Elizabeth Zelensky and Lela Gilbert, Windows to Heaven; Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004), 142 pp.
If you have ever worshipped at an Orthodox church, especially an older one, the aesthetic nature of the experience impresses one as so different from the Catholic and Protestant counterparts. Icons epitomize this Orthodox predilection for sight and sound, as opposed to written texts, as the vehicle of the Gospel. They are "theology in color." Icons are also one of the biggest points of contention between Orthodox and non-Orthodox believers. This little book combines Scripture, personal journaling, history, theology, art and liturgy to portray in a sympathetic way the nature and function of icons in Orthodoxy. The authors try to show how from an Orthodox perspective icons are not merely church art but a means of moving from the material to the spiritual world, and how such a movement can enrich the Christian lives of Protestants and Catholics. In between introductory and concluding chapters, the bulk of the book devotes one chapter each to five important Orthodox icons—Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity, the Vladimir Theotokos, Theophanes' Transfiguration of Christ, the Dormition of the Virgin, and the Sinai Pantocrator. This popular book is no substitute for the scholarly likes of Jaroslav Pelikan's Imago Dei: The Byzantine Apologia for Icons (1990) or Leonid Ouspensky's Theology of the Icon (1978), or for the short and very readable primary texts On Divine Images by John of Damascus (675–749) and On the Holy Icons by Theodore the Studite (759–826), but it is a welcome addition to the growing literature that introduces Protestants and Catholics to the Orthodox tradition in a non-polemical (if uncritical) manner.