Icons (figure 3-28) are a distinguishing feature of the Orthodox church.
Icons are religious paintings of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and various
saints of the Orthodox church. Icons are painted in a definite style and used
in Orthodox worshipnot as decorations but as venerated objects by the
Orthodox faithful. When the Orthodox faithful kiss an icon, they consider
themselves to be kissing the person or persons depicted by the icon. Icons are
hung on the wall throughout an Orthodox church as well as placed upon icon
stands. Vigil lights (votive type) are often hung in front of the icons. A two-
dimensional icon of the Crucifixion of Christ, similar to a crucifix, is
sometimes placed behind the Orthodox altar in what is known as the high
place. The high place is in the center of the chancel area directly behind the
altar where an Orthodox bishop stands to bless the people. An icon of the
patron saint of the Orthodox church is often placed in the center or
sometimes to the rear of the chapel and is venerated (kissed) by the people as
The Altar Table
The main altar table is a freestanding altar (figure 3-29). It stands in the
center of the sanctuary/chancel just behind the royal doors of the
iconostasis. Eucharistic gifts which are offered during the Divine Liturgy are
placed on the main altar table. The Orthodox priest should have sufficient
room to pass completely around the altar table. The main Orthodox altar
table will usually have the following items resting upon it.
ANTIMENSION.The antimension (figure 3-29) is a piece of material,
approximately 24 inches x 18 inches, bearing a representation of the figure
of Christ laid out for burial. It is placed unfolded in the middle of the altar
table for use during the Divine Liturgy. The antimension is normally opened
only during the Divine Liturgy and, when not in use, it may be folded and
placed beneath the Book of the Gospels on the altar table.
THE ARTOPHORION (TABERNACLE).The Orthodox tabernacle
(figure 3-29) stands at the back of the altar table, and often takes the form of
a miniature church or cathedral. It is used for the reserved sacrament
(Orthodox communion elements).
THE BOOK OF GOSPELS.This book (figure 3-29) contains the four
Gospels and is used for Gospel lessons chanted by the Orthodox priest. The
Book of Gospels is shown placed to the right of the open antimension in
figure 3-29. The Book of Gospels may be placed on top of the folded
antimension whenever the Divine Liturgy is not being celebrated,
THE BLESSING CROSS.The blessing cross is used by the Orthodox
priest to bless the congregation and is shown in figure 3-29 just above the
Book of Gospels.
CANDLESTICKS.Two or more candlesticks are normally placed on
the altar (figure 3-29). In addition to these candlesticks or in place of them, a