I am so very blessed! I have spent all of clean week at an icon workshop, and wanted to share my experience. This is the second workshop I have had the opportunity to take (the first was taught by Susan), and the timing for this one could not have been more appropriate. Learning to paint/write an icon is such an amazing and humbling experience. There is a closeness to God that I cannot describe, and an overwhelming sense of unworthiness as I attempt to allow Him to work through me. The workshop was from 8:30-4:30 each day, then I attended clean week services each night, so I feel as if I have been immersed in the life of the church in such an amazing way this week. We finished today (though my icon still lacks a few finishing details before blessing), and how appropriate to leave the workshop this afternoon and go to the Akathist to the Theotokos whose image I have gazed upon all week. Even more exciting is the thought of having my newly finished icon in time for Sunday of Orthodoxy, the time when the Orthodox church celebrates the defeat of the iconoclasts and the reaffirmation of the place of icons in the church. I cannot tell you the love I feel right now for the holy Theotokos, and the amazing beauty of this icon - one of the few that depicts any emotion. The prototype is The Virgin of the Passion, and it is the image of Mary, pointing Christ towards His path - the angel on the right holds the cross and nails, the angel on the left holds the spear that will pierce His side, and the sponge and vinegar offered to Him at the cross. The Christ child grasps His mother's thumb in a moment of anxiousness, and the face of the Theotokos shows her sadness in knowing she will some day have to let go of Him and witness her Son sacrificed for the world. As a mother, my heart aches for her, and as a sinner, my heart thanks and praises her for her strength and willingness to answer God's call, to bear, raise, and witness the death of her precious Son, the Son of God, that we may live through his glorious resurrection!