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Δευτέρα, 5 Ιανουαρίου 2015

THE EPIPHANY ICON

 
Icons are not simply “nice” pictures. They are, as the fathers of our church proclaim, bits of Theology expressed with lines and shapes in living color, that manage to capture and compactly illustrate the fundamental beliefs and understandings of our church. This description especially applies to the icon of the Theofany. Let’s see how our Theology finds expression through this icon.

1 Naturally, the centerpiece of this icon is Jesus Christ who is being baptized by St John. Two things are noteworthy. Take Christ's hands for instance. They are not folded or otherwise locked in a penitent gesture that would have been appropriate for one being baptised. Instead, Christ blesses us with His right hand because it is He who sanctifies the waters not the other way around; it is He that truly performs and fulfills the mystery, not St John the Baptist. Furthermore, notice that Jesus is standing upright instead of crouching in the water. Instead of Jesus submitting to the elements of nature, the elements of nature submit to Him as their Creator. Also, Jesus is standing because He had no need of baptism and forgiveness of sins; he was sinless. This is why we read in the gospel that Jesus entered and "immediately" arose from the water.

2 As recorded in the Bible, it was St John the Baptist who baptized Christ and is depicted here doing just that. But while that may true, St John knew that it was God who was truly administering the sacrament, not him. His sense of reverence and humility before God and Jesus is depicted visually here in his face and his hands. St John’s upward gaze and puzzled look gives life and expression to the wonderment he felt when he saw Christ approach him for baptism (“It I who should be baptized by you” he says to Christ). His left hand, which points toward Christ, draws our attention away from him and towards Christ. It is a gesture of humility and an indication that it is not he who is central to this mystery, but Christ himself - the one who is both baptized and completes the mystery.

The tree and axe in this icon are a visual reference to St John's preaching. As Jesus described it: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 3:10). Jesus is the embodiment of St John's preaching, as He came to fulfill every prophesy and promise of God recorded in the Old Testament. With Jesus' baptism, an act which marked the beginning His work of salvation upon earth, the totality and fullness of that preaching became a reality and began to spread among men, separating the fruitful from those that were not.

4 Although it is sometimes difficult to appreciate, in many icons of the Theofany, like this one, natural, non living elements of the world are depicted in "poses" signifying their submission to Christ. Here, the mountains themselves are drawn with a slight inclination towards Christ - bowing, in fact, to Him. Additionally, the unseen world is represented here in the figures of the angels. They too have assumed a submissive posture as servants of God, and stand ready at Christ's side show they be needed.

The figures in the waters at Jesus' feet are typically understood to represent Jordan river and the Red Sea. They are placed at Jesus' feet indicating their submission to Him. The Red Sea makes an appearance here because, just as Jesus is physically parting the Jordan with His body, so to did he part the waters of the Red Sea allowing Moses and the Israelites to pass through. From a Biblical standpoint, this water symbolism is important. Remember, water gives life but can take it as well when . The ancients recognized water's uncontrollability that only God could control the waters

6 We see snakes and two grave slabs depicted beneath Jesus’ feet. The symbolism should be clear. Biblically speaking, the snake represents the devil, who here is being trodden and crushed underfoot, symbolizing Christ’s victory over sin - a victory which began to take shape and form and actualized starting with Christ’s baptism. The grave slabs are what they appear to be, and Christ’s stepping on them symbolizes and foreshadows Christ’s victory over death by His own death and subsequent Resurrection. As we joyously proclaim on Easter, “Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death, giving death to those in the grave!”

sourse :   THE SWEETNESS OF THE ANGELS
                    A Monthly Newsletter
                   Greek Orthodox Church of Kimisis Theotokou - Brooklyn

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