Is it Necessary to Bless Icons?
by Orthodox Witness on November 23, 2012
Concerning the Seventh Holy and Ecumenical Synod, 787 AD
from The Rudder, compiled by St. Nicodemus, p. 419 – 420
It is not necessary to anoint the holy icons with myron (or chrism oil), or to have them sanctified by the bishop with special prayers:
1) because we do not adore the holy icons because they are anointed or have had prayers said over them, but irrespectively, as soon as we lay eyes on a holy icon, without pausing to examine into the possibility of its having been anointed or having had a special prayer said over it, we at once proceed to pay adoration to it both on account of the name of the Saint and on account of the likeness it bears to the original. That is why in Act 6 of the present Council, the Council of the iconomachs [iconoclasts] in the reign of Copronymus disparaged the holy icons by asserting that the name of the pictures neither has any sacred prayer sanctifying it, in order that from what is common it might be transferred to what is holy, but that, on the contrary, it (sc. the picture) remains common and dishonorable (i.e., not entitled to honor), just as the painter made it. To these allegations the holy Seventh Council replied through Deacon Epiphanius, by asserting that it did not say that any special prayer is said over the icons, but said that like many other sacred objects they were incapable of receiving (benefit from) any special prayer, but, on the contrary from their very name they are replete with grace and sanctity,[pullquote]...like many other sacred objects they were incapable of receiving (benefit from) any special prayer, but, on the contrary from their very name they are replete with grace and sanctity...[/pullquote] in the same way that the shape of the vivifying Cross is, which is entitled to veneration and adoration among us in spite of the fact that it is made without having any special prayer said over it, and we believe that with its shape alone we acquire sanctity, and with the adoration which we pay to it, and the marking of it upon our forehead, and the seal of it which is made in the air with the finger (note that in days of yore the sign of the Cross was not made with three fingers, as it is today, but with one finger alone, which fact is stated by St. Chrysostom in one of his discourses; and see concerning this the Footnote to e. XCI of Basil) in the hope of chasing away the demons. Likewise, in the same way that we have many sacred vessels, and kiss and embrace them fondly, and hope to receive sanctity from them, in spite of the fact that they have not had any special prayers said over them, so and in like manner by fondly kissing and embracing and paying honorary adoration to a holy icon that has not had special prayers said over it we partake of sanctity, and are anagogically lifted up and carried back to the honor of the original through the name of the icon. But if the iconomachs cannot assert that the sacred vessels are dishonorable and common because of their not having had any special prayers said over them for the purpose of sanctifying them, but are just as the weaver, the painter, and the goldsmith finished them, yet they regard them as holy and precious; in the same way they ought to regard the venerable icons as holy and precious and sacred even though they have not had any special prayers said over them to sanctify them (p. 844 of vol. II of the Conciliar Records).
2) The holy icons do not need any special prayer or any application of myron (or chrism), because, according to Dositheus (p. 658 of the Dodecabiblus) it is only the Papists (or Roman Catholics) that perpetrate the iniquity of qualifying pictures with certain prayers and devotions. For they boast that the Pope manufactures pictures from pure wax, holy oil, and water of sanctification, and that he reads marvelous prayers over them, and that because of these special features these pictures perform miracles (just as they lyingly state that Leo III sent such a picture to King Charles of France, and he reverenced it; [pullquote]Do you see that the prayer which is read over holy pictures is a Papal affair, and not Orthodox...[/pullquote] and that Pope Urban sent another picture to John Paleologus, and this one was honored with a litany in the Church). Do you see that the prayer which is read over holy pictures is a Papal affair, and not Orthodox; and that it is a modern affair and not an ancient one? For this reason no such prayer can be found anywhere in the ancient manuscript Euchologia [church prayers]. In fact, we have noticed that this prayer is not even found in Euchologia printed only a hundred years ago!
3) It becomes evident that holy icons do not need any special prayer or application of myron (i.e., holy oil), because the pictures painted on the walls of churches, and in their naves and in their aisles, and in general in streets and on doors, and on the sacred vessels, are never anointed with myron and never any special prayer said over them, and yet, in spite of this, adoration is paid to them relatively and honorarily by all on account of the likeness they bear to the originals. That is why the erudite Bishop of Campania Sir Theophilus the Saint did not conceal this truth, but stated in the book which he has just recently produced that the holy icons do not need any anointing with myron nor the saying of any special prayer by a bishop.