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Showing posts from April, 2011

Icon of the Resurrection

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Icon of the Resurrection
Pskov, Later Sixteenth century

In the wording of the Creeds, Jesus was “crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again...” This icon illustrates some of the early traditions about what the Spirit of Jesus was doing in that interval, while his body laid in the tomb. Also called: “The Harrowing of Hell,” this icon of the Resurrection is part of the collection of the Andrei Rublev Museum in Moscow, dedicated to preserving early Russian art, and named after one of history’s greatest iconographers. It is located in a former monastery, where Saint Andrei Rublev once lived and worked.

The area around Pskov and Novgorod was known for a relatively egalitarian social system, in terms of gender relations. This is reflected in the center of the icon, where Jesus has the hands of both Adam and Eve, pictured as regular human beings, minus the haloes of saints. He pulls them up from Hades, along with many figures from the Hebrew Bible, who had died before …

Epitaphios

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Epitaphios – the Entombment of Christ


This Greek Orthodox icon was written by iconographer, Anathios Clark, in a stark and simple form that conveys the grief and devastation of the little group that laid Jesus in the tomb that Friday at dusk.

Though there are sometimes others in the scene, the people most often depicted in the Epitaphios (related to the Greek word: epitaph) who took Jesus down from the Cross and placed him in the Tomb are Mary, his Mother; Mary Magdalene; John the “Beloved Disciple,” and Joseph of Arimathea, as mentioned in John, Chapter 19.

Dressed in the dark terra-cotta color of the red earth, Mary bends low over Jesus and is shown here in a touching gesture that movingly duplicates the cheek-to-cheek caress of Mother and Child in the icons known as “Valdimirskaya” and “the icon of humbleness.”

Behind her is Mary Magdalene, who is crying out in her grief and distress, hands raised in the “orens” position of outspoken prayer.

In her role as preacher and proclaim…

Icon of the Crucifixion

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Icon of the Crucifixion
Russia, Late Sixteenth century


Depicting the moment when Jesus bequeaths Mary and John to each other: “Woman, Behold your son,” the simple composition of this icon reflects the gravity of this world-changing event.

Above the Cross, two grieving angels, representing the sun and moon often seen in Crucifixion scenes, attend Jesus. Though John, said to be the “beloved disciple” is often dressed in brilliant red, in this icon he wears muddy, earthy green and terra cotta colors. Mary’s outer red robe has so much dark pigment in it that it appears nearly black. Standing behind to support her is Mary Magdalene, who stayed with Jesus to the very end, as it says in the Gospel of John. She wears the brighter red robes of a witness, one who testifies.

Standing behind John is the centurion, whose name has come down in tradition as Longinus, though he is not named in the Gospels. He is the Roman soldier who saw Jesus at the moment of his death and proclaimed: “In truth th…

Jesus Washing the Feet of the Disciples

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John 13:1-38

Pskov, Early 16th century

This icon is a panel in an iconostasis (icon screen) now in the collection of the Pskov Museum. An ancient city of Northern Russia, icons from Pskov and Novgorod have many attributes in common, including great theological depth of meaning.

The iconostasis from which this icon comes stood in the Thirteenth-century Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Gorodets, Pskov District, until 1927, when it was confiscated by the new Soviet regime.

During WWII, it was looted by the Nazi invaders of the region, but was returned to the people of Pskov after the War.

The faces of the characters in the icon are typical portraits of people from the Pskov region in the Middle Ages, with dark skin and hair coloring. One of ten panels located in the Church Feast Tier of the large iconostasis, this icon includes many interesting features.

Note the cock sitting on a column, waiting for his cue to crow, at the top of the composition.

It is a detail known…

Prayer on Holy Saturday

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God of Glory, yesterday we all ran away, or at least tried to keep a safe distance from your suffering and death.

This day, like so many others, we are lost, and know not what you are doing behind the scenes. Your tomb seems rock solid, just like the oppressive empires and the despair which haunt us.

Yet your life is now beyond death, hidden from our view and shrouded in Holy Mystery, like yeast in a large measure of flour. Help us rise on your new day, and lift the veil from us, that we may see your living Word and be made new with resurrection Glory, in the name of Jesus Christ, who awaits our awakening. Amen.


Artwork: Tomb, by Sieger Köder.
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