Orthodox icon | The Descent from the Cross and the Entombment of Christ | 24845
The Russian Orthodox icon portrays two distinct scenes:
Left: The left side of the icon depicts the solemn moment when Joseph of Arimathea (commemorated on July 31), Saint Nicodemus (honored on the 3rd Sunday of Easter), and the apostle and evangelist John the Theologian (celebrated on May 8) carefully lower the body of Jesus from the cross. The scene also includes Maria Magdalena (honored on the 3rd Sunday of Easter) and the Mother of God.
Although the canonical Gospels do not provide a detailed account of the Descent from the Cross and the Lamentation of Jesus, they do mention Joseph of Arimathea seeking Pilate’s permission to claim Jesus’ body, Joseph taking Jesus down from the cross, wrapping Him in a linen cloth, and placing Him in a tomb hewn from rock.
Only John mentions the presence of Nicodemus. Iconographers draw inspiration from a sermon by Gregory of Nicomedia when presenting this theme. The feast day associated with this scene is Great and Holy Friday.
Right: On the right side of the icon, we see Joseph of Arimathea (honored on July 31), the apostle and evangelist John the Theologian (celebrated on May 8), Our Lady (the Mother of God), Mary Magdalene (honored on the 3rd Sunday of Easter), Mary Cleopas, Saint Nicodemus (also honored on the 3rd Sunday of Easter), and two angels.
This scene represents the Orthodox burial icon, illustrating the burial of Jesus in a distinctive manner not typically seen in Western tradition. While variations in details may exist, the icon consistently incorporates the same symbols and types. The icon draws inspiration from the Gospel of Mark, specifically chapter 15:42-47. It is categorized as one of the Passion icons, specifically belonging to the Entombment icon.
These two scenes encapsulate significant moments in the journey of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and the sorrowful devotion of His followers. The icon serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrificial love and ultimate redemption brought about through Christ’s suffering and resurrection.