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Pictures of God

An interview with Conciliar Press author John Skinas about his journey to writing Pictures of God: A Child's Guide to Understanding Icons


What first interested you in writing a book on icons for children?

Actually, I never planned to write a book about icons; the idea just popped into my head one day so I grabbed a pen and the nearest piece of paper and started scribbling out the first version of the text. Writing is usually more challenging, but the words came with less difficulty for this book. And I had a great time learning more about iconography--its history and meaning. I have to admit, the research aspect of this project--looking through books and the Internet--was surprisingly enjoyable. It's fun being a student!

In your experience in working with young people, how can the knowledge of icons help them in their spiritual journeys?

Icons are reminders of God's presence. It's hard to rush by an icon without at least shooting a short prayer into heaven or making the sign of the cross. Also, the book refers to icons as "God's life-preservers" since during rough times, when we're in over our heads, we hold onto our icons for dear life. They're physical proof of God's existence, of His incarnation, and of His love for us.

Do you have a favorite icon in Pictures of God that personally speaks to you?

I have two. The Pantocrator because His face is so kind and inviting, like He's saying: "fly up to me." Even though He's bigger and more powerful than the stars, He's gentle and loving, and He wants us to be with Him.

The other icon I like is the one with the saints of America. It shows that not all saints are from distant places and times. Orthodoxy is alive in its fullness here and now.

What are you hoping parents and young children will gain from reading Pictures of God?

First, I want them to see that icons are not idols. They're a means of communicating with God, Who became one of us. Icons are a celebration of the incarnation. Secondly--and this is something that I really need to work on myself--I hope the book helps children (and their parents) see Christ in absolutely everyone. It's not so easy to see God in a homeless person or a terrorist or even our next door neighbor, but He's definitely there.

Anything else?

Glory to God for all things--especially children, the icons of innocence.

Photo by Suzanne Mendieta-Skinas