Every Sunday, feastday and other holy day, when we go into our parish temple, we see the heart of the parish which is the sanctuary, where the Holy Table is. When we go into an Orthodox home, we hope to see the heart of the family, which is the icon corner.
Just like the sanctuary is the heart of the parish church, the icon corner is the heart of the family church. In the parish church, the parish family prays together before the sanctuary and the iconostas; in the family church, the family prays together before the icon corner.
What is an icon corner? An icon corner is a shelf or table or cabinet, where icons are placed and where a lamp is kept burning. Many people have icons of Jesus Christ, the Theotokos and icons of the patron saints of the family members. There are many ways to set up the icons and the important thing is just to do it. The icon corner doesn't have to be a corner, it can be a wall or other place in the house where the family can go to pray. It is best if the icon corner faces the east, to remind us of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Besides the icons and the lamp, it is traditional for pious Orthodox people to keep a Bible and prayer book, holy water, and blessed bread from church. Many people also have holy oil, the palms or willows from Palm Sunday, and other holy things from the services of the church year. The icon corner can be very simple or very fancy but the main thing is that the icon corner is not just a decoration for the house but that it is the heart of the family and that the family uses it. In many pious Orthodox homes, the icon corner is arranged so that it can actually be used for celebrating the Divine Liturgy, if the priest needs to do this. This reminds us of the history of our Orthodox Faith and that we must always be ready for times when the churches suffer from those who are not believers.
If you do not have an icon corner, ask your priest to help you start one in your home. Members of the family can use it at any time. If you are not able to read the prayers from the prayer book because there is not enough time, then, at least go to the icon corner and ask for God's blessing before beginning whatever it is that you are doing.
Try to begin each day by going to the icon corner and reading the prayers from the prayer book for the morning, take some, holy bread and holy water. In this way, you are getting God's blessing for the new day. If you cannot read the prayers for some reason, still go to the icon corner, make the sign of the cross and take the holy bread and holy water, still asking God to bless the new day.
You will see that the icon corner makes a big difference in your home. When you see the lamp burning, you will remember that God is always near and that the saints are always praying for your family. When you use the icon corner every day, you will see that God is kept close to your heart and mind and this will help you to be closer to Him and His Orthodox Faith.
-From Father John's Sunday Bulletin