The Icon Corner or Home Altar


My Home Altar

The Home Altar or Icon Corner is a venerable tradition in Christianity.  The Eastern Orthodox claim it dates from the 1st century (which of their practices, doesn’t?).  Personally, I find that having a space set aside for prayer and devotion to be useful for my own discipline; even so, getting myself to consistently use it is always an inner struggle.  I’ve decided to show all of you this holy place to inspire and challenge you to make a space of your own in which to pray, and meditate on the mysteries and goodness of God.

Per tradition my Icon Corner faces East (toward Jerusalem).  Here’s a list of items from top to bottom:

1. Icon of Resurrection of Christ, or the Harrowing of Hell (which is it?  Nerd fight.)  It is traditional to have an Icon of Christ above all others to signify Christ’s Lordship above all others.  See picture below for detail.

2. An Icon of Christ Pantocrator, handwritten on Mt. Athos (according to the little plaque on the back), which came to me in a thrift store–those pagans had it lying in a junk bin with baseball gloves and crayons, priced at  $.99!

3. A Crucifix from Kenya, which reminds me to pray for my sisters and brothers on the African continent.  Besides an Icon of Christ, a crucifix is probably the next most essential item for an Icon Corner.

4. A palm leaf tied into a cross from Palm Sunday 2010 (tucked behind the crucifix).  Hopefully, I’ll remember to burn it on Shrove Tuesday 2011.

5. An Icon of the Wedding at Cana, handwritten by an Orthodox iconographer from Minnesota, and given to my wife and I as a wedding present by the illustrious Dr. J. Davenport.  See detail in picture below.

6. An Icon of Christ the Word creating the heavenly beings, and an Icon of Christ the Word creating the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.  Along with the Resurrection Icon above, these were gifted to me by my brother-in-law and fellow contributor, Mr. Shawn Wamsley M.A., M.Div. (or do they go the other way around?  Nerd fight.)

7. A votive candle and censer.  Both were from thrift stores.  I have not used the censer.  I keep meaning to order some frankincense, but have yet to do so.  A perpetually burning oil lamp is traditional in Eastern Orthodox Icon Corners.  I’m a little nervous about starting a fire with one, personally.

8. I almost forgot the ordo kalendar on the wall level (more or less) with the crucifix, which shows all Episcopal fasts, feasts and saints days.

9. Back down on the blue table is my Book of Common Prayer/ Bible.

10. A set of Anglican prayer beads and a (barely visible) Jerusalem Cross pendant.

11. The table features a storage drawer for matches and stuff and shelf below filled with books of a (mostly) devotional or liturgical nature.  It was also a gift from a dear friend who was getting rid of it.



  1. A most excellent set up. I’m pretty sure it is the Resurrection by the way. And I love the two of the Word creating: Is it a diptych?


  2. Maybe I should get a St. George Icon. I’m sort of a believer in the theory that you don’t intentionally get Icons, but that Icons come to you. I actually really want one of St. Francis.


  3. I try to say the Daily Office, but I don’t do a very good job of being consistent with it. It is a wonderful thing, though.

    Why don’t you have an Icon of St. George, George?


  4. James:

    Not that anyone asked me, but I tried praying The Daily Office using first BCP and then a Lutheran prayer book. I found it hard going in that both assumed–or seemed to me to assume–that one was praying in community. It’s hard to pray in community alone. Then again, maybe I just didn’t know what I was doing.

    I have one Christos icon,, which I adore artistically, not liturgically, and two St. Georges. Last time I was in Bethlehem, I looked at an antique Russian St. George, but it was too expensive and didn’t match my wife’s decorating sensibilities.



  5. George,

    I just wanted, again, to say that I think you are representative of the “ideal Pentecostal.” One question, though, why not adore the Christos icon liturgically (not that I make a practice of such worship myself, just wondering)?


  6. George,

    At first it wigged me out also that the BCP assumes the Daily Office to be done in community, I thought maybe I wasn’t “allowed” to pray it alone, but according to my priest plenty of people pray it privately (including himself), I think you just adapt the wording as necessary.

    About the icons, good for you! You aren’t the only A/G person I know who has some.


    No, the cross does not have INBI, IHS, or IHC on it anywhere. Does that disqualify it from being called a crucifix?

    Someday I intend on buying or building(?) a Prie Dieu, but right now I just kneel on the floor or on a pillow in front of my little blue table.


  7. Typically I say the Office by myself more often than with others, however it is my belief that I never really say it ‘alone’.

    The other Brothers of my community are saying it, other Christians around the world are saying it, and other Christians throughout time have said it. We are all joining our prayers in a vast cloud of incense, rising before the Throne throughout time and space.

    While you may be the only one present in a particular spot, you never – ever say it ‘alone’.


    † Aperi, Domine, os meum ad benedicendum nomen sanctum
    † Open thou, O Lord, my mouth to bless thy holy Name


  8. Thank you for sharing yours. How very interesting. (For the record – If ever I wasn’t a Christian I’d probably he Hindu…Shiva is super interesting)


  9. I’m with Tony, on that one. Actually, if I ever lost my faith, and decided to be “religious” anyway – I would stage a resurgence of the Greek Pantheon. That is super interesting to me for many of the same reasons.


  10. Sure, Shiva kicks ass, but if there is the slightest chance of broadening your faith (remember, you don’t have to “lose” it), you should explore being a devotee on the honorable Shinto Tanuki-sama. His huge testicles should be a sure sign of the wondrous gifts he has in store for you.


  11. Brother James,

    Thanks for your excellent reminder about the DO never said alone. BTW, thanks for visiting our blog, I am personally flattered to hear from an Episcopal monk.


  12. Wow, I am definitely impressed. I may have to give some thought to creating such an area of my own. I’m definitely going to keep a watch on you guys from now on. Coming from a Pentecostal background myself, and now considering myself more sacramental, its interesting how many of us out there there really are…


  13. Josh,

    Welcome and thanks for stopping by. I heartily encourage you to start putting together your own icon corner! It is truly amazing how many pentecostal gone sacramental people there are out there. We need a support group or something. When I have more time (I have to go to work now) I am going to engage in the blog post that your name links to. Have a wonderful day!


  14. Why don’t you go all the way and become Orthodox? THere are plenty of options for seekers who genuinely hunger for the living stream of apostolic witness in the west and when you drink from its deep waters you will never thirst for anything else – O Taste and See….


  15. OK, cannot type or proof read! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your personal prayer space. I was looking for a later post — has the corner changed over time? Have you added/changed anything? Often prayer corners “evolve” with use and life changes. It’s been fours years so I was curious. Btw, just my two cents, one icon I thought should be there is one of the Theotokos (Mary with the child Jesus) or one of the Incarnation/Annunciation (the Beginning).


  16. James,
    Thank you for sharing your altar. I really appreciated the thought that went into the placement of each item. I want to do this someday.
    I pray the daily office, too. And I like the comment that we never truly pray alone. Amen.


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