Neck Cross Akimov 101.019 «Deesis. The Nicopea image of the Mother of God»
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"Since ancient time the Church Fathers has interpreted the principal four-ended shape of a cross as a symbol of God created world. The cross is the image of the Universe that spreads in breadth and rises from the earth up to Heavens; that is unified and strengthened by the Creator Himself in the likeness of two crossbars intersected and joined in the middle.
In the given cross the basic symbolism is supplemented and enriched with the icons of Deesis – the composition that includes the Almighty and the Mother of God and John the Baptist interceding with Him. The Deisis tier continued by images of archangels, martyrs and saints is principal in iconostasis. It shows the perfect Church of saints abiding eternally in the Kingdom of Glory, wherewith the believers unite whiles the Communion, and wherewith the earthly church will merge after the Doomsday.
Deesis on the cross gives rise to an apocalyptic post-Last Judgment image of creation as it was seen by St. John, the Apostle in Revelation: “Behold the tabernacle of God with men: and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people: and God himself with them shall be their God” (Apoc. 21; 3). Это мир, в который не войдет “There shall not enter into it any thing defiled or that worketh abomination or maketh a lie: but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb» (Apoc. 21; 27). The book in Christ hand to which He gives His blessing is that same human Destinies Book locked up with seven seals; and only the Lord Himself can open it: “O Lord, to take the book and to open the seals thereof: because thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God” (Apoc. 5; 9). Woe is to those whose names lack therein – the Apostle says – retribution of God will befall them. “Without are dogs and sorcerers and unchaste and murderers and servers of idols and every one that loveth and maketh a lie” (Apoc. 22; 15).
The book on the icon has another meaning as well. It symbolizes New Testament, i.e. new treaty, new agreement that was covenanted between God and people while His first advent to the earth as a human being Jesus. The main law of this Testament is Love Commandment: “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John.13; 34). Of this commandment Apostle John told to his disciples: “It being solely fulfilled would have been enough”.
The saints know Love Commandment to be the most arduous. For it to be carried out one should give up many things. But the sacrifice is incommensurable with the acquired reward. The Lord says: “He that shall overcome shall possess these things. And I will be his God: and he shall be my son” (Apoc. 21; 7). The Mother of God is the first and the main assistant for person to overcome his (her) inner evil. She Herself having never committed a sin even inwardly having won the perfect sanctity. On the cross reverse located is Her icon “Nicopea”, or “victorous” or “conferring victory”, in Greek. In Byzantium it is one of the most beloved icon types, being sometimes also called “Pantanassa”, or “the Sovereign Lady”. The Mother of God carries the Divine Son in front of Her, Whom She sacrifices for the love of abandoned mankind. The Lord on Her hands is facing to the world, His love sacrifice being Himself and His life.
That frightful and great sacrificial example was followed by many saints who became assistants and preceptors for people in fulfilling Love Commandment. Two of them – St. Seraphim of Sarov (to the left) and St. Sergius of Radonezh – interceding with Our Lady.
St. Sergius of Radonezh († 1422) started his way to God as an anchorite, and having won the Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit turned to the world for serving to people. He founded a monastery that became the spiritual center of Russia, and gathered numerous disciples whom he preached Love Commandment as the basis of church unanimity, universe integrity, state prosperity and human happiness. The life and theology of St. Sergius had enormous influence on the spiritual development of Church. His followers spread all over Russia land, founded many monasteries, erecting churches in the name of the Holy Trinity everywhere. Relics of St. Sergius rest in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. Formerly it was a diminutive cloister in the impenetrable forest of Radonezh. Nowadays multitude of settlements, as well as a town named after the saint – Sergiev-Posad – were built around Lavra. (St. Sergius is ommemorated on October 8 and July 18).
St. Seraphim of Sarov († 1833) was one of spiritual followers of St. Sergius of Radonezh. A thousand of days he stood on the stone and prayed for winning perfect sacrificial devotion to God and love for neighbor (theophilanthropy). Living in thorough self-denial, on nothing but bishop's-weed and water, the saint used to tell to his disciples who were amazed at his exploit heaviness, that if they knew what celestial bliss God has prepared for them, they would be happy to spend all their life in a cell up to their neck filled with worms. St. Seraphim had a right to speak so: during his life the Most Holy Mother of God visited him six times; he communicated with other saints as well, saw the Happy Isles. The saint was also tireless to repeat: “Gain inner conciliation and thousands around you would be saved”. He saw the saints as Divine luminaries who light and enlighten everything and everyone by the Holy Spirit.
Nowadays the relics of St. Seraphim rest in the Monastery of the Mother of God in Diveevo, founded by him. The Mother of God Herself indicated the place for the cloister having walked around by “Her own feet”. On the traces of Her St. Seraphim digged a groove that remained intact to present day.
The saint is commemorated twice on January 15 and August 1."
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