Skip to comments.The Resurrection Icon: The Central Icon of our Faith [Cath-Orth]
Posted on 04/25/2011 6:47:00 PM PDT by annalex
The Icon for the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is technically the Icon of Christs Descent into Hades, but is commonly called the Anastasis or Resurrection Icon. It is the visual Gospel, the Holy Scripture written in form and picture, for all to participate in the Good News of this event.
The Icon of Christs Descent into Hades is not a photojournalists recording of what took place in the bowels of the earth, but rather a spiritual representation of the significance, reality and importance of what Christ accomplished. Many of the elements that we see come from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and although the details vary from icon to icon, the essential elements remain the same:
· We read from The Acts of Pilate, from the text of Nicodemus The bronze gates were broken in pieces and the bars of iron were snapped; and all the dead who were bound were loosed from their chains, and we with them. And the King of Glory entered like a man, and all the dark places of Hades were illumined... Christ is shown standing on the gates of Hades which are suspended over a black hole in the form of a cross. Hades is depicted as a person, conquered and bound.
· Sometimes Satan is depicted with two heads to show his multiplicity and lack of integration or personhood. The hardware that held the gates in place is shattered and scattered, showing that the gates will never be closed again.
· Christ is dressed in a garment of white, orange or sometimes even dark hews of blue, or brown, but with gold highlights emanating light from His transfigured body, showing that He is the Light of the world. His cape flies to show that He is not ascending, going up, but actually descending into Hades, and having resurrected He is shown in His glory. This is signified by the blue Mandola behind Him, which we also see in the Transfiguration and in the icon of the Koimoiseis or Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary.
· He is raising Adam from his tomb with Eve on the other side. Adam offers his hand to Christ rather than clasping Christs hand to show that it is Christ who raises us from the dead. With His other hand, Christ raises Eve from her tomb, or He may be depicted holding a scroll in His hand, in order to proclaim the Good News to the captives. Sometimes He is shown holding a cross in His hand, the tool by which He broke apart the gates of Hell.
· Christs hands and feet show the marks of the nails, as is the case in the Icon of the Touching of Thomas, but which is not true of the Icon of the Ascension. Sometimes angels are shown above the mandola, (also known as the glory orb), holding the tools of salvation: the cross, the lance and the sponge. These are elements that also appear in The Icon of The Extreme Humility of Christ.
· There are many figures surrounding Christ. On the left side in this icon we have 1) the kings David and Solomon who are Christs relatives, according to the flesh; 2) St. John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament Prophets is also present, proclaiming in Hades as he did in this world Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Some say that John died before Christ so that he could be the Forerunner even in Hades; 3) Moses is also shown, wearing a Phrygian cap, he represents the first covenant and one who witnessed the first Passover; 4) and Abel, the first to suffer injustice as the consequences of sin; 5) In the background are various kings, prophets, and righteous men who immediately recognize the Risen One.
· On the right side we have the contemporaries of Christ showing us that this is an eternal act that transcends time and space.
This is the quintessential icon for the Orthodox faithful because in it is the fulfillment of Gods purpose for humanity. It speaks of the Restoration of Adam (and all humanity) into communion with God and tells of the Awesome Victory over Death.
Christ is Risen!
Truly, He is risen!
I’ve got to ask what are the rocks or split mountains in the background representing.
Probably just that Israel is mountainous. Most of the "Festal" icons I have seen feature the craggy mountains in the background. ("Festal" just means "of the feast").
"Portrait" style icons don't feature backgrounds, only the main "character," usually Jesus Christ, or Theotokos, or principal saints.
In his Guide to Byzantine Iconography Constantine Cavarnos explains:
Objects, such as buildings, mountains, trees, and animals are depicted in a very simplified schematic way. There is no attempt to give photographic likeness of them.
And in another place:
... important features of Byzantine iconography are the classical ones of simplicity, clarity, measure or restraint, grace, symmetry or balance, and appropriateness. By simplicity is meant the avoidance ofunnecessary complexity, of everything superfluous. For example, a city, such as Jerusalem, is represented not by a great many buildings, but only by one or two and an entrance that pierces the fortification wall; a mountain, by a stairlike rock; a tree, by by a trunk and a few schematic branches. Simplicity also means the avoidance of affectation and theatricalness.
It is also worth noting that in the case of the Russians, mountains were not a part of a landcape that a medieval Russian iconographer knew, yet they are depicted in the same way in the Russian icons and in the Greek icons (Greece, like Palestine, is mountainous). Likewise, the Jewish character of the face, clearly seen in more portraitic compositions, would not be something familiar to a Russian of the time. This illustrates the force of tradition, which preserved the historical aspects of the Gospel in the icons in a way it could not be preserved in scripture alone, to people who could not imagine the natural features of the Middle East.
We also see Baptism of Christ on the left and Transfiguration on the right, classical compositions all three.
It is heartening to see freshly written icons in the timeless Byzantine style.
You can’t see it in the photo, but the tabernacle is in the center of the altar, right below the icon.
(I mean the center of the sanctuary, behind the altar and against the wall.)
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