Presentation on iconography prelude to iconostasis conservation project
After the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, February 19, 2017, Father John Matusiak gave a comprehensive presentation on iconography in preparation for our parish's impending project by which our historic iconostasis icons will be conserved and restored to their original beauty. The six main icons on the iconostasis are the work of the late Matushka Tamara Elchaninov of Paris. They were commissioned for the parish in the mid-1950s during the pastorate of the late Father Vladimir Borichevsky. The remaining eleven iconostasis icons, as well as over a dozen smaller icons that adorn the church walls, are the work of her daughter, Matushka Maria Elchaninov-Struve, and were commissioned after our present church was constructed in the 1960s, during the early days of Father John Kuchta's pastorate.
Father John M. explained that iconography is a liturgical, rather than decorative, art that is intimately connected with the Church's liturgical worship. Icons are not portraits; that is, they do not attempt to depict realistically or accurately how someone looks, as would a portrait or photograph. Rather, icons are "windows into heaven," depicting Christ, His blessed Mother, and the saints in their glory and holiness in the Kingdom of God. Our icons -- probably the largest collection of Elchaninov and Struve icons in a single parish church in the United States -- represent the return to traditional iconographic form after some 200 years of western influence in part initiated by the reforms of Emperor Peter the Great of Russia in the 1700s. As such, they are a living link between our parish and the broader historical development and return to traditional iconography that began in the late 1800s. Over the years, due to a variety of climatic and other conditions, our icons began to deteriorate, crack and discolor. Rather than discard them or replace them with newer icons, our parish elected to restore them as a part of our history, as well as the broader history of iconography in America and beyond they represent.