miercuri, 14 octombrie 2009

Orthodox churches

The church building has many symbolic meanings ; perhaps the oldest and most prominent is the concept that the Church is the Ark (as in Noah's) in which the world is saved from the flood of temptations ; therefore , most Eastern Orthodox Churches are rectangular in design . Another popular configuration , especially for churches with large choirs is cruciform or cross - shaped .
Architectural patterns vary in shape and complexity , with chapels sometimes added around the main church , or triple altars ; but in general , the symbolic layout of the church remains the same .
The Church building is divided into three main parts : the narthex (vestibule) , the nave and the sanctuary (also called the altar or holy place) . The narthex is where catechumens and non-Orthodox visitors were traditionally asked to stand during services . It is separated from the nave by "The Royal Gate" . On each side of this gate are candle stands (menalia) representing the pillars of fire that went before the Hebrew people escaping from Egypt . The nave is where most of congregation stand during services . Traditionally , men stand on the right and women on the left . This is for a number of reasons : (1) Considering the family unit of past centuries the husband was dominant ; thus , standing the same distance from the altar , equality is emphasised . (2) The idea of separating the sexes was inherited from the Jewish tradition of doing so within synagogues (3) Separation of sexes also followed the practice of choirs in which different levels of voice are placed in groups to facilitate harmony .
In general , men and women dress respectfully , typically wearing their "Sunday best" to enter the church . Often , women cover their heads as prescribed by Paul (1 Cor. 11:13) . Children are considered full members of the Church and stand attentive and quiet during services . There is often a choir area at the side or in a loft in back . In addition to the Choir , a Chanter is always present at the front of the church to chant responses and hymns that are part of Divine Liturgy offered by the Priest . There is usually a dome in the ceiling with an icon of Christ depicted as Ruler of the Universe (Pantocrator) .
Everything in the Eastern Orthodox Church has a purpose and a meaning revealing God's revelation to man . At the front , or Eastern end of the church , is raised dais with an icon-covered screen or wall (iconostasis or templon) separating the nave from the sanctuary . In the center of this wall is the entrance to the altar known as the "Beautiful Gate" through which only the clergy may pass . There are also a right and left side door on the front of the iconostasis , one depicted the archangel , Mihail and the other Gabriel . The priest and altar boys enter and exit through these doors during appropriate parts of the Divine Liturgy . Immediately to the right of the main gate you will always find icon of Jesus Christ . Other icons depicted on the iconostasis are the Mother of God , John the Baptist and the Saint after which the church is named . In front of the iconostasis is the Bishop's Chair , where a visiting Bishop or Metropolitan will often sit as a place of honor during the Divine Liturgy . Eastern Orthodox priests , when standing at the altar face toward the altar (facing East) so that both the Priest and congregation are prayng to God in Heaven together . The sanctuary contains the Holy Altar , representing the place where Christ was laid in the tomb and on the third day , rose . A cross stands behind the altar . On the altar are the items used to sanctify the bread and wine for communion , including a gold chalice and communion spoon . Also found on the altar table is the Antimis , the Book of the Gospel containing the Words spoken by the Lord , and not the additional components of the Bible . The antimins is a silk cloth used during the sanctification of the Divine Gifts . The antimins may contain the relics of a Saint . When a church is consecrated by a Bishop , there is a formal service or prayers and sanctification in the name of the Saint that the church is named after . The Bishop will also often present a small relic of a Saint to place in or on the altar as part of the consecration of a new church .
The Divine Liturgy may only be performed once a day on any particular Antimins . Thus a second Liturgy on the same Altar Table that  same day would require the use of a second Antimins , typically from another Eastern Orthodox church . This means that any parish or congregation is able to celebrate only one Eucharist per day , in order to express the Catholicity of the Church by avoiding "private masses" .