4. february 2020
The Feast of the icon: Meat-fast Sunday, or the Sunday of Christ's Judgment
Prayer tradition: The message of the icon is to inspire people to reflect on their own lives. Prayer in front of the icon of The Last Judgment focuses on realizing the personal situation and the truthfulness of the intentions. It is, therefore, necessary to pray before the icon for forgiveness of both conscious and unconscious sins so that we may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ICON
In the upper part in the centre, the Lord of Hosts sits on fiery seraphins, and cherubim worship him on both sides. He is portrayed as a king with a crown and an eight-pointed nimbus (aureole), a sign of eternity, fullness of time and knowledge. He blesses the entire universe with both hands. By His left hand is the Holy Trinity of the New Testament, hovering on the wings of seraphims. God the Father blesses the Son with his right hand and holds the sphere on the left. Above them is a white dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In the background is a heavenly army headed by Archangel Michael, who collides the demons with his spear. On the other side, the heavenly house - Jerusalem is filled with righteous of both the Old and the New Testaments. All are looking at Christ the King and the Holy Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. The four gates of heaven are guarded by the angels of the Lord. Under the Lord of Hosts is Deésis - a prayer of intercession. Christ Pantocrator, seated in the sphere, holds in his left hand the stick of all the righteous and with his right he gives a blessing. The Holy Virgin and Saint John Baptist intercede for all the people. At His feet are kneeling the forefather Adam and the grandmother Eve. In the lower row there are twelve apostles with open books, above them stand twelve angels, and the closest to Christ are two archangels - Michael and Gabriel. Underneath the sphere, two angels hold a prepared throne - hetoimassia, ready for the Lord's second coming. Behind Christ you can see the instruments of torture: the cross, the spear and the reed with a sponge. The crowd behind Moses consists of the nations of Jews, Arabs, Turks, Tatars, Germans and Hungarians. Moses, with a hand gesture, calls to the judgement. Opposite them are Old Testament patriarchs, bishops, deacons, martyrs, hermits and holy women. Below them, the angel of the Lord shows the prophet Daniel the scene of the Last Judgment and the apocalyptic animals that symbolize the four fallen empires: Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and the Medes. The story complements the text of Daniel's prophecy: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back, it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.”
(Daniel 7:1-8). Below these symbols is the scene of the last day: the dead rise from the graves, the rivers give up the drowned, and the animals the bodies of the dead. The hand under the throne holds the scales on which the souls are weighed. A soul is set on the scales and a struggle for its place in eternity takes place. Demons jump on a bowl of scales and argue for man's failure, but the angel of the Lord knocks them down with a spear to save the soul for the Kingdom of Heaven. The crowds of people on the lower right side are those whose abominable deeds outweighed God's mercy, and the demons propel them into the realm of Satan. Down and to the right, Saint Peter opens the gates of paradise and invites all the righteous into it. The heavenly gate is guarded by the cherubim, and in paradise the forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and James wait to welcome them. Below them flow four paradise rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Hidekel (Tigris) and Perat (Euphrates). Opposite to this scene, in the brown field, the depiction of damnation takes place. From the hellish oesophagus, in which is presented the figure of the personalized Satan with Judas in his arms, a snake emerges and ripples towards Adam's foot. The snake has circles on the body with twenty-four human lusts. On the boundary of paradise and hell stands a man tied to a pillar. Named "merciful sinner," he represents a lukewarm man who has done the works of merciful love but has rejected God's law. Above Abraham, we see a picture of the transformation of the soul, which has been given the mercy of God and now walks through the paradise gate and flies out of Abraham as a butterfly into the Kingdom of Heaven. At the bottom are representatives of all strata of people who have voluntarily and consciously served Evil and chained are being taken to the eternal damnation. Below them are texts with their deeds. At the very bottom are depictions of the tortures for each sin.
During the Great Lent, the Byzantine tradition recites the prayer attributed to Saint Ephraim of Syria, who summarizes the path of every Christian's conversion: “Lord and Master of my life, take away from me a spirit of despair, negligence, a desire for power and empty words. Give me, Your servant, a spirit of purity, humility, patience and love. Yes, Lord and King, give me to see my own sins and not condemn my brother, for You are blessed forever and ever. Amen."
Святитель Димитрий Ростовский, Мытарства: свидетельство блаженной Феодоры, in Жития святых святителя Димитрия Ростовского. Том III. Март, Эксмо, Москва, 2016.
Мытарства, in Азбука веры, https://azbyka.ru/