Neck Cross Akimov 101.096 «Christ's Appearance to the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Wives. The Icon of the Mother of God «Unexpected Joy»
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"An eight-ended cross of a classical shape is devoted to the sacrament of confession. Confession or penance is one of the basic sacraments of Church, the grace-giving gift of the Lord that allows people to cleanse of sins burden. Penance ranks among main concerns of a Christian life. Being profound and sincere it may in no time turn a sinner into a righteous person; caught up to Heaven one doomed to spiritual death. It is for human transformation and revival through confession that the Lord had made His redeeming sacrifice. Christ had resurrected, thereby giving a hope to all the sinners for their revival from the sin darkness to a new pure life.
The cross obverse shows one of he icons glorifying the Resurrection – “Christ's Appearance to the Holy myrrh-bearing wives”. In the center we see the majestic but light figure of the Lord as if ascending into heaven, on either side small figures of Holy myrrh-bearers prostrating themselves before Him. Those women came to Christ’s sepulcher in order to oil His body with precious ointment according to the Hebrew tradition. But the grave was empty. The Lord Himself appeared before them and announced of His resurrection.
On the cross arms on either side of Christ the saints are pictured, who became the symbols of penance in the Orthodox Church. These are St. Andrew of Crete who has written the Great Penitential Canon that is read the in the first week of the Lent; and Venerable Mary of Egypt who showed an unparalleled feat of penance. Having become aware of her deep degradation, the saint woman retired from the world to desert for obtaining absolution by prayers and rigorous fasting; and spent forty years there.
The center of the reverse shows one of the most beloved images of the Russian Church – the icon of the Mother of God ""Unexpected Joy"", whereon there is pictured a man kneeling before the Hodegetria image. The story associated to that icon is narrated in the book “The Bedewed Fleece” by St. Demetrius of Rostov. The story goes about a robber who has been in the habit of praying to the Mother of God before every misdeed, saying “Hail! Mary, Mother of God, Virgin full of grace”. Once he saw that after his words the icon became alive, and incredible affliction appeared on the face of the Mother of God. The wounds of the Infant God started bleeding at that. “Who did that? – The sinner shouted – “That is because of you and the like. You keep on crucifying my Son by your deeds” - the Mother of God answered. The sinner started crying. The Infant Christ with a stern look foreboded a heavy punishment to him. Then the Mother of God kneeled before Her Son and started asking Him to forgive the sinner. And the robber bemoaning his sins thoroughly understood that he is forgiven. The terrifying apparition was over, not a robber kneeling before the icon but a person born again in Christ. An unexpected joy of his confession, the transformation power of a prayer for absolution became the theme of this wonder working icon.
On either side the Apostles Peter and Paul intercede with the Mother of God. They came to their sanctities not immediately too. Gospel tells that Paul had initially been a cruel persecutor of Christians, Peter having repudiated his Rabbi thrice in the garden of Gethsemane. At the cross top we see John the Baptist, the Prophet and the Forerunner. He began his message foretokening the Lord’s advent with words: “Repent for your sins, since the Kingdom of Heaven approaches”. A sinner cannot enter the Divine Temple, and not by reason of the Lord unloving and unwaiting for him, but owing to heavy weight of sins that would keep his (her) soul on the earth; would prevent its ascending and saving; would precipitate it to hell. Human soul becomes free and light through the sacrament of confession."
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