The rare composition that interprets Psalm 148 “Praise the Lord from the Heavens” is generally found in murals. Religious icons of this type appeared at the end of the 15th century in Russia, Greece, and the Balkans. The diversity and divine harmony of the Psalm are especially greatly manifested in Jesus icon “Praise the Lord from the Heavens.” Let’s take a closer look at this icon and its meaning for the Orthodox Christian church.
The description of Jesus icon “Praise the Lord from the Heavens”
The iconographer depicted the world praising its Creator. At the top of the icon, you can see the firmament in the form of arc-shaped stripes. Above them are the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Savior Emmanuel is depicted in the center. He sits on the throne, blessing the created world with His both hands. The Mother of God, John the Baptist, and the angels are depicted beside Christ. Beneath the heavenly world is the earthly world with its inhabitants.
The composition of Jesus icon “Praise the Lord from the Heavens” also features a solemn procession to the throne, in which the forefathers, kings, saints, and common people take part. All are depicted according to a strict hierarchy.
The world of fauna in the icon is quite diverse. Among the inhabitants of the terrestrial world, one can see domestic and wild animals, including a dog, a cat, a deer, and a goat. There are also exotic and imaginary animals: a camel, an elephant, and a unicorn. It is interesting that the camel in Christian teaching is a symbol of the duality of human nature — righteous and sinful — so its interpretation varies. At the very bottom of the icon, you can see snakes and dragons, all painted in black and red.
The sacral meaning of the icon “Praise the Lord from the Heavens”
All creatures depicted in the composition are gathered in the name of Christ. Through colors and symbolic images, this icon praises God for the creation of the world. The diversity of saints depicted beside Christ and animals that represent the earthly world is considered to be an image of a peaceful and perfect universe. You might have also noticed that the arrangement of all those who glorify God is reminiscent of that in the Deesis icon. They pray for the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of the Heavenly Judge.
Jesus icon “Praise the Lord from the Heavens” is indeed a great manifestation of the beauty and glory of the world created by God.