Praying With Eyes Wide Open
What many Catholics may not know is that Our Mother of Perpetual Help is an icon and comes to us from the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church. The Greek word for icon originally meant an image of a person, especially a royal person, that was painted or made of mosaic. Over time, however, icon came to refer to the sacred images of Christ, Mary, and the saints used in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, as well as for prayer and devotion in the homes of its members.
Until recently, with the exception of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, it was unusual to see icons in Catholic churches and those of other Christian denominations such as Episcopalian and Lutheran. But today it is common for Western Christians to see icons of the Holy Trinity, Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints in their churches and to have them in their homes. Even so, icons remain somewhat of a mystery to most Christians of the Western Church.
So is there a difference between an icon and the other religious statues and pictures that are more common in Catholic and other Christian churches? The answer is yes. In fact, there are three main differences between icons and the religious art of the Western Church: the purpose of icons, the way icons are made, and most important, how they are used in prayer and worship.