If you have been to the church office/chapel recently, you may have noticed a beautiful new creation depicting our Lord and Savior. Iconography allows the viewer an opportunity to meditate on the subject, and is an ancient artform that has been used by the Church for centuries. This gorgeous rendition was created by our own master iconographer, Sue Hague. Let’s allow her explain the spiritual meaning behind the painting:
Christ’s cross is set upon Golgotha and Christ’s blood from His feet and hands are dripping into a bare, lifeless crevice. There is nothing growing on this barren, rocky site. Below the cross is a skull and some bones surrounded by black, which symbolizes hell. Legend held that Christ’s death on the cross at Golgotha (which means, “the place of the skulls”) was exactly the location site of where Adam died. Scripture tells us that the earth (and indeed, the very gates of hell!) quaked at His death. Christ’s blood is poised to overwhelm hell at His death, ready to redeem Adam and all his descendants. Thus the second Adam [1 Cor. 15:45-47 & Rom.5:14] cleanses the first Adam by His blood and restores him and us to fellowship with God!
At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, just below the enshrined rock where, according to Rome, the crucifix once stood, one can still reach through a special channel to touch the original contact point of Christ’s blood onto Adam’s skull.
The crown of thorns upon Christ’s head, besides reminding us of His kingly status and the humiliation that He endured, is also a visible reminder of the curse of Adam—God told Adam that because of his sin the ground would now bear thorns and thistles. On the cross, Christ, the second Adam, bore both the physical as well as the spiritual curse of the first Adam upon His body.
Most likely Christ was crucified naked and did not wear a modest loin cloth. But in iconography, however, artists wished to convey the purity and sinlessness of Christ, so they draped Him in a blazing white cloth to symbolize that He was the only One who could be the full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice and oblation, once offered, for the sins of the whole world.
According to Scripture, Pilate ordered that a sign be put up announcing who was crucified: “The King of the Jews” and it was be written in 3 languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) so that everyone could read and understand what Rome had done to their king! Christianity is the only major religion to not have a ‘sacred language', nor is there a ‘sacred' culture. Christ, The Word Made Flesh, opened the door to be Himself translated into all cultures and languages, allowing us to break into God’s presence using the language of the heart.
The cross wood is worn; it was used a great deal. Many were crucified on the cross before Jesus and many will be crucified after Him. We are told to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Lk. 9:23, Mk. 8:34, Mt. 10:38).
Colors are of great significance in icons: Mary, who wears a form of red and blue, is known as the “God-bearer” or Theotokos. She wears blue next to her body to symbolize the divinity she bore in her body, while on the outside she wears red, symbolizing her humanity. John wears green to symbolize his new life in Christ and yellow for the Holy Spirit in anticipation of the visitation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Thank you Sue for this beautiful dedication to our Lord. Why not visit the chapel, and perhaps bring this explanation with you, and enjoy a moment of reflection.
The symbols (Greek letters) in Christ’s halo: ὁ ὢ Ν are Greek and literally translated mean: “the being one” or “He who is.” These words are the answer Moses received on Mt. Sinai when he asked for the name of of Him to whom he was speaking (Yahweh, or “I AM WHO I AM.”) Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible put Yahweh as ὁ ὢ Ν, thus connecting the Jesus of the Old Testament and the Fall, to Jesus, our Redeemer and Restorer. There is so much theology packed into an icon, if only we knew!
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Come and join Saint James’ on Sundays for worship. Our service is at 1:30 pm. We hope to see you there.
222 East Fountain Way
Fresno, CA 93704