From Object to Icon: The Struggle for Spiritual Vision in a Pornographic World

Andrew Williams: How I Met the Author

I “met” Andrew Williams 15 years ago, when he interviewed me for an assignment at Holy Cross Seminary, and again last December when he sent me this email, asking me to write a blurb for his upcoming book:

Hello Susan.
I have found this email address on your website, so I hope it is current. You may or may not remember that I wrote to you almost 15 years ago now (!) to ask for your assistance on a paper I was writing while I was at Holy Cross. That history is in the emails below.
This paper attracted some interest, though for the couple of years after finishing my MDiv I was working on a more general project of a theologically-based pastoral support for Orthodox Christians attempting to integrate any kind of difficulties relating to sexuality and intimacy into their lives ( has a little bit about this). This in turn led to an interview on Ancient Faith Radio, after which I was asked to do a series of podcasts. Failing to find a way of talking about sexuality in general for a mass audience, I found the pornography / iconography issue the best place to start with the podcasts, and finally produced a series in 2016 ( After this, AFR started to ask for a book, which I have finally written, based around the idea of masks and veils from one of my podcasts. The book is provisionally titled simply Iconography and Pornography and is just finishing the main editing process. It’s set to be released sometime spring-summer next year.
This process has all been rather slow as it has to take place in “spare” time against the backdrop of being a single parent of three now all teenagers and having a full-time job. We were in the US only for the 5 years at Holy Cross, after which we lived in France for a while, and then returned to England. I work back in Oxford as a chaplain mostly in a mental-health context (psychiatric inpatients including forensic, and community).
Anyway, starting to think about acknowledgements, etc. for the book, I returned to some of the things I had written earlier, and rediscovered my original questions and your responses. A quick internet search led me to your website, and thence to Amazon and your books. I downloaded Cherry Bomb and started reading it this evening as I had decided to allow myself an evening off after too many consecutive days without any breaks. (This is my idea of a break.) I am only about a quarter of the way through it, and have already been moved to tears twice. The second of these was when she finds the icon of St Mary of Egypt in the Catholic Church. In our church here in Oxford we have a smallish icon of St Mary of Egypt with St Zosimas just by one of the side doors out from the main part of the church into the narthex. It means that I can venerate this icon every time I pass, which is often.
I am only writing this to you now because having reread your responses and then starting to read your book, I wish I had taken the chance to continue the conversation almost 15 years ago.
With love in Christ,

From Object to Icon: The Struggle for Spiritual Vision in a Pornographic World

His newly published book has four parts:

Part I: Iconography and Pornography

Part II: Masks

Part III: Veils

Part IV Faces, which includes a chapter I especially love, “The Beautiful Face of St. Mary of Egypt” (my patron saint, who appears in my first novel, CHERRY BOMB).


Here is the blurb I wrote for the book. I’m adding it here because I don’t think you can enlarge the photos enough to read the blurbs there.

From Object to Icon is a treasury of spiritual medicine not only for those in the grips of addiction or attraction to pornography, but for every person who lives in a culture distorted by its power. Williams defines and explains the difference between icons and idols, veneration and and objectification, masks and veils, and shame and guilt, and he shows us how to see pornography in the light of iconography and to view the world as “an icon God draws in creation.” He fleshes out wisdom from earlier works by St. John of Damascus (On the Divine Images), St. John Climacus (The Ladder), Archimandrite Vasileios (Hymn of Entry), Fr. Pavel Florensky (Iconostasis), and others. I especially loved his chapter on St. Mary of Egypt–my patron sit and the object of my novel Cherry Bomb–whose life is dramatically changed when she turns her bodily and spiritual eyes on an icon of the Mother of God in Jerusalem. As we learn to allow our true selves to be seen and known through Confession and Communion, may we discover, as Williams says, that every person is an icon showing forth the image of God.

This is an important book, and rather than writing more about it here, I’m going to add photos of the blurbs in the front of the book, including those from Frederica Mathewes- Green, Timothy Patitsas, Fr. Stephen Muse, and mine. I hope you will be inspired to order copies from Ancient Faith Publishing.