In Revelation, Chapter 21, St. John recounts seeing the new heaven and the new earth and a magnificent Holy City where God dwells among His people. There is a glorious throne with Jesus seated upon it declaring, “Behold I make all things new!”
This vision is the starting point for the iconography of our Orthodox temples. The eschaton which we have been waiting for since the final words of Revelation, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” is modeled in our churches through art and song. Christ is enthroned as Pantocrator, our Blessed Lady as protectress and the saints painted in glory and fully alive! In the face of us all being under the same, sad sentence of death we nevertheless proclaim the New Order of eternal life. What we see in the temple we hope to become-living, breathing saints at the heavenly banquet surrounded by our family, our friends; all whose hope is in the Word Made Flesh!
It is in the Paschal Season that our hymns explode with this hope in the reversal of things, when our priests, whose very bodies cannot contain their joy, cry out the unceasing battle cry, “Christ is risen!”
It is in this year and in this Easter Season that St. Michael the Archangel Church of Concord has clothed itself in the image of the New Heaven and the New Earth. We have been graced by the Serb Iconographer Borislav Zivkovic, a great artist whose loyalty to canonical precepts singles out his tremendous humility. It is said that artists are touched with the divine spark of God’s creative energies. We at St. Michael’s have seen this in action and are moved by it.
The wall in the altar is crowned with the “Icon not made by human hands” at the apex. Beneath Him is the Most Holy Theotokos, “Wider Than The Heavens” in the ancient orans stance-She who ever prays for us, protecting her children under her sacred mantle.
At eye level directly behind the Holy Table we find Christ the High Priest sharing His very self in Holy Communion. To His right and left the Holy Hierarchs, holding a scroll with their own words, gaze upon Christ with complete love. Upon His right, we find St.Basil the Great whose scroll reads, “O sinner, be not discouraged but have recourse to Mary in all your necessities”. Then we have St Gregory of Rome the dialogist with “Holy Scripture is placed before the eyes of our mind like a mirror”, and St. Augustine of Hippo’s writing, “You drew up my soul out of that profound darkness because my mother”-a reference to his holy mother, St. Monica and a constant reminder of our own earthly mothers’ prayers for us. To Christ’s left is St. John Chrysostom bearing the words, “When you speak with anger you ruin all. The anger is a failure.” Next to him we see St. Athanasius with “We venerate One God in Trinity and Three Persons in Unity.” Finally, the humble St. Spyridon proclaiming, “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
May God bring to fulfillment His Paschal promises to all of us at St. Michael’s and throughout the Orthodox world. Christ is risen!