does that leave us who are in the church between the icons? Are we simply the paths in this garden which are trampled upon and because of our hardness, the seed can’t take root but is taken from us? Or are we the rocky soil or the weed infested ground?
We are what St. Paul says in today’s Epistle: We are “the temple of the living God.” God lives in us and walks with us, not upon us. We are made of the same soil as the saints and are to produce the same good fruits. The saints are not made up of some substance different from us – they are taken from the same earth out of which we all are taken. We all are to be saints, we all are icons of God.
In Genesis 1:26-27, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
The word “image” is the word “icon” in Greek. We each and all are made as icons of God. God is the first iconographer. God made us each to be a living icon of Him!
Our task is to live so that we are icons of God, visible to any who want to see. We are to be living icons of God. The icons on our church walls are not meant to be lifeless caricatures of legendary heroes. They are real people, like you and I who lived the Gospel life and who continue to remain alive in Christ.
We are not meant to be the fruitless soil between the icons on the wall but we are to be the Church, the Body of Christ. We are each to become icons showing the light of Christ in our lives. We are to live so that God’s Word can interact with us and bear fruit for God. We are to live so that we understand icons of saints are real people, they are us and we are to be them.
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 6:16-7:1)