At the heart of the narrative is the resurrection from the tomb and the descent into the underworld, representing the realm of the dead. Christ triumphantly emerges from the trampled gates of the underworld, liberating Adam and Eve from the deep abyss of death. Alongside them, the righteous of the Old Testament are also freed, led by an angel and John the Baptist, known as the forerunner. The narrative also introduces us to the paradisal presence of the good thief and the prophet Elias.
We also see vignettes of various other key events: Peter’s encounter with the empty tomb on the top left, and on the lower right, Jesus and Peter meet at the Sea of Galilee. Each of the four corners are graced by the faces of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Beyond this central narrative, a sequence of Great Feasts and Holidays are presented from left to right:
- The first feast, on September 21st (or September 8th), is the Birth of the Mother of God. This scene portrays Anna, mother of Mary, in a state of rest while her attendants look after her. Joachim, Anna’s husband, is depicted at the head end in a prayerful stance. The bathing of the newborn child is depicted below this scene.
- Next, the Presentation of the Mother of God is celebrated on December 4th (or November 21st). In this event, three-year-old Mary was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem to be raised until she was fifteen. High priest Zacharias also makes an appearance here. The image captures Mary’s interaction with Zacharias in front of the temple, along with her parents Joachim and Anna, and a virgin.
- New Testament Trinity. The New Testament Trinity icon is a profound visual representation of God’s three-in-one nature, illustrating the profound mystery of the Holy Trinity as depicted in the New Testament. Central to Christian theology, the Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament Trinity icon, God the Father is typically depicted as an elder figure, resonating with traditional depictions of God in religious art. He wears a dark cloak, often blue, symbolizing the depth of the divine and the mysteries of the universe. His hair and beard are usually white, indicating wisdom and eternity.
- The Annunciation of the Mother of God, which falls on April 7th (or March 25th), depicts the joyous announcement of the birth of the Savior. The image shows the Archangel Gabriel delivering the news to the Virgin Mary about her divine motherhood. We see God the Father instructing Gabriel, who pauses en route, doubting whether he should deliver this news. This pause is shown by his depiction on the left side of the scene.
- The Birth of Christ is commemorated on January 7th (or December 25th). It shows the birth in the cave, with the Blessed Mother resting. The newborn child lies in a cloth in the crib, next to which stand the three wise men. Beneath this, we see a thoughtful Joseph accompanied by an old man symbolizing the “spirit of doubt”.
- The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, celebrated on February 15th (or February 2nd), takes place on the fortieth day after the birth of Jesus. The Blessed Mother and Joseph bring the newborn Christ to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate Him to God. They meet the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Hanna, long-term residents of the temple. Simeon had received a prophecy that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The image portrays Simeon holding the child in his arms.
- The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan is celebrated on January 19th (or January 6th). The Gospel narrative of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River is illustrated. Jesus stands in the river while John the Baptist is next to him. Angels can be seen on the opposite riverbank, and above, the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove. Christ blesses the scene with His right hand placed at waist level.
- The Entry into Jerusalem is commemorated on the Sunday before Holy Week, following Lazarus Saturday. This scene portrays Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem one week before His crucifixion. Christ is depicted riding a donkey into the city, greeted by the welcoming crowd.
- The Transfiguration of Christ is celebrated on August 19th (or August 6th). The scene captures the moment when Jesus, accompanied by disciples Peter, James, and John, is transfigured during His prayer atop a mountain near Caesarea Philippi. The image portrays a radiant Christ in white garments, with prophets Moses and Elijas standing by His side. The disciples are shown at the foot of the scene.
- The Ascension of Christ is celebrated forty days after Easter, on a Thursday during the sixth week after Easter. The scene captures the moment when Christ led His disciples to the Mount of Olives and ascended to heaven in their presence. Christ is shown in the upper part of the scene, in a round mandorla carried by two angels. Below, the Mother of God is seen with her hands raised in prayer (the Orante position), surrounded by the apostles.
- The Resurrection of Lazarus portrays the moment when Christ resurrects Lazarus, the beloved brother of Martha and Mary, four days after his death. Christ is seen extending his hand to Lazarus, who has already risen and is wrapped in bandages. In the foreground, sisters Martha and Mary bow before Christ.
- The Beheading of the Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John is commemorated on August 29th. The scene depicts the gruesome request by Herod’s wife Herodias’ daughter for John the Baptist’s head as a reward for a dance.
