The central section of the Temple is called the Sanctuary. (It is the
equivalent of the "nave" in Latin Churches.) It is called the Sanctuary because it corresponds to the "Hekhal" of
the Old Testament Temple, the "Holy Place". It represents the world redeemed by Christ Jesus.
It is here that the Faithful gather to pray. It is here that the Bishop is vested in the midst of the Faithful. It is from the Bema that the Gospel is proclaimed.
Historically the Ambo was a kind of stage that arose in the midst of
the Sanctuary. And deacons ascended it to proclaim the Gospel and intone
the litanies. Historically the Solea was a walkway that lead from the
Altar to the Ambo.
Architecturally and theologically, you will find many parallels between
the Church building and the Old Testment Temple-Tabernacle, cf. I Kings
The North & South Transepts
In the north transept there is the place for the Mystery of Forgiveness
(Confession). For the Holy Mystery of Forgiveness a Gospel book and a Cross is placed on a stand. An icon lit with a lamp hangs on the wall in front. Before these symbols, the penitent makes his confession to God - accompanied by the Priest as the representative of the Church, the Body
In the south transept of St. Elias Temple, we place the Plaschenytsia,
the Icon of the Burial of the Jesus. The Plaschenytsia is often placed on a stand which resembles a bier.
In our parish, above the Plaschenytsia hangs an icon of the Crucifixion. If needed, the south chancel can also be set up as a place for the Mystery
In the centre of the Sanctuary is an area called the "Kathedra".
On Feasts, icons are set out in the Kathedra for veneration. Likewise here, the Gospel is brought out to the Kathedra for veneration
during Matins. At Hierarchical Divine Services, it is at the Kathedra where the Bishop
will preside and be vested - hence the name.
In the Byzantine tradition, Churches do not have pews. Pews are
a Protestant worship style - where sitting
and listening to a lengthy sermon is the central component of the Service. Orthodox worship, in contrast, requires much more freedom for the human
body. Freedom to pray. Prayer in the Byzantine tradition is not done
sitting. We pray standing. We often make "reverences" - the Sign of the Cross accompanied
by a profound bow. During the various Fast Seasons, we make many Prostrations or Poklony (i.e. "Full
In addition there are various Services and rituals which require that
people move about, e.g.: veneration of the Gospel book at Liturgy and
Matins, Veneration of Icons, Myrovannya at Vigil, etc. Even the simplest of these ways to pray and worship would be seriously
hampered if not altogether impeded altogether by making people sit in
As Fr. Andriy Chirovsky, Ph.D. (Director of the Sheptytsky Institute
of Eastern Christian Studies) says in his article"Anathema 'Sit': Some Reflections on Pews in Eastern Christian Churches and their Effects
(Diakonia, Vol.XV, No.2, 1980 at 173): "Pews are basically unsuited to the fundamental liturgical postures. I defy anyone but a contortionist to make a prostration in the
middle of a pew. We make frequent prostrations in the Eastern Churches, not because
it is required, but because our bodies have something to say to God,
to neighbour, and to our very selves, just as our minds and our speech
do. And yet our bodies - half our earthly selves - are sentenced to
silence in a church with pews." In other words, our prayer and worship requires a freedom and space
that pews do not allow.
The absence of pews also has great benefits for our children who are free to play quietly with toys,
colouring books, or even each other. They can roam about a little if they get
restless, knowing some helpful adult will watch out for them. They are free to kiss icons and help light and blow out candles, wandering up and geting close to "the
action" of any ceremony. They learn by watching and doing...something that is more difficult if all they have to look at is the back of a pew.
Of course for the elderly and infirm (or those who are just tired), there
are benches along the wall, and people are quite welcome to sit if they