From the first centuries of Christianity, icons have been used for prayer. Orthodox Tradition tells us, for example, of the existence of an icon of the Christ during his lifetime, the [[Image Not-made-by-hands|Icon-Not-Made-With-Hands]], and of the [[icons of the Theotokos]] immediately after him written by the All-laudable [[Apostle Luke|Apostle and Evangelist Luke]].
Egyptian death masks=== Historically, the icon is thought to be a descendant of the Egyptian death masks that were painted on mummies wrapped in strips of glue and powered gypsum soaked linen. This led to the traditional icon painting technique of gluing linen on a board, gessoing it, and painting on it. The Christian icon also inherited the cultic task of the ritual mask and exalted this task. The task that revealed the deified spirit of the deceased resting in eternity. The spiritual essence of the old Cult was transfigured into a new cultural image manifesting itself more perfectly than the old.
Unlike the mask, the Christian icon is not part of a mummy or sarcophagus, it does not need to connect to a saint's body. No matter where on earth the saint's remains are , and no matter the physical condition, his resurrected and deified body lives in eternity, and the icon that shows him forth does not merely depict the holy witness but is the very witness. It is not the icon, as art, that tells us anything, it is the saint, through the icon that is teaching. This window, to the resurrected, breaks when the icon itself is separated by the observer, from the saint it depicts. At that moment the icon just becomes another thing of this world. The vital connection between heaven and earth disintegrates.