- The Dormition of the Mother of God, celebrated on August 28th (or August 15th), shows the Mother of God on her deathbed, surrounded by the apostles. Unlike usual death, the Dormition is more akin to sleeping. Christ stands against a golden background, carrying a child wrapped in cloth, symbolizing the soul of the Mother of God.
- The Old-Testament Trinity is celebrated seven weeks after Easter, on a Sunday. This scene represents the hospitality of Abraham, who receives a visit from three men but only speaks to one. The three men are portrayed as angels, with Abraham kneeling before them.
- The Feast of the Cross/Exaltation of the Cross is celebrated on September 27th (or September 14th). The scene portrays Patriarch Makarios of Jerusalem presenting the cross of the Lord to the people, in the presence of Emperor Constantine and his mother Empress Helena.
- The icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Oppressed” is a revered image in the Orthodox Christian tradition that embodies comfort, solace, and hope for those in distress. This particular icon is named for its powerful symbolism that the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is a source of joy and relief for all those who are oppressed or burdened, whether by sin, sorrow, illness, or other hardships. In this icon, the Virgin Mary is typically depicted holding the Christ Child in her arms, with her gaze directed towards the viewer or sometimes towards the child. The Christ Child is often shown blessing the viewer with one hand while holding a scroll, symbolizing the Word of God, in the other. The Virgin Mary’s expression is one of compassion and understanding, inviting those in need to seek her intercession.
Lastly, the Maundy Thursday liturgy from the Eastern Church includes key events from Jesus’s life:
- “The Maundy Thursday Rite”: This commemorates the act of humility and service demonstrated by Jesus when he washed the feet of his disciples, setting a paradigm of humble servitude for his followers to emulate.
- “The Commemoration of the Last Supper”: This event remembers the poignant final meal Jesus shared with his disciples. During this meal, Jesus broke bread and shared wine, symbolic actions that led to the institution of the Eucharist, a central sacrament in Christianity.
- “The Solitary Vigil in Gethsemane”: This is a reflection on the time when Jesus withdrew into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He grappled with fear and sorrow, knowing the suffering he was about to endure, embodying his fully human nature.
- “The Treachery of Judas”: This recalls the painful moment when Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, betrayed him with a kiss to the arresting soldiers, leading to Jesus’ arrest.
- “Jesus’s Trial before High Priest Caiaphas”: This event signifies the first of Jesus’ two trials where he was falsely accused and condemned for blasphemy before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, presided over by High Priest Caiaphas.
- “Jesus’s Audience with Pontius Pilate”: This recalls the second trial where Jesus was brought before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Despite finding no fault in Jesus, Pilate succumbed to public pressure, allowing the sentence of crucifixion.
- “The Scourging at the Pillar”: This event represents the physical suffering Jesus endured when he was flogged mercilessly by Roman soldiers, as part of his punishment before crucifixion.
- “The Crowning with Thorns”: This event is a poignant reminder of the mockery and humiliation Jesus faced when the soldiers, in a cruel jest, crowned him with a circlet of thorns, furthering his physical torment.
- “The Sorrowful Journey to Calvary”: This portrays Jesus’ torturous journey carrying his own cross to the site of his execution, known as Golgotha or Calvary.
- “The Crucifixion”: This marks the climax of Jesus’s Passion. He was nailed to the cross, dying a painful death, which is seen by Christians as the ultimate act of divine love and redemption for humanity’s sins.
- “The Descent from the Cross”: This illustrates the poignant moment when Jesus’s lifeless body was taken down from the cross. His friends and family, including his mother Mary, mourned his death, prefiguring his resurrection.
- The Entombment: depicts the sorrowful yet pivotal event of Jesus Christ’s burial, following His crucifixion. The image carries immense spiritual significance, encapsulating the aftermath of the Passion and preceding the joyous Resurrection. Jesus’s lifeless body is often shown being prepared for burial or being placed in a tomb, which signifies the cave in the Garden of Gethsemane. His body is usually painted with a lifeless pallor, and wrapped in a burial shroud, reminiscent of the actual burial customs of first-century Jewish society. Surrounding Jesus are usually the key figures from the Biblical narrative: the Virgin Mary, His mother, often depicted in an attitude of grief; John the Apostle, identifiable by his youthful appearance; and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who assisted in the burial. Sometimes, the three Marys (Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Mary Salome) are also included, as they were present according to the Gospel accounts.
Beautiful, old icon with both the New Testament and the Old Testament Trinity. Unrestorated.