In the small room that doubles as my study and chapel, I have more than thirty icons of varying sizes. Each of these icons has a very specific meaning for me.
There is the icon of Our Lord healing the blind man, there the icon of St. Thomas placing his hand in the wound. There is the holy women St. Mary of Egypt, and there the saint for whom I am named, Kevin of Glendalough.
Some I bought, some were given to me as gifts for different occasions: ordination as a deacon, birthdays, and Christmas. All teach me or remind me of what it means to live as a Christian.
When I choose an icon for myself, I am drawn to a particular saint or a scene from Our Lord’s life. When I choose for others, I seek to match their interests or needs.
Icons make excellent Christmas gifts. They are not necessarily expensive if you purchase reproductions, yet even reproductions are beautiful and lasting. If you choose well, the icon will have great personal and spiritual meaning for the recipient.
Some icons, such as the Nativity of Our Lord, can help you keep the focus on the holiness of this day and make an excellent addition to your home at Christmas.
A great selection of icons at a variety of prices is readily available online. Here are the four best sites that I have found.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery
You can find one of the best selections of icons at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts, which offers more than 500 icons of Our Lord, the Holy Theotokos, the saints, and feast days.
Well-made, practical, and striking, each of the icons the monastery offers can be purchased in a range of sizes and at prices from as little as $2.00 and as much as $595.00. The standard icon is 8×10, mounted on wood, at a cost of $30.00. Choose the mounted on wood icons over the laminated. The extra expense is worth it.
Legacy Icons offers hundreds of exceptional icons from Greek, Russian, Byzantine, Catholic, and Western Rite traditions that are unique and distinctive. Because they are hand-crafted, Legacy icons generally take longer to ship than those from the other companies listed here. Legacy also offers items readily available for shipping, including Christmas items.
What makes Legacy’s icons unique is that they are printed on canvas and then mounted on thick wooden boards. Choose the beeswax finish for a more beautiful and lasting icon. Prices of icons range, for example, from as little as $16.00 for a 3×3 sized image of Christ Calling Andrew and Peter to $162.00 for an 18×18 sized icon.
Mount Tabor Studios
Mount Tabor Studios also offers a unique selection of icons, but its selection comes from three special collections.
The Holy Transfiguration Collection features the work of contemporary iconographers Fr. Damian Higgins and Raymond Vincent and consists of more than thirty vivid icons ranging in price from $12.00 for a reproduction and up to $800.00 for an original. In addition to traditional images of Our Lord, the Theotokos, and saints such as St. Anthony the Great, the collection offers non-traditional images such as those of Divine Mercy and St. Therese of Lisieux.
The St. Elias Collection offers more than forty icons from a renowned Ukrainian Catholic Church. This collection is distinguished by its scenes from Our Lord’s life, particularly those of The Wedding at Cana, The Samaritan Woman at the Well, The Women in the House of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus Saves Peter, Feeding of the Five Thousand, and The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda.
The Fr. Thomas Loya collection consists of some eighty items ranging from magnets featuring his icons to icons you can hang, some as little as $5.00 others $44.00. Fr. Loya is pastor of a Byzantine Catholic Parish in Illinois and host “Light of the East” radio program. His depictions of the four evangelists are especially captivating, as is his image of Christ in the desert.
For the Christmas season, Mount Tabor is offering a Byzantine Nativity Set for $130.00, which comes with a free nativity ornament if you purchase it by December 17. The ornament can be purchased separately for $8.00.
St. Isaac of Syria Skete
St. Isaac of Syria Skete, like Holy Transfiguration in Brookline, is distinguished by its excellent selection of icons of Our Lord, the Theotokos, Saints, Prophets, and feasts. You can also purchase special Russian icons.
St. Isaac of Syria offers both laminated prints and mounted icons. Buy the mounted icons. Prices for the mounted icons range, for example, from $11.00 to $250.00. While I generally choose icons in the 8×10 range, I also have found that St. Isaac Syria does an exceptional job with smaller icons.
Besides icons, each of these companies offers other devotional items well worth considering as Christmas gifts, or any time you’re looking for a special gift.