“These Truths We Hold” (Part IX)

orthodox candles

Continued from (Part VIII)

Candles and Their Symbolism.

Lit candles and Icon lamps (lampadas) have a special symbolic meaning in the Christian Church, and no Christian service can be held without them. In the Old Testament, when the first temple of God was built on earth — the Tabernacle — services were held in it with lamps as the Lord Himself had ordained (Ex. 40:5, 25). Following the example of the Old Testament Church, the lighting of candles and of lampadas was without fail included in the New Testament Church’s services.

The Acts of the Apostles mentions the lighting of lamps during the services in the time of the Apostles. Thus, in Troas, where Christ’s followers used to gather on the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread, that is, to celebrate the Eucharist, there were many lights in the upper chamber (Acts 20:8). This reference to the large number of lamps signifies that they were not used simply for lighting, but for their spiritual significance.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part VIII)

saint catherine monastery sinai

Altar prepared for the Liturgy (St Catherine's monastery, Mount Sinai).

Continued from (Part VII)

The Iconostasis.

The most prominent feature of an Orthodox church is the Iconostasis, consisting of one or more rows of Icons and broken by a set of doors in the center (the Holy Doors) and a door at each side (the Deacon’s Doors). In ancient times, the Iconostasis was probably a screen placed at the extreme Eastern end of the church (a tradition still preserved by Russian Old-Believers), but quite early it was moved out from the wall as a sort of barrier between the Nave and the Altar, with the opening and closing of curtains making the Altar both visible and inaccessible.

The Holy Fathers envisioned the church building as consisting of three mystical parts. According to Patriarch Germanus of Constantinople, a Confessor of Orthodoxy during the ico-noclastic controversies (7th-8th Centuries), “the church is the earthly heaven where God, Who is above heaven, dwells and abides, and it is more glorious than the [Old Testament] tabernacle of witness. It is foreshadowed in the Patriarchs, is based on the Apostles…, it is foretold by the Prophets, adorned by the Hierarchs, sanctified by the Martyrs, and its high Altar stands firmly founded on their holy remains….” Thus, according to St. Simeon the New Theologian, “the [Ves-tibule] corresponds to earth, the [Nave] to heaven, and the holy [Altar] to what is above heaven” [Book on the House of God, Ch. 12].

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part VII)

In the Church of St. Alexei, in the Chudov Monastery. Painting by Stepan Shukhvostov 1866.

In the Church of St. Alexei, in the Chudov Monastery. Painting by Stepan Shukhvostov 1866.

Continued from (Part VI)

2. The Church Building and its Servers.

External Arrangement.

Orthodox churches generally take one of several shapes that have a particular mystical significance. The most common shape is an oblong or rectangular shape, imitating the form of a ship. As a ship, under the guidance of a master helmsman conveys men through the stormy seas to a calm harbor, so the Church, guided by Christ, carries men unharmed across the stormy seas of sin and strife to the peaceful haven of the Kingdom of Heaven. Churches are also frequently built in the form of a Cross to proclaim that we are saved through faith in the Crucified Christ, for Whom Christians are prepared to suffer all things. Less frequently churches are built in the shape of a circle, signifying that the Church of Christ shall exist for all eternity (the circle being one of the symbols of eternity) or in the shape of an octagon, signifying a star, for the Church, like a star, guides a man through the darkness of sin which encompasses him. Because of the difficulties of internal arrangement, however, the latter two shapes are not often used.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part VI)

theotokos

Continued from (Part V)

Other Orthodox Communities in America.

Albanian.

Albanian Orthodox immigrants had been arriving in America for some time and, after some troubles with the local Greek Priest in Boston, Massachusetts, the Albanians there selected Theophan (Fan) Noli to be their own Priest. Accordingly, on February 9,1908, Fan Noli was ordained to the Priesthood by Archbishop Platon in New York and the first Liturgy in the Albanian language was celebrated by Fr. Theophan in Boston on March 18, 1908. After serving for some years, organizing Albanian parishes, Fr. Theophan returned to Albania, where he was consecrated Bishop, on November 21,1923, subsequently becoming Prime Minister of that country in 1924. After a coup-d’etat, Bishop Theophan was forced to leave Albania, eventually returning to America as Bishop of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America. At his death in 1965, he was succeeded by Bishop Stephen (Lasko), who joined the Albanian Church to the newly-autocephalous Orthodox Church in America in October, 1971. Another tiny Albanian Diocese in America is under the spiritual care of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part V)

american saints

Continued from (Part IV)

Orthodoxy in America.

In the 18th Century, the great Orthodox Christian missionary work which began with Pentecost in Jerusalem, so many centuries before, finally crossed from the continent of Euro-Asia into North America. The first missionaries traveled with the explorers Vitus Bering and Alexei Chirikov, who formally claimed Alaska and the Aleutian Islands in 1741. For the next fifty years, together with the exploration and economic development of this new outpost of the Russian Empire, the first attempts were made to bring the Orthodox Faith to the natives of that region (the Aleuts, the Athabascan Indians, the Tlingits, and the Eskimos).

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