An Icon as a Profile Picture: Is It Blasphemy or Not?

Question: Can I use an icon as my profile picture? Is it blasphemy or not?

Answer: An icon is a sacred image. It is by means of the icon that, according to the dogmatic definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, “the homage paid to the image ascends to the prototype”. In other words, an icon is something through which we can show our veneration and our love for God or the saints. Therefore, the attitude to such sacred images must also be reverent.

Using icons as profile pictures is very similar to the practice in the Byzantine Church — which was one of the reasons for the iconoclastic movement — when icons were depicted on the garments of rich noblemen of the Byzantine Empire. Such usage of icons is not marked by reverence for them, but rather, so to speak, by their being “fashionable”. Actually, lack of reverence for sacred objects is blasphemy.

Therefore, it is possible to draw a parallel between the extremes of ancient attitudes to icons and their current use as profile pictures. An icon must serve a specific purpose. As some Church authors have pointed out with great clarity, it is a window to the spiritual world. The icon is meant to help a person to get ready for prayer, and if we do not realize it, if we set holy icons as our profile pictures or, for example, as our desktop and mobile phone wallpapers, then we demonstrate our ignorance and disrespect for the sacred image.

Translated by the Catalogue of Good Deeds
Source: https://pravlife.org/ru/content/mozhno-li-razmeshchat-ikony-na-avatarkah-ne-koshchunstvo-li-eto

About the author

The Editor of the Catalog of Good Deeds.

Comments

  1. I genuinely do not agree with this. Is it better to have our own pictures in our vanity? Is it truly being sacrilegious to have an icon on your profile picture when it can be used as an outward display of your faith? I feel the author, despite his authority as an associate professor, is genuinely making a huge stretch and especially on the last paragraph: “The icon is meant to help a person to get ready for prayer, and if we do not realize it, if we set holy icons as our profile pictures or, for example, as our desktop and mobile phone wallpapers, then we demonstrate our ignorance and disrespect for the sacred image.”

    So are we wrong to keep icons of our Patron Saint, of Christ, or of the Theotokos in our wallets? Is it wrong to carry with us reminders of our faith, possibly even attracting someone to ask us about who it is if they see it? This screams pharisaical and judaizing, as if the purpose of the icons on our profiles, or even more so on our phone or desktop wallpaper are meant to show off when in reality, everyone who has one usually keeps it as a reminder of their faith, and not just a mere fashion as if we outwardly display it like clothes.

    I genuinely think the author, though well intentioned, is completely wrong and lifting icons away from their purpose: as interactive windows to the heavenly realm.

  2. John J.—but in using an image of an icon to represent you on social media, you are substituting yourself for it. You are saying it is you. Are you comfortable with that?

    1. Dear Philip!
      We are so sorry! Our designer found this icon on Pinterest and made a featured image with it. We are sure, she did not mean something bad. Though we will change it as soon as it disturbs you.
      Sorry again. God bless!

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