The Clearing – Lent 2024

The Invitation

In this season of Lent, we are pleased to invite you to share in “The Icon Through Western Eyes” written by Russell Hart, founder of the Center for Spiritual Formation. In this eight week series a selected icon, excerpted audio passage, accompanying scripture, and reflection will be featured.  Listen to the author as he brings to us a creative expression in understanding the Word in a visual context. 

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Week 1 – The Baptism

Author’s Statement:
The Icon Through Western Eyes


Listen to the author’s statement:

Russell Hart

The Eastern Orthodox tradition is not, and never was a quaint ethnic ghetto, but a tradition of such antiquity and grandeur that today, many Christians in the West, searching for spiritual nourishment undiluted by sentimentality and trendy accommodation to prevailing tastes, find compelling.  If the divine-human encounter is to occur at all, it must be at the initiative of the Divine.  Every gathering of Christians, and every person’s personal “devotional moment” is a potential time of meeting, but it all depends upon the initiative of God.

As a weekend artist, forty years ago I became interested in Eastern Orthodox iconography, but discovered in the midst of a debilitating illness that icons reveal a healing presence.  After my healing, I became determined to become an iconographer myself.  As a United Methodist pastor, my prior faith had been largely cognitive.  But if the Word proclaimed is a means whereby God communicates with the faithful, I have come to believe that this same Word is encountered in the icon.

To “write” an icon is to present the Word in visual form.  While the icon preserves the physical peculiarities of the person depicted, it shows—not the earthly countenance as does a portrait, but his or her glorified, eternal face.  An excessively thin nose, a small mouth and large eyes—these convey the inner state of a person whose senses are being refined i.e., transfigured through grace.  Although light becomes the background, the iconographer depicts the divine light of the Kingdom of God which casts no shadow.  The halo is an external expression of the transfigured state of humankind—it depicts a state of grace which defies representation.

The icon may have something to say to us, but more important, it may have something to show us.  It was with this idea in mind that I wrote The Icon Through Western Eyes, Templegate Publishers, © 1991  ISBN 0-87243-186-X

Biographical Sketch
Russell M. Hart

Russell has been a ministerial member of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church for over fifty years, having served parishes in Three Springs, Altoona, Harrisburg and Red Lion, PA. In 1995 he became Center Director of The Center for Spiritual Formation, retiring in 2017.

He received a PhB from the University of North Dakota in 1966, an MDiv from Wesley Theological Seminary in 1970, and a DMin from United Theological Seminary in 1979. In 1984 he received a call to become an iconographer and in 1991 received instruction at l’Ecole Russe de St. Georges in Meudon, France. His publications include The Icon Through Western Eyes (1990, Templegate Publications), Crossing The Border: An Introduction To The Practice of Christian Mysticism (1993, Templegate Publications), Communing With The Saints (1994, Templegate Publications), Reclaiming Your Calling; A Guide For Managers In The Health & Human Service Field, (2012, an Open Minds Publications), The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation (2003, Upper Room Booka, contributor) and A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God (2003, Upper Room Books, contributor). In 2019, Russell received the Bishop D. Frederick Wertz Award for Outstanding Service to the Church. As Center Director Emeritus, Russell continues his ministry as a retreat leader and presenter with the Center’s on-line Ministry of Spiritual Direction Program.

Download “The Icon Through Western Eyes”

The Icon Through Western Eyes by Russell M. Hart

You can read the book in its entirety and share in the beauty of the icons. A suggested contribution of $20 to the Center for Spiritual Formation as a donation to the Center is appreciated.  Thank you for being a part of the Center’s work in teaching, leading, and sharing as spiritual companions, seeking to be the still quiet voice of the Spirit in our world.