Inside the Domestic Church Part 7: The Icon Corner

In our tradition, we are blessed with a visual representation of the reality that our home is a domestic church. One of the fundamental parts of our domestic church is the prayer corner or icon corner, which helps designate where the prayers of our households take place.


It is the custom for the icon corner to be located where the family may face East while praying, and there the family may place icons of Christ, the Theotokos, a cross, and the various patron saints of the family members, as well as if one chooses a saint who serves as the patron saint of the household itself. The icon corner can also contain a shelf or small table where the cross, Scripture, and a small incense burner are placed, as well as containers of holy oil, holy water, and other blessed items. Whether you are assembling an icon corner for the first time or adorning it with inherited items passed down generation to generation, the icon corner can be a beautiful testament to the faith in your home.


Some may prefer hand-painted icons, which can be bought through commission from an iconographer or found already for sale, while for a relatively inexpensive icon corner it might be more useful to use printed or reproduced icons, either copying an existing icon or even a photograph of an icon laminated to a wooden board. It doesn’t matter, ultimately, whether one has a reproduction or an original, as all are efficacious for our prayer lives and can serve as a means of surrounding oneself with holy imagery.


Because icons are sacramental, we may keep candles or oil lamps burning before them, especially during prayer. Original icons will be designed in such a way as to reflect the light of the lamps. Just as with the icons themselves, these lamps can be tailored to the aesthetics and budget of the home; popular options include hanging lamps or glass holders beneath the icons, and these can be oil (a wick suspended in oil), votive candles, tapered beeswax candles, etc.


Burning incense at prayer time is also a customary practice, and can be obtained inexpensively along with charcoal and incense (charcoal should be self-lighting). There are various incense scents available from a variety of vendors, and if one finds a particular scent unpleasant, overbearing, or lingering, feel free to experiment with different styles of incense until you find one which suits your purpose. Many retailers offer cheap “sample size” boxes of incense which enables you to not commit to an entire box before you try burning it.



It is also customary to stand during prayer in the Eastern Churches. Generally, kneeling is only done as a sign of repentance, and sitting during prayer would be considered to be a sign of equality with God, which of course we would never claim! However, remember to be practical: if a member of the family is physically incapable of standing for long periods, or if any of these practices become a distraction from one’s prayer life, it is better to focus on the spirit of the prayer than the letter.

Consider emphasizing the importance of the icon corner and centrality of God in our lives by announcing family news, good or bad, in front of the icon corner and praying there before major life events, like graduations, weddings, births, etc. even outside of normal liturgical worship.

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Saint George
Melkite Greek Catholic Church

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Birmingham, AL 35205

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