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How is the Nativity of Christ depicted in the Orthodox icon?


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"

Christmas icons are full of light and joy, because the birth of Jesus is like a new creation of the world, through Him the word of God is embodied. Christmas confirms the two kinds- divine and human, of Christ - born on earth Infant, and on the other hand the miraculously conceived godly virgin. As an assurance of that, the iconography is , representing the expelled Star of Bethlehem, an angelic choir, an annunciation on a shepherd, etc.

When portrayaling this event, all Bulgarian icons follow the Byzantine tradition. According to the Gospel story, pious Joseph, to whom Mary was entrusted as a bride, went with her to Bethlehem because of the census of Population announced by Caesar Augustus. Along the way, Mary feels that the time has come to give birth and they take shelter in a cave. The scene usually unfolds against the backdrop of a hill - in the center of the composition are the Virgin and Child in the manger, and behind them the ox and the donkey in the cave. A ray with a star in the middle (from the Star of Bethlehem) descends to Jesus. Angels tell the good news to the shepherds. Joseph is also in the foreground, often depicted sitting and thoughtful. Not always on the left are the three eastern kings, wise mans - the magicians to whom an angel points the way.

Since the time of the Byzantine emperor Constantine, on the place of the cave a church has been built, supported by donations from his mother Elena. The manger is kept as a relic in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. During its transfering to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (Christmas) is established on December 25. The earliest image of the Nativity of Jesus Christ in Bulgaria are in frescoes from the basilica "St. George ”in Sofia from the second half of the XII th century.

The icon of the Nativity of Christ from the collection of Regional Historical Museum is part of the "festive order" of the iconostasis. The icon is in small in size and follows the usual iconographic scheme. In the middle of the picturesque field are painted the Infant and his parents - the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. Behind them are the mangers with the animals, and above all is the Star of Bethlehem, whose rays fall on Jesus. In the upper girdle, the archangel Gabriel and two other angels holding unfolded scrolls containing the words of the Great Praise, which is part of every morning and evening service in the temple - "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"


Author: Ivanka Deleva, head of the section "History of Bulgaria XV-XIX centuries"
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