Non-Orthodox people blame us for worshipping idols. No, it is not idolization. Through the image we are looking at, we establish contact with the original image, with something spiritual and Divine. An icon is a conductor which has blessed power, as we get a response through it, and God’s grace is shown through it. And this is very important and sacred for us, because icons are the heritage of the Orthodox Church. Without any doubt, an icon is a sacred item for Orthodox Christians, just like the cross and the Holy Gospel. This is why we venerate icons.
An icon is a window to another world. For example, when you are at home you look in the window and thus you are trying to establish contact with what you see outside, with the world around. And this connection is most pleasant when you can see the trees, the gardens, or, perhaps, the forests, the fields, a beautiful dawn. Or you can open your window and hear the sounds of birds and grasshoppers…
The same can be said about icons. An icon is a window to the spiritual world, to the Kingdom of Heaven, which we cannot conceive yet. While praying you are establishing contact with God, with the Mother of God, with the saints, and this connection is not unilateral. They all respond to us through the icons. Otherwise, there would be no miraculous icons in this world. This is the grace of the Lord – God helps us and consoles us though the icon.
By the way, do you know how the first image appeared? It happened with the coming of the Savior. The Lord Himself gave us the first icon. According to tradition, when Christ washed his face, someone gave him a towel. He wiped his face, and its print miraculously appeared on the towel, which is called the Image Not-made-by-hands. So, we can say, it was the first icon of the New Testament.
It is difficult to imagine our spiritual life without icons. You come, prepare for prayer, tired of problems after a hard working day, and it can be really difficult to concentrate and pray to God. But when you look at the icon, a miraculous power affects you, and it is much easier to get it up for prayer.