This icon depicts the Christ in eschatological glory. The blue spheres around him, without beginning or end, represent eternity, and the red squares represent time. The Greek letters in his halo signify “I am who I am,” God and human. Christ bridges time and eternity.
The Old Testament prophets had fantastic visions of God in glory, and their imagery was repeated in the New Testament. Six-winged seraphim surround Christ’s throne, and Ezechial’s winged beasts emerge from the four directions, now representing the four evangelists. All except for Christ are painted as though transparent, to emphasize that they are spirits. Christ is painted with bold colors, because he is human. Material creation is enthroned in the highest heavens. This is the core of our faith as Christians.
Misguided emphasis has sometimes led Christians to spurn the material world. This world of ours is called to inconceivable glory, however -- both because it was created by God, but also because it was assumed into God’s very person. Because of Christ, there is no thing nor any person in this world that does not command our respect. As St. Gregory of Nyssa said many centuries ago, if only we would take off our shoes -- referring to the story of Moses and the burning bush -- we would discover that all ground was sacred.
Christ, enthroned in highest heaven,
Hear us crying from the deep,
For the faithful ones departed,
For the souls of all that sleep;
As Thy kneeling Church entreateth,
Hearken, Shepherd of the sheep.
King of Glory, hear our voices,
Grant Thy faithful rest, we pray;
We have sinned, and may not bide it,
If Thou mark our steps astray;
Yet we plead the saving Victim,
Which for them we bring today.
That which Thou Thyself hast offered
To Thy Father, offer we;
Let it win for them a blessing,
Bless them, Jesus, set them free;
They are Thine, they wait in patience;
Merciful and gracious be.
They are Thine, O take them quickly,
Thou their Hope, O raise them high;
Ever hoping, ever trusting,
Unto Thee they strive and cry;
Day and night, both morn and even,
Be, O Christ, their Guardian nigh.
Let Thy plenteous loving-kindness,
On them, as we pray, be poured;
Let them through Thy boundless mercy,
From all evil be restored;
Hearken to the voices pleading
Of Thy Church, O gracious Lord.
Hear and answer prayers devoutest,
Break, O Lord, each binding chain,
Dash the gates of death asunder,
Quell the devil and his train;
Bring the souls which Thou hast ransomed
Evermore in joy to reign.