Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Icon of the Crucifixion

In the iconography of the Orthodox Church “realistic’ portrayals of historical events are not as important as what is happening in the part of the world our eyes can not see. Thus, you do not see blood flowing all over this Icon as Mel Gibson showed in his movie “the Passion of the Christ”. It is not that we teach the crucifixion was neat and tidy; we know it was brutal and bloody and hideous. But like the Gospel accounts, our Iconography sparingly describes Christ’s suffering. It was real and it was horrible, but we see other things happening there during that mysterious time when God was suffering.

First he is still God. He is attended by angels who though amazed and speechless at the suffering of the Creator stand by, waiting to do his bidding. And in case we miss that point, the Iconographers of the Orthodox church have on the sign above the Lord’s head these words: “The King of Glory”. Thus bringing us back to the Psalmist who wrote “Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty!” And beneath the Cross, in the earth is a skull, symbolizing death being trampled down by death. (From a paper I wrote for the theology faculty at the University of Joensuu.)

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