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THE CHURCH BUILDING


External Arrangement -

Byzantine Rite Churches usually take one of several shapes that have a particular mystical significance. The most common shape is which has the form of a ship (the ship of salvation). Other churches take the form of a Cross, the emblem of salvation. St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church has the form of a Greek Cross, which has bars of equal length intersecting in the center. This is more evident when looking at the interior of the Church. When possible, churches are oriented so that the altar is facing east and sunrise, symbolizing Christ, the Light. The roof of the church usually has one or more domes which signify heaven.

Church Interior Diagram Here!

Internal Arrangement -

The church interior is divided into three sections: the vestibule (or narthex), the nave, and the sanctuary.

The vestibule is the area of the church that is entered from the outside. During the first centuries of Christianity, this area was assigned to the catechumens. The catechumens were given instructions in the faith that would prepare them for Baptism and were not allowed into the nave or church pro-per. This is why the sacrament of Baptism begins in the vestibule in the Byzantine Rite.

The nave is the main body of the church where the people gather for worship. The tetrapod, a four legged table, is found in at the front of the nave and is furnished with a cross, candles, and a icon that is used for veneration by the faithful. The sacraments of Baptism and Marriage, as well as several services are performed there.

The sanctuary is the most important division of the church where the Holy Table (altar) is located. The Sanctuary is usually situated on a platform. Heaven (represented by the sanctuary) and earth (represented by the nave) are brought together by Jesus Christ. The iconostas, or icon screen, joins the sanctuary to the body of the church. The extension of the sanctuary platform in front of the iconostas is called the solea.Iconostas sketch here!

The iconostas consists of one or more rows of icons. Icons are a representation of a sacred or sanctified person that are used to help the faithful focus on prayer and on the key elements of faith. At the center of the first row are the Royal Doors [1] on which are found the icon of the Annunciation (symbolism: Christ is brought into the world) and the icons of the four Evangelists (the word of God being brought into the world). Only a bishop, priest, or a deacon accompanied by a priest is allowed to pass through these doors. It is through the royal doors that heaven (the sanctuary) joins earth (the nave). Some churches also have a curtain on the sanctuary side of the royal doors which is drawn during the services. There are two additional doors on either side of the royal doors called the Deacon's Doors [2]. These are used by the deacons and others who assist with the services. On the deacon's doors, one finds either the icon of an angel who serves in heaven, or of a deacon who served at the Divine Liturgy. St. Michael's Church has the icon of St. Stephen the first martyr on the door on the right (southern door) and an icon of St. Philip on the left (northern door). To the immediate right of the royal doors is the icon of Christ the Teacher [3]. He is depicted with one hand raised in blessing and with the other holding an open Gospel Book. To the immediate left of the royal doors is the icon of the Mother of God or Theotokos (God-bearer) [4]. On the icon on the far right on the first row, one finds the patron saint of the church [5], who in this case is St. Michael the Archangel. On the far left on the first row, we usually find the icon of St. Nicholas of Myra [6], who is the patron saint of the Byzantine Church. In situations where the patron of the church is St. Nicholas, we usually find the icon of St. John the Baptist (Forerunner) here. In the second row, we find twelve icons that represent twelve major Feast Days [7] (left to right): the Conception of St. Ann (Dec. 8), Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple (Nov. 21), the Circumcision of our Lord (Jan. 1), Pentecost (50 days after Pascha or Easter), Dormition (Assumption) of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15), Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sep. 14), the Nativity of our Lord (Dec. 25), the Theophany and Baptism of our Lord (Jan. 6), Palm Sunday, the Ascension of our Lord, feast of Ss. Peter and Paul (June 29), and the beheading of St. John the Baptist (Forerunner) (August 29). At the center of the second row over the royal doors is the icon of the Last Supper [8]. Above the Last Supper icon is a representation of the Holy Spirit [9]in the form of a dove who sanctifies and guides the Holy Church. Immediately in front of the royal doors is the ambo, the part of the solea from which the Gospel is sung. Hanging above the Royal Doors over the ambo is the Eternal Light which is always lit and reminds us of the never ending presence of God.

The sanctuary is the most sacred part of the Church. It contains the Holy Table (altar) at its center, the proskomediynyk (prothesis or table of preparation) on the left and the diakonikon (the vesting table) on the right.Altar sketch here!

The Holy Table is the most important furnishing in the church. It represents the throne of God. It is usually square and made out of wood or stone. The Holy Table is situated in the center of the sanctuary so that processions can be made around it dur-ing liturgical services. The holy altar is consecrated by the local bishop who places relics of the saints within it and anoints it with holy chrism. The altar is covered with three cloths. The first cloth is a white linen that represents the winding sheet in which the body of our Lord was wrapped in. Next is the antimension which is a linen cloth with the depiction of the entombment of Christ and the four evangelists in the corners. The antimension has relics sown within it and is issued by the local bishop. Antimensions are consecrated on Holy Thursday. It must be used in situations where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on an unconsecrated altar. The upper altar cloth is usually made of rich and brilliant material representing the glory of God's throne. At the center of the altar is the ark or tabernacle which is either a miniature replica of a church or a tomb. The Holy Eucharist is kept in a ciborium (a chalice with a conical cover) within the tabernacle. The tabernacle is symbolic of the Ark of Covenant in which rests the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant. Behind the ark is a seven branched candle-stick and a large processional cross. On either side of the processional cross is the ripidia or sacramental fan (representing the six-winged Seraphim) with which the Holy Gifts were traditionally fanned. The ripidion is also used during processions to accompany the processional cross. Also found on the altar are the Book of Gospels, the Holy Chrism used for Baptism and Confirmation, a service book, and a small hand cross. Some churches also employ a canopy-like structure resting on four pillars which towers over the altar called a baldachin. The baldachin emphasizes the altar as the holiest part of the church. The tabernacle, ripidia, eternal light, the curtain behind the royal doors, and the seven branch candlestick recall the Temple of Jerusalem of the Old Testament. In fact, in many liturgical books of the Eastern Churches, the Church is referred to as the Temple.Prothesis sketch here!

To the left of the altar is the proskomedijnyk, prothesis or table of preparation. On it, the Holy Gifts are prepared for consecration during the Divine Liturgy. On it are found a cross, two candles, the prosfora (or altar bread), and various sacred vessels and implements. The prosfora is a small loaf of leavened bread with the inscription IC XC NI KA (Jesus Christ Conquers) stamped on it. The prosfora is the bread that will be used for the Holy Sacrifice. The sacred vessels found on the prothesis are the chalice, the diskos (or paten), the asterisk (or star), and the holy lance. The chalice is a golden cup with stem and base that holds the wine mixed with water which becomes the Blood of Christ during the Consecration. The diskos is a small, golden circular plate with stem and base that holds the particles of bread that are consecrated and become the Body of Christ. The asterisk are two golden arched bands joined at the center that can be opened to form a cross with a tiny gold star dangling from its center. When opened and placed over the diskos, it serves to keep the chalice veils from touching the Consecrated Bread. The small star associated with the asterisk is symbolic of the star that appeared to the Magi. The holy lance is a miniature spear with a double edge blade used to cut up the prosfora (altar breads) during the Preparation of the Divine Liturgy. It is in the form of a lance to remind us of the lance with which the Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus while He was on the cross. Other implements on the prothesis are cruets, or small vessels that hold the wine and water used in the Divine Liturgy.

The diakonikon (the vesting table) is to the right of the Holy Table where the deacon vests himself and where the sacred books are kept.



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