Can you give some advice on what is the proper way to treat an icon? (believe it or not it was not covered in my catechumen classes) I have 3 icons so far, one my priest gave me a year ago, and 2 more i bought for the Lenten season. I only currently have space for about 1-2 icons at a time, during Lent I kept up an icon of the Theotokos of the Passion, after Lent I put up Christ Pantocrator. How should these icons be stored when not in use?
There are plenty here that have more experience and could improve on my "Icon Treatment 101", but the tradition I've received is:
- Never set them so they face down (such as on a table). Practical reasons notwithstanding, like if you need to work on the back of the icon for some reason (for mounting, etc.)
-When you carry them, do so that they face outward, holding them underneath with both hands (kind of like cradling a baby). [EDIT: This would obviously be awkward for an icon on paper and unframed. Hold it respectfully on either side, and do your best to not have your hands/fingers over the actual image of the saint depicted. Actually, it's a good rule to try to not cover an icon. There are some exceptions to this (e.g., at a vigil service for the glorification of a saint, the newly-comissioned icon is laid on the central analogion and covered with a cloth until the magnification...IIRC).]
-Never clean them with chemicals. The most traditional method is with natural rose water.
-There is nothing wrong with storing them, just do so respectfully. Face them outward in a cabinet if you can. If not, it's okay to stack them in a box or something. Put a piece of fabric in-between them so they do not scratch each other.
-When handling an icon (for any reason), kiss it. This is usually done right after one picks up the icon or right before one sets it down.
-When disposing of an icon (indeed, any holy item), burn it respectfully, either on its own or with other holy objects until they are completely ashed. Then, bury the ashes in a small hole where they will not likely be walked upon. Many parishes will keep a bin for "holy trash" that will be periodically emptied and disposed of properly.
I'm sure there's a lot more out there...but these are the basic traditional practices that I have been taught.