In this time of Eucharistic fast, it is helpful to remember the ways that Christ is present to His Church. He is not only in the Eucharistic species, not only in the gathered assembly, not only in the person of the priest, but also in the sacred Word. Because Jesus is “the Word made flesh,” he is the Word made visible, and so He is the dynamic of God present in concrete, sacramental ways. In the Eastern tradition as well as the West, we have a history of sacred images making the Word of God visible. These sacred images help us remember the presence of God. In a time when so many of us do not have access to Christ in the Eucharist, we can take comfort in the encounter with Christ the Word, both in Sacred Scripture, but also in his sacred image.
Sacred images come in different kinds. Liturgical images serve to amplify the action of liturgy, to make visible the invisible elements of what is happening. Devotional images serve to help us deepen our personal prayer, either at church or in our own homes. Catechetical images serve to teach the stories and truths of the faith. Whether in the form of statues, icons, stained glass windows, or other media, the sacred image is meant to draw us closer to God in prayer.
While many of us are spending more time at home, physically apart from the worshiping community, it may be helpful to create a prayer space with sacred images, Scripture, and perhaps a candle. In the presence of these sacramentals, we are reminded that we are in the presence of Jesus. The face of Christ visible in a devotional image helps provide focus to prayer when our minds are racing elsewhere. Prayer with Scripture allows Christ the Word to enter our hearts, even if we cannot presently receive him under the sign of consecrated bread and wine, or gather as his People. Let us embrace this opportunity for the domestic church to flourish!