The Resurrection of Our Lord/ Easter Tuesday
The Lord be with you
In recognition of Easter Tuesday I thought I’d share a bit about the Icon of the Resurrection from the Orthodox (or Eastern) tradition of the Church. If you are not familiar with the symbolism used in Icons, you will be surprised. This description is taken from For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church, volume 1; Year 1: Advent to the Day of Pentecost (The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau), pages 982-985.
The Gospels do not record the actual Resurrection of our Lord—they only tell of the discovery of the empty tomb by the women and his later appearances to the disciples. The Orthodox tradition faithfully following the Scripture does not depict the moment of Christ’s emergence from the tomb. Instead, the icon depicts Christ’s descent into the abyss, the underworld, or hell where he frees all the righteous men and women who lived before he conquered death on the cross and opened the gates of heaven (Acts 2:31, 1 Peter 3:19 and the second century Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus).
The focus of the icon is the risen Christ, victorious, wearing a robe of dazzling white, surrounded by a halo of radiant blue as he stands over the dark abyss of the dead. Christ stands upon what can be seen either as the cross, which is the means of his death but also of life for all believers, or as the shattered gates of the kingdom of death.
In the darkness of the abyss can be seen the locks and chains, sometimes even the devil himself, that have bound humanity to the slavery of sin and death. Now, however, “death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).
The icon shows one hand of Christ reaching out to grasp the hand of Adam drawing him to the life he and Eve had lost in the Garden of Eden. In the other hand he either holds a scroll symbolizing the words of life he speaks, or the cross. The resurrection of the first man and woman is a foretaste of the resurrection of all flesh “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In the background on one side of the risen Christ stand those in the Old Testament, such as Saint David, the Psalmist, and his son Saint Solomon, the Wise, and in some icons the patriarchs and prophets who had put their faith and hope in the promises of God. On the other side are those righteous individuals who died after the incarnation, but before Christ’s death and resurrection: Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Joseph, the Guardian of Christ, and others.
This icon makes vivid that we are delivered by Christ from the “dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13-20), powerfully portrays the full extent of his redeeming power and love from which nothing can separate us (Romans 8:38-39), and recalls Paul’s words that we who die with Christ in our baptisms will also some day be raised with him (Romans 6:3-7).
A quick word about having information about icons on a Lutheran blog: Luther, and Lutherans, have never been of the opinion that everything before Luther was utterly corrupt and should be rejected out of hand. Instead we have always treasured the theological, liturgical, cultural, etc. “gold” wherever it is found. (A good example of this is our hymnal that has hymns from most every Christian tradition and just about every century and from about every continent (I don’t think there are any from Antarctica).)
A quick word about variations in icons: A real icon is an original work done by a highly trained artist. They follow well established rules. When depicting a specific icon, their are certain conventions they “must” observe. That is why this description can work for different icons of the Resurrection of Our Lord produced by different people in different countries in vastly different time periods. That being said, there is still variations. So, for example, if you do an internet search for this particular icon you will find plenty of examples where Jesus is actually holding the hands of both Adam and Eve. As you “read” any icon, you need to attend to what the person who “wrote” it put before your eyes.
Finally, the appointed readings on our liturgical calendar for Easter Tuesday this year are: Daniel 3:8-28, Acts 13:26-33, and Luke 24:36-49.
Prayer: Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
He is risen!
Pastor John Rickert