Wednesday, April 20, 2011
the harrowing of hell
Into Hell and Out Again
In this Byzantine-inflected icon
of the Resurrection, the murdered Christ
is still in Hell, the chief issue being
that this Resurrection is of our aged
parents and all their poor relations. We
find Him as we might expect, radiant
in spotless white, standing straight, but leaning
back against the weight of lifting them. Long
tradition has Him standing upon two
crossed boards--the very gates of Hell--and He,
by standing thus, has undone Death by Death,
we say, and saying nearly apprehend.
This all--the lifting of the dead, the death
of Death, His stretching here between two realms--
looks like real work, necessary, not pleasant
but almost matter-of-factly undertaken.
We witness here a little sheepishness
which death has taught both Mom and Dad; they reach
Christ's proffered hands and everything about
their affect speaks centuries of drowning
in that abysmal crypt. Are they quite awake?
Odd--motionless as they must be in our
tableau outside of Time, we almost see
their hurry. And isn't that their shame
which falls away? They have yet to enter bliss,
but they rise up, eager and a little shocked
to find their bodies capable of this.
-- Scott Cairns
[note: the icon is in a chapel of the Church of the Savior at Chora in Istanbul]
* * *