Orthodox icon | Easter – 16 Feasts and the Holy Week | 24294.
In the center of the icon, we see the resurrection of Christ from the grave and His descent into the realm of the dead. Standing on the broken gates of the underworld, Christ liberates Adam and Eve from the clutches of death, accompanied by righteous figures from the Old Testament, led by an angel and John the Baptist. In the realm of paradise, we see the Grateful Thief and the Prophet Elias.
Positioned in the top left corner is Peter at the grave, while in the bottom right corner, Jesus and Peter are depicted at the Sea of Galilee.
The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are portrayed in the remaining corners.
Moving from left to right, the icon represents the following feasts:
- Birth of the Mother of God: Celebrated on September 21 (or September 8), this feast portrays Anna, resting half-lying down, with attendants by her side. Anna’s husband, Joachim, is shown in a prayerful posture at the head. Below, the scene depicts the bathing of the child, with a servant holding the child and checking the water.
- Presentation of the Mother of God: Celebrated on December 4 (or November 21), this feast illustrates the three-year-old Mary being taken to the Temple in Jerusalem, where she would be raised until the age of fifteen. The icon shows Mary encountering the high priest Zacharias in front of the temple. Mary and Zacharias stand on the temple stairs, while her parents, Joachim and Anna, and a virgin are depicted behind them.
- Pentecost (Holy Trinity): Celebrated seven weeks after Easter on a Sunday, this feast depicts the hospitality of Abraham. Inspired by a story from the book of Genesis, where Abraham receives a visit from three men and converses with one of them, this scene is seen as a foreshadowing of the divine Trinity, thus symbolizing Pentecost. The three men are portrayed as angels, and Abraham kneels before them as they sit at a table beneath the Terebinth of Mamre.
- Annunciation of the Mother of God: Celebrated on April 7th (or March 25th), this icon represents the joyous news of the Savior’s impending birth. It shows the Archangel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, announcing that she will become the Mother of God. God the Father instructs Gabriel to deliver the message, but Gabriel hesitates on the way, contemplating whether he should fulfill this task (hence the presence of Gabriel on the left side).
- Birth of Christ: Celebrated on January 7th (or December 25th), this icon portrays the birth of Jesus in a cave. The Blessed Mother is depicted resting, while the child lies in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. The three wise men are shown next to the crib, and below them, Joseph sits thoughtfully, accompanied by an old man symbolizing the “spirit of doubt.”
- Presentation of Jesus at the Temple: Celebrated on February 15 (or February 2), this feast depicts the Blessed Mother bringing the child Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, forty days after His birth, to present Him to God. At the temple, they meet the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna, who have been residing there. Simeon had been prophesied that he would not die until he saw the Messiah, and he holds the child in his arms.
- Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan: Celebrated on January 19 (or January 6), this icon portrays the Gospel account of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Jesus is depicted standing in the river, while John the Baptist stands next to Him. Angels are shown on the opposite riverbank, and above them, the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. Christ blesses with His right hand, which is positioned at waist level.
- Entry into Jerusalem: Celebrated on the Sunday before Holy Week, following Lazarus Saturday, this feast depicts Christ’s entry into Jerusalem one week before His crucifixion. The icon shows Christ riding on a donkey as He enters the city, accompanied by His disciples, while the people greet them.
- The Transfiguration of Christ: Celebrated on August 19 (or August 6), this feast represents the event when Jesus, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, ascended a mountain and was transfigured before them. In the icon, Christ appears radiant, dressed in white, with Moses and Elijah standing next to Him. Below, we see Peter, James, and John on their knees, with Peter lying prostrate on the ground.
- Ascension of Christ: Celebrated 40 days after Easter, on the sixth Thursday after Easter, this feast portrays Christ leading His disciples to the Mount of Olives, where He ascends to heaven before their eyes. As the astonished apostles observe, two men appear and announce the future return of the Savior. The upper part of the icon shows Christ ascending to heaven in a mandorla carried by two angels, while in the center below, the Mother of God stands with her hands raised in a prayerful position (the Orante). The apostles surround her.
- Dormition of the Mother of God: Celebrated on August 28 (or August 15), this feast represents the “falling asleep” or “dormition” of the Mother of God, which is not considered death but rather her translation to heaven. The icon shows the Mother of God lying on a bed, with apostles positioned at the head and foot ends. Above, Christ is depicted on a golden background, holding a child wrapped in cloth, symbolizing the soul of the Mother of God.
