torso of the SaviorThe most striking element of the Byzantine Crucifix is the figure of Christ. It is not the body of a corpse, but of God Himself, incorruptible unto eternity and the source of life, radiating the hope of the Resurrection. He does not hang on the Cross, but rather seems to be supporting it. His hands are not cramped from being nailed to the wood, but rather spread out serenely in an attitude of supplication, which the iconographer has further emphasized by Jesus’ tranquil and gentle expression. This icongraphic Crucifix does not express the brute horror of death by crucifixion, but rather the nobility and gentleness of eternal life.
The figure of our Lord is itself instructive, for He stands upon the cross (the short crossbar beneath His feet was actually a kind of shelf). This indicates that our Lord suffered His passion voluntarily and was at all times the master of life and death. This is also shown by the calm expression on His face and the relaxed attitude of His body.
Sacred imagery from both the Scriptures and holy tradition fill this iconographic Byzantine Crucifix.
Holy NapkinAt the top of the Crucifix we see the Holy Napkin bearing the imprint of our Lord’s face. Tradition tells us that King Agabus of Syria, having heard of the Lord and His miracles and wishing to “see” Him, sent an artist to draw a likeness of Him. However much he tried, the artist could not capture the divine features of the Lord, Who in His compassion took a piece of cloth, pressed it to His face, and miraculously imprinted His likeness thereon. The artist then took this miraculous image to the king, who was cured of leprosy by its very touch. The Holy Napkin at the top of the crucifix thus reminds us of our Lord’s true descent into flesh and His omnipotent power.