Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Resurrection of Christ

The joyous event of the glorious Resurrection is expressed in Orthodox Iconography with the Descent of the Lord into Hades. The icon on the jacket of this book is a detail of a fresco by Manuel Panselinos (1295 or 1313 A.D.) in the Protaton Church at Karyes, Mt. Athos, Greece.

The Lord is depicted with bright garments within a transparent and interrupted circular "glory" that follows the contour of the cross-engraven crown of light around His head. The "glory" is faintly noticeable above His head. The Lord, having descended into Hades with authority, is seen with a firm footing and a powerful stance upon the gates of Hades, fallen in the shape of an X. In His left hand, Christ is holding a huge Cross, the symbol of victory. With His right hand (where "the mark of the nails" is obvious, as well as on His feet) Christ is raising out of the cave of Hades the forefather Adam, who symbolizes the human race, with a vigorous and unilateral motion. As a result of this movement, the garment of the triumphant Christ is shown as being blown upwards by the wind.

Together with Adam, Eve also stretches forth her arms in a beseeching manner. Behind them and a little higher is St. John the Forerunner, who is indicating the Lord. The space is completed with the righteous Abel, a young, beardless man with a long shepherd's staff and an ecstatic expression. In the dark cave of Hades, "the locks of death," the age-old bars and chains are seen as if shattered by a supernatural power.

At the top of the trapezoid composition two angels are bending over behind the craggy peaks and are sharing in the triumph of the cosmic and eschatological victory of the Theanthropos Lord.

—From the back cover of The Mystery of Death, by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis.

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