We behold ‘the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror’ (2 Cor 3.18); the truth of God is arrayed in glory because the Lord is the Truth, ‘clothed with majesty and honour.’ And when he shows the light of his countenance, the heart of the creature responds with a hymn of praise to his kingdom, his power and his glory. God ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4.6). He gives the heart the capacity to recognize glory, and also to reflect it: the Church sings, ‘The faces of thy saints are radiant with thy light.’
The icon is another hymn of praise, bathed in glory and singing in a way of its own. True beauty has no need of proofs; it is itself evidence that argues iconographically for divine Truth. The intelligible content of the icons is doctrinal, so it is not the icon, the work of art, that is beautiful, but the truth. An icon cannot always be ‘pretty’; it demands spiritual maturity to recognize its beauty.
The attribute of glory is light. The halos around the subjects of icons are not the distinctive signs of sainthood, but the radiance of their luminosity. For the saints, the statement, ‘you are the light of the world,’ actually defines their nature. The truth of every being speaks by the purity with which it reflects the light; every created thing has the marvellous grace to be the face, the mirror of the uncreated. Such a pitch of inspiration is possible only through the spiritual gifts of the ‘holy iconographers’, by which art is elevated to sacred art. The vision of the iconographers depends on the faith that is the ‘conviction of things not seen’ (Heb. 11.1). They experiment with the invisible aspect, the ‘interior form’ of the being, and this inner reality is ‘Taboric’, spiritually illuminated. There is never a source of light in an icon, light is its subject, you do not illuminate the sun. We can say that the iconographer paints with Taboric light. It is significant that the painting of the Transfiguration is usually the first icon of every monk iconographer, so that Christ ‘may make his light to shine in his heart.’ A manuscript of Mount Athos enjoins, ‘let him pray with tears, so that God will penetrate his soul. Let him go to the priest, who will pray over him and recite the hymn of the Transfiguration.’ The rules of the Councils recommend ‘working with the fear of God, for it is a divine art.’