Home Divine Services Liturgy Clergy Music Theology Church Etiquette Directions
 
 

 

THE ICONOSTAS

Back Next

 

The "Iconostas" is literally the "Stand of Icons" that rise up at the front of the Sanctuary. It has 3 sets of doors:

 

1. the Holy Doors;

2. Deacon Door (north);

3. Deacon Door (south).

 

The "Holy Doors" are the central set of doors. The Holy Doors are used only in specific and solemn liturgical functions.

 

The "Deacon Doors" are on 2 doors one toward the northern end of the Iconostas and one toward the south end. These are used to facilitiate the Clergy have to enter or exit the Altar.

 

On the Holy Doors are usually icons of the 4 Evangelists: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. In our parish, the Holy Doors depict St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great. These are the Saints whose Liturgies we serve most commonly.

 

At top of the Holy Doors is the Icon of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), depicting on the left side the Archangel Gabriel bring the Good News to Mary depicted on the right side.

Above the Holy Doors is customarily the Icon of the Lord's Supper, which we call "The Mystical Supper". (NB: The terms "mystical" and "mystery" in Orthodoxy theology refer to what Latin Christians would call "sacramental" and "sacrament", these being the Latin translations of the original Greek words: "mystikos" and "mysterion"

 

On the Deacon Doors are usually icons of Deacons. In our Temple, they are St. Ephrem of Syria (a noted theologian) and St. Roman the Melodist (the celebrated hymnographer). Sometimes Angel icons are written on the Deacon Doors.

 

The principal icons of the Iconostas are: Christ the Teacher (on the right of the Holy Doors) and, on the left, Mary the holy Godbearer with Jesus in her arms. The icon on the south end (i.e. the far right) of the Iconostas is usual the patron saint of the parish. In our case: the St. Elias (the Byzantine form of the Prophet Elijah the Tishbite). On the north end is St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. (St. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea and struggled against the Arian heresy. He is noted for his care for the poor and orphans.)

 

An Iconostas may have many levels or tiersof icons. The second tier is always the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, e.g. Pascha, Pentecost, Theophany, Transfiguration, Palm Sunday, Dormition, Exaltation of the Holy Cross, etc. On the Feast days, the Icon of the Feast is taken down from the Iconostas and Processed out for Veneration at Matins and put on an analoy on the Bema.

 

 

On the uppermost level of our Iconostas is a Deisis (the Messiah enthroned) and worshipped by the heavenly court. On the north side (from Christ enthroned going left) are: the Holy Theotokos, Archangel Michael, the Apostle Peter, St. Vladimir the Great, Enlightener of Rus', St. Boris the Passion-bearer, St. Anthony of the Pecherska Lavra, and Blessed Nikolai Charnestky (one of the new Martyrs of Ukraine).

 

On the south sidewe see St. John the Forerunner, Archangel Gabriel, the Apostle Paul, St. Olga Equal-to-the-Apostles, St. Hlib the Passion-bearer, St. Theodosius of the Pecherska Lavra, and the Confessor Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky.

 

The entire Iconostas is topped by the icon of the Crucifixion(the Golgotha) where the holy Theotokos and St. John the Theologian are shown faithfully keeping vigil at the foot of the Cross (Jn. 19:25-27).

 

In front of the Iconostas runs a small stage or platform called the Solea. The Solea facilitates such as processions, incensations of the Iconostas, etc. As note earlier, the Solea used to be a platform that connected the Altar to the Ambo - the Ambo which used to be a platform in the centre of the Sanctuary (the area we now call the "Bema"). The Ambo has now been reduced to a small semi-circular extension of the Solea located in front of the Holy Doors.

In front of the Solea are often placed a series of "veneration icons". These match those on the Iconostas. They are placed here for the convenience of the Faithful, so that they may venerate the Icons of the Iconostas without actually ascending to the solea and becoming somewhat conspicuous en processus and perhaps getting in the way of some rite or ceremonial.

 

The Cupola

 

On the ceiling over the Sanctuary are painted a series of icons. At the highest point is the "Pantokrator": icon of Christ "Ruler of the All" - an icon of consolation proclaiming the ultimate victory of love.

 

 

On the next level are icons of Angels - "See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven." (Matt 18:10). These include the Archangels: Michael and Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel and thes Cherubim and Six-winged Seraphim.

 

On this level of the angels are also icons of St. John the Baptist and the holy Godbearer, the Virgin Mary. St. John the Baptism, who is depicted with angel's wings because St. John is the Messenger of God sent to prepared for the Messiah. And "messenger" in Greek is "angelos". According to the Gospel of St. Mark 1:1-2: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it has been written int he Prophets, 'Behold, I send my Messenger ["angel"] befored Your face, who will prepare Your way before You; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." ' "

 

The Holy Theotokos is shown "Orans" praying to the Messiah God. She is depicted in the classical "Orans" prayer pose, hands lifted up toward heaven. Byzantine Christians now pray standing with hands at their sides - though the Orans position of prayer is still retained by the clergy for certain central prayers. (Coptic Christians still customarily pray in the Orans position). Psalm 28:2 "Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward the innermost place of Your sanctuary."

 

The 3d level of icons in the cupola hovering over the Faithful in the Sanctuary depict the Prophets and Ancestors: Samuel, Daniel, Habbakuk, Isaiah, David, Moses, Baruch, Jacob, Malachi, Hosea, Jeremiah, Micah; Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Ansenath, Judah and Tamara, Ruth and Boaz, Elizabeth and Zachary, Joachim and Anna.

 

 

 

 

 

Back Next


CONTACT

Fr. Roman Galadza
905.459.8888

email