Today, I accidentally knocked an icon of the Nativity off of the nail it was hanging from. The wood it was mounted on chipped a bit at the corner and left a scar, though not on the icon itself. This is similar to what has happened when I have accidentally damaged other icons. The icon itself is intact, but there are still scars on the surface of the wood.
I find that I'm instinctively very sad when I cause even superficial damage to the mounting of an icon. I realize that the mounting is not an icon itself, and that icons are images of the Saints who are images of Christ; it is not as if, even if I dropped an icon of Christ, I had somehow done any real harm to Christ or the Saints. And yet I don't want to damage even superficially these pieces of wood upon which these icons are mounted.
I want to help make it whole again. I began to wonder at this profound movement of my heart at the sight of a scarred icon, at the sight of it fallen to the floor. Does my heart move with compassion so profoundly at the sight of the scars on the bodies of my least brothers and sisters? Does my heart move me with a strong desire to help them heal when I see they have fallen spiritually?
When I was younger, the answer to that question was often, "No." I didn't generally have a heart for the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable. When the bodies of others were scarred, I was rarely moved to truly understand their suffering. And without that understanding, I wasn't prompted to seek their healing, to help make them whole again.
As I've grown older, I find that my heart is moved with compassion much more frequently, probably because I understand suffering much more clearly. I know more deeply what it is to fall, to be scarred as a result, and to need help in becoming whole.
I understand now that I am an icon of Love Himself, my soul having been made in the image and likeness of God. And that all of my brothers and sisters of the human race are also icons of Love; they are each an imago dei worthy of the utmost respect and love.
In that moment when they fall and are scarred as a result, I should always have compassion on them, for I am also a scarred icon of the living God. We are all scarred icons of the living God, our constant falling into sin chipping away at the perfect beauty of the imago dei which is intended for us to have, which we finally have in finding holiness.
Christ came down in His divine compassion to offer us the chance to be made whole again by His help. He was scarred quite badly, the Icon of Love, Himself falling under the weight of the cross which He asked us to take up after Him. He too was mounted on wood and held up with nails, the ultimate example of a scarred icon.
It is by His scars that we are healed; His hands, feet, side, and head were all pierced violently. He loved us unto death, even death on the cross. The wounds were all healed at the Resurrection, and yet the profound scars remained. We who are also icons of the living God retain our scars even after we have been healed. Christ has shown us that it is not the scars which detract from divine beauty.
It is the gaping wounds, left unhealed because of our pride that keeps us from seeking the help of the divine physician, that lessen the beauty of Love in us. But when we seek the divine physician, He will help us to heal with the medicine of discipline and the cauterization of confession. Though the scars remain, the wounds will not fester and cause further harm.
As we show the same compassion to others which Christ showed to us, helping them to heal their wounds after a fall, we gradually love to death our attachments to our own wounds, allowing Christ to heal us as well through our participation in the sufferings of others as we follow Him who participated in all our sufferings so that we might be healed.
He wants us to be healed because of His great compassion; Christ knows what it is to be a wounded and scarred icon, and reaches out to help make us whole again. We may be scarred icons, just as He is, but our scars which are the signs of healed wounds make us yet more clear and beautiful icons of the living God.
Note: The above is a picture of an icon of St. Basil the Great which I accidentally dropped and which was subsequently scarred.