Iconography and Icons
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty
and your faith is also empty. (St. Paul the Apostle)
At the centre of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ and His Resurrection from the dead. As such, the Icon of the Resurrection is the most celebrated, the most common, the most cherished, the most instructive.
It is all of these things because the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection is not content with simply showing us the Risen Christ, or the empty tomb; the Victory shown in the Icon of the Resurrection is complete.
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life! (Paschal Hymn)
Jesus Christ was not content with laying in the tomb for three days after His crucifixion. Instead, while His body was entombed, Christ’s soul descended into Hades, or Hell. Christ descended there not to suffer, but to fight, and free the souls trapped there. Just as bringing a light into darkness causes the darkness to disappear, the Source of all Life descending into the abode of the dead resulted in Jesus’ victory over death, and not death’s victory over Jesus. This is the full reality of what Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished.
In the Icon, Jesus Christ stands victoriously in the centre. Robed in Heavenly white, He is surrounded by a mandorla of star-studded light, representing the Glory of God. Christ is shown dramatically pulling Adam, the first man, from the tomb. Eve is to Christ’s left, hands held out in supplication, also waiting for Jesus to act. This humble surrender to Jesus is all Adam and Eve need to do, and all they are able to do. Christ does the rest, which is why He is pulling Adam from the tomb by the wrist, and not the hand.
Surrounding the victorious Christ are John the Baptist and the Old Testament Righteous (Abel is shown as the young shepherd-boy). Those who predeceased Christ’s crucifixion descended to Hades, where they patiently waited the coming of their Messiah. Now they are freed from this underworld, and mingle freely with Christ and His angels.
And what of this underworld, Hades? It is shown in the aftershock of Christ’s descent into its heart – in utter chaos.
This event, known as the Harrowing of Hades, was taught from the very beginning of the Church. St. Melito of Sardis (died ca 180) in Homily on the Passion; Tertullian in A Treatise on the Soul, 55, Hippolytus in Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ , Origen in Against Celsus, 2:43, and, later, St. Ambrose (died 397) all wrote of the Harrowing of Hell.
“Harrow” comes from the Old English word used to describe the ploughing of a field with a cultivator which is dragged roughly over the ground, churning it up. In the icon, Christ is shown with the instrument of His death plunged deep into Hades. Beneath Christ’s feet – which still carry the marks of His crucifixion – lay the gates of Hades, smashed wide open. Often they are shown laying in the shape of the Cross. Therefore, just as the hymns proclaim, so too does the Icon: Christ has trampled death by death.
Within the dark underworld are scattered broken chains and locks; and at the very bottom is the personified Hades, prostrate and bound. Hades is not destroyed – it is still there – but its power to bind people is gone. There are no chains, no locked doors. If only we raise our hands in supplication and longing for Jesus Christ, He is there to lift us from the grave.
Thou didst descend into the tomb, O Immortal,
Thou didst destroy the power of death!
In victory didst Thou arise, O Christ God,
…bestowing resurrection to the fallen. (Paschal Kontakion)
- Photos from the Feast of Holy Pascha in St. Elisab...
- 20 Koliva Images, Designs and Patterns
- What is a Radonitsa?
- A Look at the Symbolism of Orthodox Vestments
- Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Orthodox C...
- The Consecration of the Memorial Cross in St. Elis...
- From Heart to Heart Festival coming to Dublin in M...
- Bright Friday and the Icon of the Life Giving Spri...
- The Historical Development of Holy Week Services I...
- Video Monologue: Reading the Psalter
- Excerpts from Sermons: God’s love is always over u...
- Pascha or Easter or Both?
- Iconographic Analysis: the Icon of Victory over De...
- Keeping the Joy of Resurrection for the Entire Chu...
- The Holy Scripture as explained by St. John of Kro...
- The Date of Holy Pascha
- The Orthodox Dogma of Redemption
- The Meaning of the Great and Holy Friday
- What Christ Accomplished on the Cross
- Monologue: A Christian approach towards death
- Last Supper, Mystical Supper or Secret Supper?
- From Heart to Heart Festival coming to London in M...
- The Great and Holy Thursday: Establishing the perf...
- Key Facts and Ideas about Orthodox Tradition
- The Seven Seals in the Book of Revelations
- Photo Blog: Palm Sunday in St. Elisabeth Convent
- A Lenten Commentary on Humor, Laughter, and Frivol...
- Liturgical Theology of the Holy Week
- The Holy Week as a way to be with Christ
- How to pray using the service books without a prie...
- Your short guide to the first 3 days of The Passio...
- As the Great and Holy Week Approaches
- The Rising of Lazarus as a Symbol of Our Future Re...
- 3 most important historical events on the Feast da...
- Analyzing the iconography of the Annunciation
- The Secret Mysteries of the Annunciation
- The Theatre of Simple Hearted Actors
- At the End of Great Lent and Looking Forward
- When the Church apologized...
- The History of the Clouded Mount Icon of the Mothe...
- We Need to Feel our Falsehood before God
- The Church: How we should view and treat the House...
- The difficulties a convert faces in approaching Or...
- Good Deeds Stories: An American Parish
- The Church Needs Canonists
- Personal Stories: Making Christ the center of our ...
- Does Religion Need Culture?
- St. Mary of Egypt and Moral Progress
- ▼ April (48)
- ► 2016 (336)