- The Resurrection of Lazarus: This icon portrays the story of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary. Lazarus fell ill, and despite his sisters’ appeal, he died. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. Christ went to the cave where Lazarus was buried, commanded the stone blocking the entrance to be removed, looked into the cave, and called out, “Lazarus, come out!” The icon shows Christ, with a group of apostles behind Him, standing near the dark cave. Jesus reaches out His hand to Lazarus, who has already risen and is still wrapped in burial bandages. In the foreground, we can see Martha and Mary, bowing to the ground before Christ.
- Beheading of John the Baptist: Commemorated on August 29, this event depicts the daughter of Herod’s wife, Herodias, requesting the head of John the Baptist as a reward for her dance, as instigated by Herodias. Historically, Herod’s daughter had fled to her father, and fearing a war with Aretas, Herod executed John the Baptist before the war could begin. The icon represents this story.
- Feast of the Cross (Exaltation of the Cross): Celebrated on September 27 (or September 14), this feast commemorates the presentation of the Lord’s cross to the people by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Makarios, in the presence of Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena, his mother. Helena took a piece of the cross and the nails, while the cross itself was placed in a silver chest entrusted to Patriarch Makarios for safekeeping.
- The Holy Prophet Elijah: Celebrated on August 2 (or July 20), this feast honors the prophet Elijah, who lived during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in Israel (873-853 BC). The icon depicts his ascension to heaven in a fiery chariot, witnessed by his disciple Elisha. Elijah prophesied a drought and was instructed to hide by the Kerith Brook, where he was fed by ravens.
- Pokrov (Protection and Intercession of the Mother of God and Saint Romanos the Melode): This icon represents the apparition of the Blessed Mother at the Blachernae Cathedral in Constantinople. The protective veil of the Mother of God was kept there, and she is shown holding it over the believers. The venerable Romanos, a renowned poet in Byzantine literature, is also depicted. He served as a singer at the imperial court during the reign of Emperor Anastasios.
The Holy Week:
In the inner circle, from left to right, the Great Holy Week is depicted as follows:
- The Last Supper: Jesus is shown with His twelve apostles gathered around a communion table. The names of the apostles are mentioned, with eleven of them depicted with haloes while Judas is without one. The scene includes bread and wine on the table, symbolizing the institution of the Eucharist.
- Foot washing (Maundy): During the Last Supper, Jesus humbly washes the feet of His disciples and uses a cloth to dry them. This act serves as an example of selfless service and humility that the disciples should emulate.
- Prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane: Gethsemane is the place where Jesus chose to bid farewell to His disciples before His arrest. The solitude He experiences in the garden contrasts with the previous communion shared during the Last Supper.
- Betrayal by Judas (Judas Kiss): Judas Iscariot, one of the apostles chosen by Jesus, betrays Him to the soldiers sent by the high priests. Judas identifies Jesus with a prearranged kiss, leading to His arrest.
- Jesus before High Priest Caiaphas: Christ is brought before the high priest Caiaphas, who questions Him about His identity. Jesus affirms that He is the Son of God, which Caiaphas considers blasphemy and sentences Him to death.
- Jesus before Pontius Pilate: Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the governor, who ultimately confirms the death sentence issued by the high council in Jerusalem. Pilate orders the crucifixion to be carried out.
- The Flagellation: Roman soldiers scourge Jesus as a customary prelude to crucifixion according to Roman law. This act of physical punishment is mentioned in three of the four canonical gospels.
- The Crowning of Thorns: Roman soldiers mockingly crown Jesus with a wreath made of thorns, along with dressing Him in a red cloak and presenting Him with a reed scepter. These “royal” symbols are intended to ridicule Him.
- The Carrying of the Cross (Stations of the Cross): Jesus is depicted carrying the cross towards Golgotha, the place where He will be crucified. This station represents His arduous journey and the burden He bears for humanity.
- The Crucifixion: Jesus is shown crucified on the cross, with the Blessed Mother, Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Mary Cleophae, Saint John the Theologian (the Apostle), and Saint Longinus present at the scene.
- The Descent from the Cross: Joseph of Arimathea, Saint Nicodemus, and the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian take down Jesus’ body from the cross. The canonical Gospels do not specifically describe this event but mention Joseph asking Pilate for Jesus’ body, wrapping it in a linen cloth, and placing it in a rock-hewn tomb.
- The Entombment: Joseph of Arimathea, the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary Cleopas, and Saint Nicodemus are depicted during the burial of Jesus. This icon follows the Orthodox tradition and refers to the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 15:42-47.
The icon features a gilded background with miniature paintings and fine gold detailing on the robes.