Christ’s Descent into Hades Icon
This icon is frequently referred to as the Anastasis or Resurrection Icon. It is an icon of Pascha (Easter).
The golden bars by Christ’s feet are the gates of Hades, which He has broken and torn apart. At Pascha, a tradition includes the cracking of our blessed Pascha eggs together. This represents how Christ shattered the gates of Hades.
There are keys floating in the abyss below, which symbolizes that he has entered and conquered both death and Hades. Some icons have a skeletal figure who is chained up: that’s Death. He has been bound and killed by Christ. All throughout Pascha-tide until the Ascension, we greet each other with, “Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen!”
The two figures whom Christ has grasped and is pulling out of Hades are Adam and Eve, symbolizing that His Victory redeems all mankind, even back to the beginning.
This Resurrection scene is taking place in the past, present, and future.
To His left, we see three Old Testament saints: Kings David and Solomon, two of His ancestors according to his fleshly nature. We also see, closest to him St. John the Baptist, who was his Forerunner in both life and death. On the right, we have the New Testament, including the apostles who are alive. The purpose is to show that Christ’s redemption transcends time and space. This is an act that happened in the past, is happening right now, and will happen in the future. Christ is always in the state of redeeming and setting us free.
The blue shape around Christ is called the Mandorla (which is Italian for almond, which describes its shape). The Mandorla is the Uncreated, Eternal Light of Christ. In the writings of the Eastern Orthodox mystics, God is often prayerfully experienced as Light. This is not simply a beautiful bright light. It is the same Light which filled the apostles with wonder when they witnessed His Transfiguration. It is the Light which Christ Himself described as the power of the Kingdom of God (Mark 9:1, Matt. 16:28, Luke 9:27). It is also the Light that is seen when one purifies their heart and mind (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God).
Those who seek God will find that the more they know Him, the less they comprehend Him.
To know God, to experience Him, is to walk from the darkness of sin, into His Light, to enter into the mystery of His Presence. ~ The Ark Youth Quarterly – St. Sophia Orthodox Church
May you have a glorious, and joyous, Bright Week!
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay
Truly He is Risen!