Meaning of the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection

Meaning of the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection

As you know, Jesus Christ and His Resurrection from the dead are at the center of the Christian faith. No wonder, the saint icon of the Resurrection has always been the most instructive, cherished, and celebrated one. For today, there are several variations of this famous Orthodox icon, some more complicated and detailed than others. However, each of them bears a very important meaning.

The Orthodox icon of the Resurrection is also often called “The Harrowing of Hades.” The fact is that it not just shows us the Risen God – it shows how Christ enters into Hades (the place of the dead) to fight and free the souls trapped there while His body is entombed. According to the Orthodox Church, Christ’s Descent into Hades symbolizes His complete victory over death, which caused the darkness to disappear. This is the central idea of this saint icon.

Although there are many variations of the Orthodox icon of the Resurrection, each of them almost always depicts Jesus Christ in white clothes in the center of the composition. He is usually surrounded by the blue shape that looks like an aureole encircling the entire body. This eternal, uncreated light that represents the Glory of God is called mandorla (the Italian name for the almond), which actually describes its shape.

Jesus Christ is standing on the gates of Hades that are usually depicted in the shape of the cross. The figure to Christ’s right is Adam rising from his tomb, whom the Savior is leading by the hand. Eve, wearing a red maphorion, is waiting for her turn to Christ’s left. Except for Adam and Eve, hand-painted Orthodox icons of the Resurrection – The Harrowing of Hades also depict St. John the Baptist, King Solomon, and King David – all standing behind Adam. In addition, these beautiful religious icon paintings include the depictions of Isaiah, Moses, Abel, and some other pious people of the Old Testament who prefigured Christ. The figures may vary and depend on the complexity of the icon composition.

Many Eastern Orthodox icons of the Resurrection also depict the chained up skeletal figure that appears underneath the broken gates of Hades. It represents Satan or Death, whose power was destroyed by God. The keys and open locks within the dark underworld also symbolize that the devil has been defeated through the life-giving death of Jesus Christ. There are no more locked doors and chains, as well as there are no more powers that have dominion over us. Christ has trampled down death by death. This is the most important meaning of the Orthodox icon of the Resurrection. Browse our online gallery to learn more about these amazing pieces of religious icon art.

Happy Easter and Happy Spring!