I finally finished our new icon corner. The two things in a house that a man should make himself, even if he makes nothing else, are the front door and a proper bright corner. A bright corner is a special place for prayer for the family. It is called the bright corner because it faces the rising sun and because it is where the icons are. Icons are windows to heaven, hence “bright”. It is either in a corner or along a wall, if possible toward the East. As Orthodox Christians, we face East to pray, because Christ was called the Sun of Righteousness in Malachi 4:2. We orient (face East) toward the rising sun as we anticipate Christ’s second coming in glory.
The bright corner is where morning, noon and evening prayers are said. There are many variations on the bright corner. Ours is not to be taken as typical or normative, but it works for us. Our bright corner is in the East corner of our den. There is a Cross on the wall near the corner. To its left is an icon of the Theotokos. To its right is an icon of Christ. This is the same basic arrangement as the iconostasis at church. This immediately connects us to church. Next to the Theotokos is an icon of the Conception of the Theotokos showing Ss. Joachim and Ann embracing. My wife, Bethann, has St. Ann for her patron. To the right Christ is the Epitaphios, because St. Joseph of Arimathea is my patron and it was the Burial Service and Lamentation Matins that really converted everyone in our family. Around this central cluster are arranged, in no particular order, icons of the patron Saints of our children, grandchildren, godparents, parents, godchildren, a couple of good friends, nieces, great nieces & great nephews. Some icons do double or triple duty as multiple people share the same patron. We chose to do it this way so our bright corner forms a very visual, permanent prayer list. As we see each person’s patron Saint we are reminded to pray for him or her and ask for their Saint’s intercession as well.
A vigil lamp is hanging from the ceiling, in front of the Cross and the icons of Christ and the Theotokos. This is to honor them. It also calls us to prayer. Our lamp was made by Nick Papas. The icon of St. Nicholas is on our wall as it his his patron and one of Fr. Bonifaces’s patrons, as well.
What I just made, was the cabinet below the icons and lamp. It is made of no VOC melamine from recycled materials, no VOC wheatstraw board, locally harvested and milled poplar bead board and stone tile. This was my first attempt at stone tile installation. Some of the tiles are partly upended. This is to form a plate rail to hold festal icons and prayer cards. The back boards are engraved with daylilies. I took a photograph of one of our daylily blooms and my neighbor and I used his Shopbot to carve it into these boards. There are open spaces around the daylily medallions so we can use 12 Gospels ribbons to tie palms and willows to the icon corner during Great Week.
I chose the daylily motif, because it is especially meaningful to us. This is an excerpt from an entry that I wrote on shoutforjoy.net:
Daylilies are amazing. They put forth a beautiful bloom and it is gone in a day, only to be replaced the next day with another glorious bloom. Jesus told us to consider the lilies of the field in order to encourage us to have faith in God’s provision for us. This in turn is to encourage us to share what God blessed us with today with others, knowing that God will have new blessings for us tomorrow.
To be reminded of this as we say our daily prayers is encouraging.
On top of the icon corner are a candlestick, an incense burner, a prayer book, a box containing charcoal and matches. In the top compartment of the cabinet is a box of incense, a lighter, a New Testament, a Festal Menaion (hymns and prayers for the 12 major feasts), a service book and a supply of wicks for the oil lamp. We burn incense in our home as this also calls us to prayer. Incense is present in every prophetic vision of Heaven and was used in the Tabernacle and the Temple and has always been used in the Church. It is always associated with prayer. Using all of our senses in worship and prayer helps us to focus on eternal priorities.
The lower shelves of the cabinet holds other spiritual books and festal icons.
Of course, it does not matter how beautiful or well appointed a bright corner is, if no one stands before it to pray. Lord, teach us to pray!