When illumination occurs, it is the heart, the eye, of our souls, or as some call it the “eye of the heart,’ that is reopened to see the inner principles – logoi – of things, including spiritual realities. The heart of the soul, the nous, is also the place in which God our Father descends to live with His presence when He so desires. This in-dwelling by the Father in the reopened heart of our souls is the coming of the Kingdom (Mt 6:10) referred to in the Lord’s Prayer. It is also both the second Pentecost and the beginning of deification as traditionally understood in the Christian East.
Illumination is the product of divine grace. It is granted not because we deserve it, but out of the sheer beneficence of the Almighty Father. However, multiple ways exist of accepting grace so the heart of our souls can be cleansed and reopened. One way is through hesychia (Palamas, 1983). Another way is through the Octave of Purification and Consecration to God the Father (Theological Commission, 2010). Yet another way is by venerating holy icons:
“If we expose ourselves long enough and with even a little openness . . . [they] can open in the devout viewer this long closed ‘eye of the heart'” (Hart, 2012, p. 56).
This is one reason (but not the primary reason, that being the worship of proskynesis) why the Father desires to be venerated through icons, not paintings.
- Hart, A. (2012). Designing icons. In Techniques of icon and wall painting (p. 56). Leominster, UK: Gracewing Publishers.
- Palamas, G. (1983). The triads in defense of the holy hesychasts. NY: Paulist Press.
- Theological Commission. (2010). God our Father: Consecration and feast day for the Father of all mankind. Pittsburgh, PA: Saint Andrew’s Productions.