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Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Invites readers to pray with four Russian icons with their eyes open by emphasizing seeing or gazing, which are at the heart of Eastern spirituality. This book includes four color icons, which can be removed for private contemplation or meditation.
Paperback, 121 pages
Published September 15th 2007 by Ave Maria Press (first published 1986)
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Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Protestants have historically had a hard time with icons. They seem vaguely idolatrous. After all, people seem to spend time in prayer in front of them. That, of course, is an outsider's view. This is the book that will clarify why icons are such a valuable part of Orthodox tradition and spirituality. I couldn't possible say it as well as Henri does. They are not worship objects, but more like hallways to God. They allow you to focus your prayer and see beyond the world into God's presence. If y ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
this was a good meditation book for me. I could hold the image of the painting in my mind and come back to the devotion from time to time throughout the day.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Praying with icons is a new prayer practice for me, prompted by a spiritual practices e-course I'm taking from Spirituality and Practice ( Because I have always associated iconograpy with Eastern Orthodox churches, I didn't know where to start with this practice. In this book Henri Nouwen presents his meditations on four icons which followed numerous periods of prayer gazing at these icons. Full color photos of the icons are included for the reader to look upon w ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I use this as a part of my repetoire of devotionals. I like it, but I think because Icons are not something I am personally as familiar with, it is taking me a bit of effort to engage it. I'm committed, though! And, the illustrations are very wonderful and thus helpful. ...more
Angela Carlson
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Overall I still prefer Jim Forrest's Praying with Icons but I do love Henri Nouwen so this makes a fine compliment. ...more
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it
*3.5 stars*

I would have appreciated a book more of how to interpret icons, art history stuff instead of theological reflection, but still worth the read.
Scott Jeffries
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am a Texas boy raised in a Southern Baptist church. I work at a private Baptist college. The use of Icons in Christian worship or spiritual practice is not something that has ever been in my spiritual heritage. Yet, when I saw that Henri Nouwen had written a book on the use of Icons, I knew that I could trust his direction and guidance. His book, The Way of the Heart, was an excellent guide to solitude and silence. He takes deep spiritual practices with nuanced types of uses and presents them ...more
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Art history meets the Word of God.

In seeking refuge in a spiritual home, Nouwen met four Russian icons he came to venerate. The first icon was sitting on a table, waiting there for him as he entered his room. Even though they were not all of his own choosing, each of the four icons prompted him to write. He had a "deep urge", he felt "drawn to write." Sensory, primal and intellectual responses to these images caused his hands to move across a page of paper. He spoke words through his pen.

Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lovely little book. Nouwen gives meditations for 4 Russian icons and the pictures are included in color in the front. I've always been deeply attracted to icons, but had no idea that details so small could be so important or move me so greatly. Praying with each one was beautiful (despite the plainness of one especially), and I know this book will be a good guide in years to come.

I think people who are only beginning to pray may find it lacking in instruction, however. Though Nouwen gives a few
Evan Hays
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: devotional
Another excellent piece of work by Henri Nouwen. Very thoroughly researched, but more importantly devotedly and passionately written, this book is the best one I know of that is an introduction to icons. If you have ever been skeptical about icons, this book may not be for you to start with. For that, I would check out Frederica Matthews-Green's book on icons, which is crafted more for the beginner. Nouwen's book is more for people who already participate with icons and are looking to learn more ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I did not know of this book's existence until a few weeks ago. If you liked Nouwen's "The Return of the Prodigal Son," you will like this. He does four meditations on four Russian icons (really paintings). You'll never see those paintings the same way again. Nouwen opens our eyes to aspects of the art work and the spiritual truths it reveals.
The physical book is beautiful too. My copy has fold out, full color copies of the paintings in the front and back. It enables the reader to gaze at the ar
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Compact but loaded piece from Nouwen on the power of prayer and the icons. Best quotes, "in our concern to do it right, we have forgotten how to respond spontaneously to an encounter with the Divine" (p. 10, Robert Lentz in the forward); "{Icons are] painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within" (p. 32), and "we so much want to be looked at that we are ill prepared to be tr
David Corbet
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Henri Nouwen does it again this time with a thoughtful book on icons. This is one of those books you can return to again and again and always come away with new insights. Another great aspect of this book are the four color plates of the icons at the beginning of the book. His thoughtful commentary on the icons can only direct you back to gaze upon them yourself to search out your own way through them to the heart of God.
Mar 31, 2016 added it
Shelves: reread-books
Second or third time to read this classic "introduction" to icons and the practice of praying through and with the icons. A beautiful book on so many levels--not the least of which are the beautifully reproduced icons that Nouwen describes and helps me to pray through and with.

