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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Interpretation of the Icon of the Raising of Lazarus

 

The icon transfers us to the outskirts of the city, in a rocky landscape. In one of those rocks, according to the tradition of the Judeans, Lazarus' tomb had been hollowed out. Here again, the figure of Christ is the most prominent. His grief is obvious, but we can still infer His divinity. This is betrayed firstly by His majestic stance, and secondly, by the fact that the Judeans (these are the people grouped at the right-hand side) are looking at Christ and not at Lazarus. Christ's one hand is holding a scroll, while the other hand is extended towards Lazarus, with an intense gesture. A young man is removing the shroud's bands and another is moving the slab away from the tomb's entrance. Lazarus' sisters are impressively portrayed; they are prostrate before the Lord, their faces lined with their unspeakable grief. It has been aptly observed that "all those portrayed, comprise simply and solely, the varying shades and psychological gradations of the same sentiment, the same psychological state - that of deep solemnity in the face of the event; from the serene movements of the Apostles, to Mary's lamentation so full of self-denial" (Icons of Cretan Art, p. 364).

Our icon therefore has its divine element, not only the human one. Other icons, such as the Ascension, the Resurrection, and others, retain their mystery obscure and their symbolic character obvious. Here, everything is comprehensible and obvious. Ouspensky, who tells us all this, summarizes: "The icon gives us the external, the natural side of the miracle, making it as accessible to human perception and examination, as it was when the actual miracle was performed, and exactly as it was described in the Bible."

The portrayal is a touching one, with the figures of the Hebrews who have swarmed to console Lazarus' grief-stricken sisters. They become eyewitnesses of the miracle, and many of them, "witnessing what Jesus did, believed in Him."

The icon of the Raising of Lazarus from the grave, helps us to remember the Lord's significant words: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.


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