I wanted to point to a wonderful post by Shawn Ragan and his experience with venerating the icons. You can read his entire post HERE:
This issue evoked mixed emotions in me as our family began exploring Eastern Orthodoxy. I didn’t consider this expression of honor to Christ, his Mother and the family of Saints as idolatry. In fact, I saw this form of reverence as worshipping Christ through the life of a particular Saint, thus expanding my worship of Christ. As Shawn affirms in his post, the lives of the Saints point to Christ, they don’t replace him.
My issue was that I’m a very private person. I had no problem with venerating the icons, but I was uncomfortable with such an intimate expression in front of a roomful of people. I struggled with a similar discomfort as a charismatic when I first began raising my hands during the worship.
But like Shawn’s children, my children embraced it very naturally. And it made me long to venerate the icons even more. So as we prepared to enter Holy Week, I made the decision to die to my personal discomfort and to do what my heart was craving to do. And while I felt nervous and awkward my first time, no one gawked or stared.
And so began a new dimension of worshipping Christ for me that I absolutely love. I love the icons. I love walking through the sanctuary when everyone has left, praying and venerating the icons of Saints who lived and died for Jesus in ways I cannot fathom. I look forward to learning about the lives of many of them and to be encouraged to live more faithfully for Christ.
These Saints are the people Jesus referred to when he said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” These are members of Jesus’ family. They are the ones who have become truly human in him. And every worship service is like a family reunion as we worship Christ together.
(The icon at the top of this post is the Theotokos of Vladimir.)