A perfect read for Holy Week.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
A nice introduction to icons and reflections by Fr. Henri.
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Two specific factors attracted me to this publication: it is written by Henri Nouwen (one of my favorite spiritual authors), and it is a guided reflection focused on four icons (and includes the four art works as fold-outs inside the front and back covers).

Nouwen has the admirable ability to present and discuss deep spiritual and theological truths in a simple, yet profound and thought-provoking, manner. His writing style (despite translation) flows easily while one must also at times stop, re-
Brook Louis
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Gaze intentionally toward an Icon and see its character, traits, and accents. But, be ever listening to what it says. This book will help you open your eyes and ears to the prayerful practice of iconography. It provides just enough historical background leaving enough room for spiritual or theological revelations. His examinations will leave you pondering internally as—while gazing into an icon—experiencing eternity.
Susan Henn
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
12/2019 Nouwen reveals ways icons have drawn him closer to God personally while describing the history of four famous icons. As an artist, I was eager to read about Nouwen's experiences with icons and hoped to possibly adopt some aspects of studying icons in my seeking to draw near to God. However, I could not read into the paintings the elements and emotions they were supposed to convey and don't know if further study could change that for me. ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fine book that provides a series of personal reflections by Fr. Nouwen on the basis of his prayerful observation of and engagement with four prominent icons within the Russian Orthodox iconographical tradition. A quick but meaningful read during Lent.
Jeremy Rios
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-life
Wonderful little book with printed icons you can fold-out and look at while reading. As with all things Nouwen, many of his interpretations may be idiosyncratic. But the book was still well worth reading, especially if you've got any basic interest in the practice of praying with icons. ...more
Karen Smith
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. I am not of the Catholic persuasion so I did not understand praying to the Virgin Mary. This book changed my view on that. I love gazing/praying at the art work from the 10th century and truly seeing the icon and not just the painting. Loved it
Nancy Moffett
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Good insight on into icons. Illustrations were all in black and white! Big colour icons would have added a lot
B Bevans
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lovely and inspiring. I really enjoyed these interesting insights into these four icons.
Paul Yanchek
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful devotional reflection allowing art to draw us to a deeper engagement in prayer.
Theresa Dowling
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Have my own copy and have given it often as a gift . Wonderful meditations.
Jan 17, 2012 rated it liked it
As an art lover and a person of faith, I enjoy this book. I was originally drawn to it for two reasons. One, it's Nouwen - and his words are always words of love, instruction, heart and reassurance. Secondly, it was intriguing to me to find of book written by a Catholic about matters having to do with the Eastern Orthodox church. Nouwen does not fail on either score. It is, perhaps to me, not as enjoyable as "Life of the Beloved" or "Prodigal Son" but it is well worth putting at your place of pr ...more
B.J. Richardson
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
I am still definitely an iconoclast but it was interesting to read the perspective from an author I respect a short devotional style look on how certain Icons can be used in prayer to draw us closer to God.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A guide to praying with icons

Nouwan opens up the world of iconography to a beginner interested in learning about the history and practice of praying with icons. Easy to follow. Kindle version offers beautiful digital images of the four icons for the reader on-the-go.
Chantelle Janelle
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
The symbolism is interesting. Still, I think icons are an acquired taste I haven't quite gotten yet. ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting views. I will look at Icons in a new way.
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of

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