The icon of Christ in glory
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev 20:11-12)
This triptych follows the classical pattern of Christ Pantocrator on the Day of Judgment which is found in ancient Christian iconography. In the central panel we see Christ enthroned, with the Book of Judgment open, bearing the inscription of Christ as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, while to his right stands in adoration the Mother of God, and to his left the Archangel Michael.
Jesus is in the midst of heavenly powers. His throne is a celestial one, translucent, immaterial, and surrounded by a host of immaterial celestial beings, cherubim and seraphim that worship before the throne of God day and night. He is dressed in a garment of shimmering gold, showing his Divinity as emanating Light. From his divine person emanate rays of gold, symbolizing the Uncreated Divine Energies by which Creation is made, redeemed and sanctified. The gilded background represents the ‘bright darkness’ of God, who is both Known and Unknown. The figure of Christ is set against a red nimbus, itself superimposed on a green circle, which is superimposed on a larger red nimbus. Red and green are complimentary colours, and when set against each other are dynamic colours, while a circle speaks of the Uncreated who has no beginning and no end, while the square represents all created things which are delineated in time and space, thus articulating in colour and form that the power of Christ fills all things and that all things are drawn back into Christ in whom all things find their fulfillment. He holds the Book of Life open in his left hand, while with his right hand pronounces judgment.
To his right and left stand Mary, Queen of Heaven and of all the saints, and St Michael the Archangel and prince of the heavenly powers (he bears the staff of his authority and the orb representing the cosmos which he humbly offers to Christ). They stand in Paradise with heads bowed in the Presence of Christ, an attitude of humility, prayer, adoration, and wonder. Purified they can behold what we cannot, (the three stars adoring the Mother of God’s mantel testify to her being a virgin, before, during and ever since the conception of her Son), their spiritual eyes able to perceive and behold what would be too much for the eyes of those who’s sight is darkened by sin. Their garments share the illumination of the Divine Light, with which they themselves filled, an inner illumination which radiating from them also. These are those who, filled with the Divine Life, make constant intercession for us and the departed before the throne of the Lamb.
Written for this chapel for the remembrance of the departed, Christ is the Merciful Judge, while Mary and Michael hold those written in the book of the departed constantly before Christ Merciful and Just. In iconography, the face of the Saviour has one side which is depicted as from the front, which looks directly at us, knowing us and the reality of our lives, while the other side is shown slightly turned from one side, the eye glancing at us, more gentle and compassionate, as we come before Our Merciful Saviour. This is an image filled with Christian hope in the face of the reality of our lives so in need of redemption, an image which brings before Christ our God the souls of the departed, from whom we beseech his tender loving kindness for those we love.
Ian Knowles, Iconologist
The Chapel & Icon were blessed during the Confirmation Mass on 18th June 2011 by The Right Reverend Paul Hendricks, Titular Bishop of Rosemarkie and Auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Southwark.