In ancient times large crosses were sometimes embellished with icon-cases of venerated icons of Christ and the Mother of God together with images of saints and prayers. Later that tradition passed on the next-to-the-skin crosses. Relying on this tradition we created the cross with Christ, the Lord of Universe, and the Iviron Icon of the Mother of God.
On the obverse the Lord is depicted surrounded by four Evangelists. With His right hand He gives His blessing to us, holding an open book in His left hand. That is the New Testament – the Love law that He has executed by His whole life. The Apostles Matthew, Marc, Luke and John wrote down Christ doctrine and reserved His biography for us. Their works formed the New Testament or the Gospel. The Gospel having been preached throughout the Earth, Christ will advent again for the Last Inquest, and will render justice according to His Law.
Cross is a symbol of four-piece universe, conjunct by Christ. Evangelist images on crossbars designate the universe enlightened with the Divine Word. Love suffused image of Christ is in the middle. His appeal to people is scripted around in Slavonic character: “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you”. The Lord promises everlasting joy to those who does His commandments, but it won’t be seen by sinners. Therefore the believers dread of Last Judgment, hope for the Lord’s mercy, and invoke it. This pray – “Lord have mercy upon me!” – is scripted on the cross ear.
On the cross reverse there is located the image of one of the most famous Athonite sacred objects of, whereto a prophecy of the Doomsday relates. By the legend the Iviron icon of the Mother of God miraculously came by water to a cloister of Ivirons (Iberians, Georgians) on the Mt. Athos in 999, and has been being kept there in the gate temple for already more than 1000 years. Therefore it is called Portaitissa. The Mother of God disclosed to monks that on the eve of the Doomsday Her icon would disappear from the cloister gate.
The Iviron icon is not only Portaitissa, but “Hodegetria” (“She who shows the Way”, from Greek literally) as well – that is the type of the icon where the Mother of God as if points to the Infant Christ solemnly sitting on Her left hand, and makes it clear that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14, 6). In Greek the iconography wherein the Mother of God “edifies everyone who is faithful to any way of saving” (as it is written on the cross) is called «Hodegetria». The way is unique but there is multitude of roads for a person to come to God, and everyone has that of one’s own; there are also many kinds of sanctity, different and dissimilar to each other.
On the cross the Mother of God is interceded with the saints who executed the gospel law differently, having become similar to Christ each in his own way.
To the right of the Mother of God Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky is portrayed, the Moldavian elder († 1794). First half of his life was devoted to searching true monasticism, the second being the incessant struggle for strengthening thereof. Due to Blessed Paisius and to his disciples revived was asceticism and spiritual preceptorship in Orthodoxy. Blessed Paisius in his search of spiritual preceptor reached Athos. But at the Holy Hill ravaged by Turks he found only the books of Holy Fathers. And they became his preceptors. Many decades later he became the first elder of Athos, and gained numerous followers. Turkish oppression forced him and his disciples to leave for Moldavia. There the elder started to translate the Holy Fathers heritage to Slovenian language. The collections compiled by him were named “Loving Kindness”. From them St. Seraphim of Sarov and famous elders of Optina hermitage studied to pray. One of those elders – Venerable Ambrose († 1891) – is pictured at the cross top.
Venerable Ambrose is the great elder of Optina hermitage; pilgrims from all Russia came to him for spiritual advice and prayerful assistance. Many famous Russian writers cane to see him in his cell, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky among them. The saint had the gifts of prophecy and healing. When he deceased his relics became wonder-makers. (Commemorated is on October 16 and 23).
To the left of the Mother of God portrayed is the Roman saint Venerable father Alexis, the “Man of God” († 411). He had been called so for his meekness and humility during his life already. The saint forsook his family and the world; he abandoned not only his belongings but even his brains and became “God’s fool” having devoted to God every minute of his existence. His life was incomprehensible to people around him; his sanctity and wisdom were obscure behind outer insanity. His being Peculiar before God came to light only on deathbed when his name was disclosed to a clergyman. (Commemorated is on March 30).
Venerable Mary of Egypt (stands at the cross foot) as well stayed unknown all her life († 522). Indulged in licentiousness early in her life she viewed the abyss of her degradation due to the wonder by Mother of God icon. Venerable Mary retired to desert and had been repenting of her sins during forty years. She was so intensive in her penitence, and reached so high level of sanctity that her exploit exemplified to every Orthodox believer. Her hagiography is read in churches every year during Lent. (Commemorated is on April 14, in the 5th week of Lent).