In the Orthodox tradition, an icon is a picture that serves as a window to see God and an opportunity to open that window to receive something from God. Reading can work the same way: we read a devotional book or study the Bible, and the experience can be transactional. We expect to see something of God and receive something from God.
But what about secular reading? What about Aristotle or Sun Zu or Machiavelli? I encourage my students to consider this radical idea: any book can be read icon-ically. That is, as we read, study, ponder, and learn, we can do so in expectation of two things:
first, that as we read, we will see something of God. God’s nature, God’s creation, the effects of sin on God’s world, the heart of God for all people, a word of God especially for me.
and second, as we read, God will offer something to me. A hope, a dream, an insight, a rebuke, an expansion, a mission.
That is, reading any text, any text at all, can be approached in eager expectation that we will encounter the Living God. That we will look through the page to see something of God. That God will reach back through the page, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to encounter us.