For most of Holy Week, Orthodox churches display this particular icon of Jesus Christ, known as “The Bridegroom”. The name is taken from the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.
My copy of the icon came with an insert that contained a brief explanation of the icon.
As a husband is to his wife so is Jesus Christ to His Church. His Crucifixion is His marital vow and His mockery and beating His wedding feast. The Bridegroom icon shows Christ stripped of His garments and clothed in a scarlet robe to mock Him. He wears a crown of thorns, causing blood to flow from the wounds. A reed is placed in His bound hands as a scepter.
In Christ’s halo are the Greek letters for “I AM,” to remind us that Christ is the All-Powerful God who freely chose to experience pain and death. For the first three days of Holy Week this icon is placed prominently in the Church to remind us of Christ’s great love and great suffering.
This is one of my favorite depictions of Christ. I purchased my copy of this icon immediately after my first Orthodox Holy Week service. The church had a very large copy, close to a meter tall, and it made a very strong impression.
I was struck by this beautiful, sad, juxtaposition of joy and pain. The allusion to marriage is a strong one, and a significant part of this icon’s emotional power. Here is a picture of the crowns worn by the bride and groom in a Greek wedding. Note the similarity to Christ’s crown of thorns:
This icon’s reference to the parable of the ten virgins is a warning against complacency. We have to prepare ourselves to follow Christ, to love and sacrifice as He did. To neglect this preparation leads to our destruction.
Thus in our Lenten journey, in our marriages, and in our Christian lives, we have to learn to be patient, to set aside our wants and desires, and to suffer deeply for the sake of those we love. What a perfect message to close out the Lenten season!