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Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Icon
 

The Pentecost icon: Ancient images of Pentecost, for example in the Rabbula Gospels of the sixth century, show the Theotokos standing amid the apostles. In the icon shown here, twelve apostles sit on a synthronon, the empty space in the middle representing Christ, the invisible head of the church (see throne). At the bottom of the picture is a cavernous dark space, as in icons of the Nativity of Christ, the Theophany, the Anastasis and the Crucifixion, as well as icons of Elias, George and the Dragon, and many hermits and ascetics. Sometimes this represents the realm of death into which Christ descends, as in the Anastasis, or his blood trickles, as in the Crucifixion, bringing life. Sometimes it is the dragon-infested depths subjected to the Lord's power, or the residue of that spiritual darkness where ascetics do battle with the demonic powers. In the Pentecost icon a personification of the Cosmos occupies the dark space; he is shown on the threshold of enlightenment. Cosmos wears royal regalia and holds a sheet bearing twelve scrolls representing the divisions of the world, to be the missionary territories of the apostles. Sometimes the prophet Joel appears here, since he foretold the coming of the Holy Spirit on all humankind Joel 2: 28-9). Twelve light-rays or tongues of fire descend on the disciples from heaven along with the three-pronged symbol of the trinity, representing the sending of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the deification of humanity. For the Jews the festival of Pentecost commemorated the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

 

Ouspensky, L. and Lossky, V. (1982), The Meaning of Icons. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press.

 


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