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Unique Characteristics of Gračanica’s icon of the Pantocrator
Fr Stamatis Skliris
 rom time immemorial, through the sprawling laby- rinths of time, over the misty highlands of earth, across the vast expanses of space, through grandiose reflec- tions of things past and future—likely and unlikely out- comes, murky speculations, cavernous fantasies, and fog- gy uncertainties of what exists, existed, will exist, or did not exist, or what is decreasing or increasing, or what is being conceived, or what is latently inconceivable—all rac- es, all genders, all human societies, and every person indi- vidually who has wanted to be unique, who has wanted to be god, every single one of them has contributed to paint- ing a portrait of God. Both the believer and the unbeliever, both the primitive and the civilized have—consciously or inadvertently—chiseled the ineffable, molded the uncre- ated, sketched the unseen and insoluble riddle of the Per- son of the Most High, the immeasurable One, Who is ev- erywhere and Nowhere, the Conjectured, the intangible, incorporeal Being that some pray is the “really Real” [o όντως Ών], the One Who is hidden behind what is seen, the external and infinite of what is real, and the internal of
it does not matter what they call Him or Her or it (God?
Deity? Divinity?). it does not even matter if they want it or not. What matters is the fact that everyone lives and acts believing in something “other,” waiting for something “oth- er,” loving and attributing special value to something “oth- er.” it almost seems as if they cannot live or act or do some- thing themselves without belief and faith in something, without the love of something, without the expectation that something is coming. and every time they do some- thing, make something, assume something, or dream some- thing, it is as if they were attempting to reify the Hidden intangible. in spite of its intangible essence, they attempt to express it with something tangible. even when three people are working together to kill or rob a fourth person, they actually believe in love, which is precisely what they are going to murder. They believe and they love, because without elementary cooperation nothing can be done. So that which we are calling something like love is a funda- mental presupposition of being. When those three are working together, each believes that the other will do that which he has promised to do. So faith is also a fundamen- tal presupposition of being. Therefore, every act of love,
cooperation, acceptance, trust, and faith is like etching the portrait of this sine qua non, of that which is without form. all of us are trying to sketch this, to depict that which is theoretical and inexpressible, to give shape to the amor- phous. it is in the crux of this battle between man and his fate that the so-called arts lie. and, in an enigmatic way, the arts somehow manage to speak to the fundamental is- sue of ineffability. Different people, different cultures, and individual artists have contributed something to this ecu- menical portrait that never stops being woven artistically throughout time.
Christianity has also participated in this perpetual ef- fort with the image of the Son of God, jesus Christ, the God-Man. The culmination of this figurative expression of the God-Man is the mural painted at a church’s highest point, in the dome. if we trace the historical development of the iconographic subject of the Pantocrator, the al- mighty, we see that it began with the depiction of the as- cension, which marks the apostles’ last experience with Christ is Galilee, where He left them His final counsels, where they received the message of His Second Coming and judgment, and where He was borne into heaven by angels. The upper tier of the composition of the image of the ascension was the core for the Pantocrator, Who is surrounded by airborne angels. This icon depicts a power- ful risen eschatological Christ and not the humble histori- cal jesus who lived among humans as an equal. as He told His disciples after the Resurrection, He was given all au- thority in heaven and on earth. The word Pantocrator (as might be misunderstood in modern Greek) does not mean that He holds everything in His hands. From the ancient Greek word κράτος meaning power, we understand that the Pantocrator is the One who holds all power and au- thority. it is, in other words, the iconographic representa- tion of the Lord’s words that “all power on heaven and earth has been given to me.” The Church’s Pantocrator, however, is characterized by two contradictory concepts. He has power, but He also leans down to human beings with love.
Byzantium’s 14th century made its own contribution to this iconographic theme within the framework of the so- called Second Byzantine Humanism which was expressed in painting mainly by the anonymous painter of Sopoćani, by Michael and eutychius astrapas, and by Manuel Pan-

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