Much of this relies upon information from Image and Likeness.
The Resurrection Icons are much alike. They show Christ in His Descent into Hell, binding Satan and rescuing Adam and Eve. This was described in the Gospel of Nicodemus, a Gospel that was rejected by the Great Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church for reasons unrelated to the verity of the content.
The icon of the Descent into Hell is a
“spiritual representation of the significance, reality and importance of what Christ accomplished. Many of the elements that we see come from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and although the details vary from icon to icon, the essential elements remain the same:
The Icon of Christ’s Descent into Hades is not a photojournalists recording of what took place in the bowels of the earth, but rather a spiritual representation of the significance, reality and importance of what Christ accomplished. Many of the elements that we see come from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and although the details vary from icon to icon, the essential elements remain the same:the same:
- We read from The Acts of Pilate, from the text of Nicodemus “The bronze gates were broken in pieces and the bars of iron were snapped; and all the dead who were bound were loosed from their chains, and we with them. And the King of Glory entered like a man, and all the dark places of Hades were illumined…” Christ is shown standing on the gates of Hades which are suspended over a black hole in the form of a cross. Hades is depicted as a person, conquered and bound.
- Sometimes Satan is depicted with two heads to show his multiplicity and lack of integration or personhood. The hardware that held the gates in place is shattered and scattered, showing that the gates will never be closed again.
- Christ is dressed in a garment of white, orange or sometimes even dark hews of blue, or brown, but with gold highlights emanating light from His transfigured body, showing that He is the Light of the world. His cape flies to show that He is not ascending, going up, but actually descending into Hades, and having resurrected He is shown in His glory. This is signified by the blue Mandola behind Him, which we also see in the Transfiguration and in the icon of the Koimoiseis or Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary.
- He is raising Adam from his tomb with Eve on the other side. Adam offers his hand to Christ rather than clasping Christ’s hand to show that it is Christ who raises us from the dead. With His other hand, Christ raises Eve from her tomb, or He may be depicted holding a scroll in His hand, in order to proclaim the Good News to the captives. Sometimes He is shown holding a cross in His hand, the tool by which He broke apart the gates of Hell. http://www.imageandlikeness.com/meaning-of-icons-v-18.html
One of the most touching Icons of the Anastasis I have ever seen is located in the Church of the Virgin, Joy of All Who Sorrow (ROCOR) in San Francisco, California, USA. Christ grasps the left wrist of Adam in His right hand, and with His left hand he grasps Eve’s right wrist. Adam is stretching his right arm and hand toward Eve and looks at her tenderly. He seems to be saying or thinking, “O Lord, please don’t forget my helpmeet, my wife, my beloved.” It is hard to see because of the location, just over part of the Iconostasis and with a chandelier in front of it. I know how hard it is to get a decent photo of it – I tried! This is a professional photo by Alex Mizuno, My Shot, National Geographic.
- Christ’s hands and feet show the marks of the nails, as is the case in the Icon of the Touching of Thomas, but which is not true of the Icon of the Ascension. Sometimes angels are shown above the Mandola, (also known as the “glory orb”), holding the tools of salvation: the cross, the lance and the sponge. These are elements that also appear in The Icon of The Extreme Humility of Christ.
- There are many figures surrounding Christ. On the left side in this icon we have 1) the kings David and Solomon who are Christ’s relatives, according to the flesh; 2) St. John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament Prophets is also present, proclaiming in Hades as he did in this world “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Some say that John died before Christ so that he could be the “Forerunner” even in Hades; 3) Moses is also shown, wearing a Phrygian cap, he represents the first covenant and one who witnessed the first Passover; 4) and Abel, the first to suffer injustice as the consequences of sin; 5) In the background are various kings, prophets, and righteous men who immediately recognize the Risen One.
- On the right side we have the contemporaries of Christ showing us that this is an eternal act that transcends time and space. http://www.imageandlikeness.com/meaning-of-icons-v-18.html
This Icon shows Satan and Hades represented as two men beneath the figure of Christ. They are leaning on the gates of brass which Christ has destroyed.
Some Icons of the Anastasis show Christ in profile, raising Adam. His stole is flying, showing his descent. As in all of the Resurrection Icon, Eve’s hands are covered by her robe:
Eve waits behind Christ for her “turn” at the Resurrection. You can see the piercings of Christ’s hands and feet. The young man behind Adam may represent John, the beloved disciple, illustrating the “eternal act that transcends time and space.”
Finally, in the following Icon from Russia, from the 1500’s, Christ is carrying a cross as he raises Adam:
It is hard to see the elements of this Icon because of all the time that has passed and darkened the Icon. Eve is behind the figure of Adam, surrounded with contemporaries of Christ. Behind Christ are Kings David and Solomon (wearing crowns) and St. John the Baptist. This Icon does not show the keys and hinges of the Gates of Brass, nor does it show Satan bound beneath the broken Gates. There is no Mandola around Christ, and the “halo” around Christ’s head in this Icon does not have the cross behind His head, nor the “OWN” – “I Am Who I Am” usually on the halo is not present. Compare to the first, third and fifth icons above. I do not know if this is because of the extreme age of the Icon, or if the artist did not put these elements in on purpose.
In the future, as you look at Icons of the Resurrection, look for the various elements, and try to identify the people shown.