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The Pantocrator and his Mother Mary

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1. The five figures of Christ in the vertical axis of the central apse.
Those who manage to enter into harmony with the great care with which the ancients planned the scenes and characters of a basilica or a church cannot fail to appreciate the density of the Christological sequence, if we read it in a vertical line, five images present in our area.

Beginning from the top of the third triumphal arch which introduces the tourist and believer into the sacred heart of the mosaics of Monreale, we relate with the following images:
- the dark-bright (black-light) cloud, which represents the Divinity of the Father and, in it, the Divinity of the Son, eternal Word and the Holy Spirit;
- in the centre of the vault of the central apse, Christ is represented by the Throne of glory and Judgement or Etimasia (a Greek term meaning preparation of a throne): Jesus is made present in the glorious Cross (bright crown), lying on the royal cushion positioned on the divine throne and in the blue cloak, it too on the same throne; the Holy Spirit is represented here in the traditional form of the divine Dove, evoking, in this judicial context, the function of “defender” advocate, a function which is attributed to the Spirit; lastly, we also notice a bucket, at the foot of the throne, containing four nails used for the crucifixion of the Victim; 
 
- at the top of the fourth triumphal arch, Christ is depicted in the form of the Emmanuel, restored during the second half of the 19th century, represented as young, without a beard, with the eternal Knowledge that he is holding in his left hand, the Evangelical Book of Truth while with his right hand he is proclaiming the Word of life; - given the vastness of the mosaic-covered space and given the immediate effect on the tourist and believer, the Christ of the apsidal basin dominates the entire Cathedral with the Face which is part of historical tradition (black hair, straight and long “Nazarene style”, a short beard, bilobate…) he is Jesus, the Light of the world, as he emerges from the words of the book opened in his left hand; he is Jesus the almighty Word (pantocrator), creator, with the Spirit of the universe, at the origins of the world, and of the Church, with the resurrection of the crucified Messiah;

- finally, we find Christ in the arms of his Mother, Mary, in the inferior register of the central apse; here he is depicted as a well-developed child, with a divine gaze, almost like that of an adult, golden blond hair, wearing a gold coloured cloak and tunic, with the volume of Knowledge in his left hand and with his right hand raised in a gesture of solemn Word.
 

2. Some Christological characteristics in these images of Christ.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the Christological characteristics of the representation of the Saviour in the central Apse.

2.1. Jesus, Master and Light
The focal point for the interpretation of the bust of Christ pantocrator is in the open book held up by his left hand. In it, in Latin and Greek, we can read verse 12 of chapter 8 of the Gospel according to John, the story of the salvation granted to the adulterous woman has just finished: Iterum ergo locutus est eis Iesus dicens: Ego sum lux mundi qui sequitur me non ambulabit in tenebris sed habebit lucem vitae. (official Italian translation [1974]: Once again Jesus spoke to them: I am the light of the world; he who follows me, will not walk in darkness, he will have the light of life).
The book of the Light-Truth and the right hand raised, with the fingers of his hand positioned in a Byzantine form “of word” (and not “Greek style blessing” as is very often sustained, even in the very homeland of the eastern tradition, Greece and at its core, the monasteries of Mount Athos), make Christ the Master par excellence, the Rabbi who teaches in an authoritative manner (reference: Matthew 7, 29, with parallels in Mark 1, 22; Luke 4, 32; John 7, 46). All of the iconic choices of those who designed and created the mosaics of Monreale are based on the connection between Master > Light > Truth > Way > Communion (leitourghìa) > Service (diakonìa) > Royal eternal glory (dòxa).

2.2. Jesus, Judge and Messiah
The Etimasia speaks to us of Jesus Master and Saviour, eternal Word of the Father, incarnated in true and perfect human nature, judge of human history in its totality and truth. We should bear in mind that the character of the Messiah “judge” is part of the oldest neo-testamentary Kergymatic texts. We should mention one of among the oldest and most studied, Acts 10, 36.43, originally drafted in Aramaic or Hebrew. The Judge of all, who went onto the cross for love of us, taking on all of our sins and the consequences of them, is substantially Mercy and Truth, authentic Truth, multiplied by his maternal Mercy.

[36] God sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all.) [37] You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, [38] Jesus of Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. [39] And we are witnesses of all things that he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him upon a tree. [40] Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, [41] Not to all the people, but to witnesses preordained by God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he arose again from the dead; [42] And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is he who was appointed by God, to be judge of the living and of the dead. [43] To him all the prophets give testimony, that by his name all receive remission of sins, who believe in him.

2.3. Jesus, Son and brother
Thirdly, beginning from the image of the Mother Immaculate-Panakhrantos), the Christological mystery is shown to us, in the fullness of a Humanity (humanitas in Latin, filanthropìa in Greek) which paradoxically becomes the utmost demonstration of the Power and Knowledge of God. Only those who are Great, Almighty, can experience the dynamic nature of the love that is fulfilled by giving itself, a love that shines out gloriously upon dying, to give life to the beloved, the Church, its chosen people in a mature, altruistic manner. Rightfully, in a controversial context with empty Greek knowledge and Judaic power, Paul of Tarsus writes (1Cor 1, 22-25)

[22] For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: [23] But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: [24] But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. [25] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

We should bear in mind that for the first Christian communities, the mystery of the incarnation and birth of Jesus, along with the mystery of the passion and death on the Cross, were the two-fold “hidden mystery”, to be unveiled to the uninitiated, to be illustrated only to the hearts and minds willing to convert and adhere to the Gospel in the Church. The text by Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Ephesians, 19 is well known.

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

3. The Virgin Mother, to whom the Cathedral is dedicated
Mary, most pure (pan-akhrantos) is depicted wearing imperial clothing, a violet coloured cloak with a gold border and embroidery, a dark blue tunic, with gold coloured borders and embroidery, dark red shoes with white embroidery. Like an empress she is sitting on an inlaid throne embellished with gems, in the upper section. Two large cushions ensure the comfort of the person sitting on it, a necessary choice due to the extensive time required for the Hearings. This last “iconic sign” directs the onlooker to consider Mary as the mother of the entire human race, the queen of all the angelical choirs.
Regarding the Greek inscription MP and TY, the famous abbreviation of METER THEOU, or MOTHER OF GOD, we refer back to the in-depth study of this “honorary title” attributed to Mary, where we will also compare it with the other title of THEOTOKOS.
Regarding the meaning of “immaculateness” or “entirely spotless” reference should be made to the box at the side.