Visual Prayer - The Iconic Resurrection

Eastern Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection

Eastern Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection

We often get caught up in talking about "a" resurrection on Easter Sunday instead of "resurrection." When we focus only on Jesus' resurrection two thousand years ago, we miss the larger impact of the event and settle for a singular and thin (although still exciting) experience. The western church (Protestants and Roman Catholics) lost the plot (a bit) when it came to the resurrection, but our brothers and sisters in the eastern church have preserved a fuller and richer experience that goes far beyond a single resurrection event.

The above icon is a lesson in the expansive and all encompassing nature of the resurrection. Instead of a solo triumphant Christ or a solitary empty tomb, the painter/prayer reveals Christ descending into the realm of the dead (often referred to as Hades) and pulling all of human history back to life. Christ is depicted pulling Adam and Eve (symbols of humanity's origin story shown in the bottom left and right) from death into life. Beneath them are the (now broken) locks that have kept the gates of Hades closed to those who seek life. Even death itself is laid to rest at the very bottom of the image. As you move up the icon, all of human history follows behind in this parade of life (Old Testament figures, Apostles, and heavenly beings). 

What I appreciate about this icon is that it's "in progress." And so are we. The resurrection happened, is happening, and will continue to happen. Much like Einstein's theory of relativity (time changes as speed changes); our notions of past and future become more present when we are pulled out of Hades at the pace of Christ. We are being pulled back to life all the time. Sometimes we notice, sometimes we don't. Sometimes it seems fast, and sometimes it seems incredibly slow – but Christ is always pulling. Take a moment today to look and notice that pull-to-life in the icon above and in the world around you. 


About the Author

Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC