Title: The Risen Christ
Icon Number: TRIC014
For love is strong as Death,
passion as relentless as Sheol.
The flash of it is a flash of fire,
the flame of the Lord himself.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again
from the dead.
One of the many things that makes Easter so joyful, so free, is that it has not yet been successfully ' commercialized. The Cross is too close by. Easter comes with the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (the Vigil) so it is almost impossible to "package". After the Triduum with its burden and wealth of liturgies, teachings, and graces, there is a natural silence. Early Easter morning has this palpable aura of silence, great and full. We know the egg has cracked and the bird gone. We know the cocoon has split and the butterfly flown. And the Cross ? The Cross does not disappear, it flowers.
We have contemplated the dead Christ (in the icon of Jesus Christ Extreme Humility) but not the death of Christ. The Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) is filled with psychic and physical horror. The actual carrying of the crossbeam borne by the already badly beaten and exhausted prisoner, Jesus. The seemingly endless three hour execution by crucifixion. The terrible words of abandonment let out in between paroxysms of pain and gasps of suffocation, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22) Then silence. Christ plunges into an abyss of darkness. It is this travel through the abyss (hell, sheol, hades) that constitutes Christ's descent into hell, an absolutely vital, necessary part of salvation.
Perhaps we believe we already know something of this hell. We have experienced hopelessness, despair, betrayal, death, and the monstrous inexplicable force of evil in human beings. And if we have not witnessed any of this personally, we have seen a kind of mirror image of hell in the holocaust, the wars, concentration camps, tyrannies and genocides of this century. Could there be anything worse than these hells?
The saints, mystics, and the most august of male and female theologians of our tradition tell us there is a place where God is absent. A place where there is no longer any light of faith, love or hope. A place that is filled with what is irreconcilable with God. Somehow in the mystery of salvation and the unfathomable ways of God, Jesus descended into this place, walked through this void, in obedience to the Father. And on Good Friday, God gave him the key to this place forever.
Imagine a being who has encountered all of this with undying love, and you will see the Risen Lord. Out of the darkness of murder, disbelief and annihilated hope ... all light, all joy, all radiance of spirit, all forgiveness, comes the Risen Christ.
A shroud-like cloak illuminated like the Transfiguration., gently covers his head and wraps around his body in fragrant swirls of pale violet. The waters of death are spun into a mandala of blue lights circling round and round him in an aura of Eternity. The slash of the wounds in his hands are visible marks of his passion, "... this wounding is for healing, now the hands raise only to cherish, to bless, to praise." (Fr. J. Janda) This is an apparition meant to be seen over and over again. It is the conquest of sin and death, all our hopes and dreams are dependent on this vision.
The letters IC XC announce the Easter mystery, reminding us the name of Jesus literally means Savior, "...and you shall call his name Jesus ... and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1)