"Thou, thyself, O Lord, art the fulfilment and completion of all good things. Fill my soul with joy and gladness, for Thou alone art the Lover of all creatures." You see, that's the beginning of the prayer we say when we finish an icon. It's joy that's emphasized. There is joy in the very act of iconography itself. It's a creative act. But there's even more joy than that to the process. There's the joy of spreading icons in the world. There's the joy of giving the saint the possibility to shine through his icon. There's the joy of being in union with the saint whose face you are painting. I am painting St. Anthony as a joyful act of thanksgiving for finding my keys for me.

See, you are living with that shed door pulled shut. Open it, my daughter. Open it to the daylight. You must invite creativity and joy back in your life. Think of each day as if you are painting an icon. Before we paint, we make the sign of the cross and pray in silence to pardon our enemies. Then we work with care on every detail as if we are working in front of the Divine. During work, we pray to strengthen ourselves physically and spiritually. We avoid all unnecessary words, work in silence, and pray to the saint we're painting so that he or she might be close to us. When we choose a color, we stretch out our hands and ask for guidance and counsel. We are not jealous of our neighbors' work. If they succeed, we succeed. When we are finished with our paintings, we thank God for the grace that we received to accomplish our work. And then we give our work away. We light a candle, we say a prayer in front of the icon, we kiss the icon, then we give it up to others to enjoy.

Mary Swander, The Desert Pilgrim