For a few hundred years, the Eastern Orthodox church, and some of the Early Medieval West, produced these beautiful works of art called Icons. In the discipline of iconography, almost everything within the image has a symbolic aspect. Icons are drawn in this flat style as part of the discipline of the medium— to remind us that these paintings hold no spiritual significance on their own aside from inviting us into the mystery they represent. They’re not supposed to look “real” because they point to a reality beyond our own — the two-dimensional style serves to remove earthly perspective. Time, too, is distorted to show sequential events simultaneously. Both of these phenomena help us realize we are not looking at temporal realities, but spiritual ones.
The scriptures tell us that Jesus is the "image (Icon) of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together". —Colossians 1:15-17. This means, among a host of other things, that the life and teachings of Jesus are an invitation into the mystery of life-with-God. And incorporated in that mystery is the incredible truth that we ourselves are what the ancient Hebrews called b’tzelem elohim — created in the image and likeness of God.
This truth, like all truths, can be either believed or dismissed by any of us. But I am becoming convinced that it really is all true — that the more we dwell on the purity of Jesus’ life, the more we feel the invitation to join that life, to image it, to become icons of the reality it represents — God-with-us, life-with-God. And the more we dwell on the presence and activity of God in our lives and the world around us, the more we find the nature and character of God being formed within us.