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
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
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
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.
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
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.