Here is an excellent article that I have in my personal file:
The Orthopraxis of Setting up an Icon Corner
By Sub-deacon James R. Davis
The Altar is to a church what an Icon Corner is to a home. The home is our domestic Church. The
father is the head (king) of that church, with his wife - the queen (as they were crowned in the Holy
Matrimony), and their children as their congregation. The parents have an important role to play in
leading their church. Their responsibility is to bring themselves and their children closer to God. They
are able to accomplish this by learning more about Him and living life as He would choose. It is also
their job to bless their children. They are to encourage their children to pray, fast, read about God
and the history of His people.
The children have also an important role in the domestic church. They should learn all the lessons that their parents teach them. They
can read the Sacred Scripture passages, light the candles, prepare and participate in the family prayer time.
The domestic church is the basic building block of the larger Church. It is the desire of the larger Church to strengthen the domestic
church because this is its foundation. The icon corner is a reminder of who we are and serves to provide us with a place to pray.
We are children of God. Just as we have photo albums full of pictures of family members, we should also have pictures of our God and the saints to remind us who we are and who we are to become. The icon corner also provides a place where the family can come together to pray. The family that prays together, stays together.
Each icon corner will be set up to reflect the family and their needs. An icon corner can be made up of a single icon or it could include any number of other items: additional icons, a cross, a Bible, a candle or lamp, Holy Water, Holy Oil, ruchnyk, parents’ wedding crowns (symbol of marriage commitment), prayer book, incense, prayer beads, etc.
Traditionally, the icon corner is placed in a corner, hence the name. Some like to have it placed on the East wall, for the same reasons our Churches usually face East, anticipating the second coming of Christ. The best room for the icon corner will depend on the family. You may want it in the kitchen, where the family gathers to eat. It may be in the living room or family room, where the family enjoys
each other’s company. The icon corner should be part of a family area.
As with every new form of prayer, we need guidance to get started. To begin, simply gather at the icon corner to say the usual morning and evening prayers. As you become accustomed to praying in this location, the prayers will develop into something that will uniquely suit the family. Scripture readings, petitions, thanksgiving, hymns, traditional and spontaneous prayers could all be included.
A beautiful way to start a new day, is to have a house devoted to Christ. Having just established an icon corner in the home, invite the parish priest to bless not only your home but also to bless the family Icon Corner. He may also have some additional prayer suggestions.
Every icon corner will be different in the kinds and number of icons present. It would be appropriate to have an icon of Jesus Christ or of the Mother of God, or both. Patron saints of each member of the family may be added. Icons of special feast days or any other icon that has significance to the family may be added.
We do not pray to or honour the icon itself. We look through the icon, like looking through a window. We pray to the person that is represented. Icons are not life like. They do not show the present reality of humanity, rather, they depict the reality of the person having been changed by sharing in God’s divine nature.
The shelf has a practical purpose. It is where we place the other items. It is the altar of our domestic church.
The cross is the symbol of the Resurrection of Christ. It is the sign of the victory over sin and death.
Bible is the Word of God. It should be left open on the shelf to let the Word of God pour out. It is important not just to leave the Bible in the corner. We should take it and read it . This is our opportunity to get to know our God better.
The candle shows us that God is the light of the world. The candle can be lit all the time or just during the time of prayer.
Holy Water is the water that was blessed at the Feast of Jordan (the Holy Theophany of Our Lord). The water can be drunk or sprinkled during time of illness or whenever blessings are needed.
The Holy Oil may also be used for an anointing during time of illness or when blessings are needed.
There is usually a ruchnyk (an embroided cloth) draped over the icon or cross. This is to show the honour and respect that we place on the icon. This could be the ruchnyk that was used for the parents’ wedding. The ruchnyk should be taken off during the Great and Holy Fast.
The crowns are a symbol of the consecration of the parents at their wedding. We use the crowns that were woven from myrtle as part of the wedding preparation. If there are no wedding crowns, include some other symbol of the wedding.
There could also be prayer books that the family uses during their prayer times.
Just as we use incense in church, we could also have incense present in the domestic church. We ask that our prayers rise like incense to our God.
A set of chotky (Jesus Prayer beads) may also be place on the shelf.
Article is courtesy of Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission 725 Ninth Avenue Southwest Moosejaw Canada website:www.holytrinity.orthodoxmission.org
I hope that this helps.