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14. december 2018

The center of the whole Icon of the Birth is a dark cave, a reminder of the darkness of sin in which mankind lived without God, from whom Jesus Christ came to save us, and at the same time is the image of the darkness of the grave in which Jesus was laid down after the crucifixion. The Mother of God is sitting, which according to tradition symbolises that the labour was completely painless, with a dark blue undergarment and a purple cloak on her shoulders and head. Three golden stars on her forehead and shoulders symbolize her virginity before, during and after birth. Our Lady is sitting on a dark blue sofa filled with gold stars, symbolizing the divine essence of the miracle that just happened. The Mother of God is the greatest figure on the Icon, reminding of her importance in the plan of salvation of all mankind. Born Jesus is much smaller than her and other figures on the Icon, which means that he did not came as a king but as a servant. At the same time, it is a reference to a parable with mustard seed that is smaller than other seeds, but ultimately a large tree grows out of it, providing shelter for many birds. To this seed, Jesus similed the kingdom of God, that he himself personifies.

 

This icon lacks the traditional depiction of the donkey and the ox, that are depicted on other Russian school icons, and are also the expressions of Jesus' humiliation and, according to some authors, refer to Isaiah's prophecy: " The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider" (Isaiah 1:3). Jesus lies in a bed, which is more of a coffin than a baby cot, is wrapped in diapers, but more like the garments of for a deceased then as a baby diaper. It is a reminder of the burial cloth in which Jesus will be wrapped after his crucifixion. Both of them remind Jesus' sacrifice, to which his life has been directed from the beginning. In the middle of the icon appear three kings. This icon actually displays three kings because they have royal garments and also royal crowns. On the other icons of Jesus' birth of this period, they are masters or sages. In the presence of the new-born savior, they humbly take down the crowns from their heads. They give him gifts. On the opposite side of this scene are three shepherds, to whom the angel announces a joyful message. Why the shepherds? It expressed that the incarnation of God and his entry into our world in material form is not only a matter of educated people from high society, but instead a hope for all. The first to know "The joyful news" are the poorest, simpler, and most sincere in its faith, unburdened by the conventions of society.

 

In the lower corner of the icon is depicted the sitting Saint Jozef srouded in doubts. His character depicts one of the most basic human qualities: doubt. Saint Joseph does not believe this could happen. Uncertainty and doubt will not be avoided on the way to God, and although St Joseph came out of this fight victorious, nor did he escape the misery caused by the doubts. In contrast to him, there is a contradictory figure about which we know very little. Some sources state that it is the temptation (the devil) who is attempting to seduce St Joseph. However, against this interpretation is the fact that within the tradition of icon-painting the devil appears very rarely and only as the one who is defeated in combat. Other sources state that it is the prophet Isaiah, who explains St. Joseph, that the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah to the world were fulfilled. However, if it was Isaiah, he should have had a nimbus, and certainly his character would be inscribed.

In the lower-right corner of the icon appears an unusual scene – the escape of saint family to the Egypt. Saint Joseph leads a small group, followed by a Virgin Mary on a white horse with baby Jesus in her arms. The last person in the group is a figure called Jacob. He can be a stepbrotherof Jesus, the son of St Joseph from the first marriage. On most of the icons, there is a scene of the bathing of a little Jesus, which signifies that the holy God does not differ from other babies and also expresses the need for our spiritual cleansing.

 

On the eve of the Lord's birth, we sing: "Each of the created beings gives you thanks in a way: Angels sing you songs, heaven sends the stars, the wise men carry the gifts, the shepherds admire the miracle, the earth gives you the cave, the wilderness provides bed, we gave the virgin mother." Bethlehem united the heaven with the earth, God and the man met here and looked each other in the eye. Would it make any sense if he was born in Bethlehem a thousand times if he was not born in a man? Believers in the eastern christian traditions greet each other with the words: "Christ is born!" "Glorify him!" What the greeting contains is testified by the icon: Christ is born now, in the present time: He is born in human hearts.