The Iconostasis

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The Iconostasis is a large icon screen located at the front of the church. It stands between the Nave and the Sanctuary and contains icons of the principal persons of our faith. The doors in the center, called the Royal Doors, include round icons of six of the Old Testament Prophets. Only clerics may pass through these doors. The Icon of Christ the Lord always appears in the first panel to the right as you face the Iconostasis. The Icon of the Theotokos always appears in the first panel to the left as you face the Iconostasis. She is honored first among the saints by Orthodox as the mother of our Savior. She holds the child Jesus in her lap. This icon emphasizes the incarnation: God became a human through a woman and the Holy Spirit. The icon does not invite us 'to extol the Theotokos alone. She is celebrated because she consented to become the connecting link between God and humans, between heaven and earth.

The icon to the left of the Theotokos is always the Icon of the Patron Saint or Feast of the Church; in our church, we see the Icon of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. Always immediately to the right of Jesus we find the Icon of John the Baptist, whom Jesus described as the greatest of all the prophets (Matthew 11:11). On the two doors on the north and south sides of the iconostasis, the 'Deacon Doors', we see the icons of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Altar servers will exit and enter the Sanctuary from these doors during services, as will clerics during processions.

Above these icons placed at eye level on the Iconostasis is a series of smaller icons. These portray events in the life of Christ and Major Feast Days of our Church: the Annunciation, His Nativity, His Presentation in the Temple, His Baptism, His Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Last Supper, the Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, His Crucifixion, His Resurrection, His Ascension, Pentecost, and the Koimoisis (Dormition) of the Theotokos.

In its architecture, the entire building represents the theology of our Church. The Sanctuary represents The Church Triumphant (Heaven). The Nave represents The Church Militant (Earth). Heaven is linked to Earth by the Iconostasis, which is the successor to the curtain that delineated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple, as described in the Old Testament. If you look closely at many Icons of the Annunciation, you will see that the

Theotokos holds some wool in her hand; she is making a new curtain for the Holy of Holies as one of her assigned tasks in the Temple. Little did she know that someday she herself would become the bridge between the human and the divine!

More in this category: « The North Gallery The Sanctuary »