Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Harrowing of Hell

The icon to the right is known as "The Harrowing of Hell." It depicts the crucified Christ, alive, passing through the gate of death. He takes Adam and Eve by hand, raising them from their tombs to lead them to eternal life with Christ. Christ is seen holding the cross, already transformed from an instrument of death into the means of life.

Adam and Eve symbolize not only Original Sin, but also all of humanity in all times and places. Christ through the cross and resurrection leads us to life reunited with God.

This morning over on Entangled States, Nick Knisely reflects on this ancient perspective on the atonement through the words of Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev. (Read it here, and follow the links to where he found it!) Occasionally, when people ask me in a litmus test kind of way "do you believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life?" I find myself thinking of this icon and the truth it teaches.

God's purpose and the church's mission is to "restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." In my mind, there are two questions for us: 'do we believe it?' and 'how do we cooperate with God's purpose?'

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Christ the Conqueror of Hell » Theology and Spirituality » Articles in English » OrthodoxEurope.org

1 comment:

Gramercy Galleria said...

Andrew,
I like icons, just for what they are. But they don't often touch or move me. This icon, and your post brought unexpected tears to my eyes. Thank you for the icon and for this moment.

Robin