• Constantina Alexander

Inner light

Moses removing his sandals by the burning bush

Images within icons are not executed in the same way as more contemporary art techniques. For one, the source of light comes from within the figure or object. An inner light, uncreated light. What does that mean?

I am not an expert in Hesychasm and the theories of uncreated light but in my meandering, small way during many vigils at my desk writing icons I have experienced little glimpses of this phenomenon. Each one different from the others giving me a tantalising insight into the mysteries of Heaven.

Triptych of St Rumbold, Buckingham

The first time was after spending a full day working on some background scenery for an icon of St Rumbold for St Peter and St Paul's church in Buckingham. I went out for a walk and as I looked at all the trees and shrubs I was overwhelmed by this glowing light that seemed to pour out of the leaves. The only comparison I have are the times when the Sun is just setting and for a brief moment those longer wavelengths of light give this almost rosy glow to the world, especially if there is a large, low cloud reflecting the light. Yet even that is not quite an adequate comparison. There was a vibrancy and energy I could perceive in this inner light. It lasted for a few minutes and filled me with complete joy.

Madonna and child

Sometimes after working on the face of Christ or Mary I begin to see their features in the faces of ordinary people as I walk down the street. A light under the eyes or the way a shadow plays on the brow. This sense of a holy pattern within the human form; so strong it connects me with the whole of humanity for a moment and a feeling of great compassion for all. Again it is an experience of the Divine and comes unbidden and unlooked for. If there is any reason to work with icons this is more than enough of an excuse! But it is not just working with icons, it is working on all aspects of one's life according to this pattern of Christ within. It could be writing icons or studying mechanics, the inner beauty is there to be found if one is persistent, diligent and open enough to be shown the secrets one searches for. Often finding something unexpected comes, even so.

Now what about dear Moses above? Regard his garments and how the light emanates from the fabric as if his clothes are on fire too. It reminds me of the Transfiguration when Christ's clothes turned white for a moment. The burning bush experience was a turning point for Moses, one of many, I think, and he was commanded to remove his sandals as he was on holy ground. He is certainly looking a bit dubious as to what is going to happen next. But the power of God was a keystone in his life it burned before him night and day during the Exodus, shrouded him with cloud on Mount Sinai; enveloping his being, giving him strength and guidance. What an awesome time it must have been.

The little illuminations I receive from my work whether it is with icons or study or Bible reading show me that I am also on and Exodus and my life in this world is just a temporary journey on the way to the Promised Land. If these illuminary indications are anything to go by, it is an awesome place. Light and love abound.

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