2014_04_15_AOrthodox Christian representations of the resurrection, to be found on icons and wall paintings, are powerful illustrations of reconciliation.  The Orthodox do not depict the resurrection by showing Jesus emerging from the tomb, but rather by his descent to the realm of the dead where his work of reconciliation is seen.  In these representations, Jesus, in the centre, is usually identified by a ring of light and he is trampling underfoot the gates of hell – in some icons smashed padlocks, snapped chains and even the cowering figure of Satan can be seen beneath the broken gates.  In all the depictions, tombs have been broken open as a result of Jesus conquering death.

There is a particularly lively painting of the resurrection in the Chora church, Istanbul (see above) where Jesus (surrounded by a number of ancestral figures such as Kings David and Solomon, Abel and John the Baptist) is grasping the hands of Adam and Eve, reuniting them both as they emerge from their tombs. Alienated humanity, represented by Adam and Eve, is being reunited and drawn into a bright and transforming presence with new possibilities.  This is the gift of reconciliation which God gives to the world.  The past is healed and redeemed and a new future opens up.

If we look into Ukraine and the Middle East, we see countries struggling with the legacies of a past which so easily spill out in violence and bloodshed. If we look into ourselves, we may see issues from the past which need healing and forgiveness and prevent us from moving forward.  When the Risen Christ emerges from the tomb to appear to his disciples, he is still bearing the scars of the past – but they have been transformed.

The Orthodox representations of the resurrection are reminders that Christ goes to the remotest  places in the world and in us and is able to draw from the darkness new hope and new possibilities.  That is what the resurrection is all about – and that is what reconciliation is all about.

Happy Easter.

Image: Anastasis Fresco depicting the resurrection of Christ in the Chora Church, Istanbul. Photograph by Joseph Kranak.