The Holy of Holies in an Orthodox Church

The Holy of Holies in an Orthodox Church

The Link between the Old and New Testament Temples

Orthodox temples have kept to the same form and function since ancient times. Using the Old Testament Temple model, Orthodox churches are divided into several courts or spaces peculiar to their function. The Holy Table, upon which is celebrated the Eucharist, is situated at the east end of the building behind the Iconostasis (icon screen). This is a continuation of and corresponds to the Holy of Holies in the ancient Israelite temple in Jerusalem.
The whole area behind the iconostasis is called the altar, and is considered the most sacred part of the temple. While great respect must be shown throughout the Church, the altar is very special. It is here that the Holy Spirit descends making the offering of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Only those who receive the specific blessing of the bishop or the priest may enter, since no one has the right to go behind the iconostasis. The Church allows only those who have a particular reason to be there, a specific task or function, to enter. A blessing must be received each and every time, even if a person serves regularly behind the iconostasis. No one should ever simply wander into the altar without a blessing.
The Holy Table, the Proskomedia Table (table of preparation), and the discos and chalice, should never be touched by anyone other than a bishop, priest or deacon. The sacredness of these items, set apart for divine worship, is such because they have all been blessed by the Church for the worship of God.
We approach our God with fear and awe, bowing down in worship before His Throne in wonder. We worship the Holy Trinity with the same reverence as did the ancients. The very God Who created us, and Who condescended to join His Divinity with our humanity, is worshiped in temples just as beautiful as that which He commanded to be built in the Holy City, because He has invited us into communion with Him. The worship we offer on this earth is an image of that which is taking place before the Throne in Heaven.
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: Archpriest Seraphim and Matushka Juliana Cardoza, of Rogue River, Oregon, have been spending four days visiting the monastery. They are dear friends to me, and I am always blessed when I get to spend time with them.

Tuesday December 14, 2021 / December 1, 2021
26th Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Nativity (St. Philip’s Fast). Food with Oil

Prophet Nahum (7th c. B.C.).
Righteous Philaret the Merciful of Amnia in Asia Minor (792).
Martyr Ananias of Persia.
St. Eligius, bishop of Noyon (660) (Neth.).
St. Onesimus, archbishop of Ephesus (Greek).
Sts. Ananias and Solochonus, archbishops of Ephesus (Greek).
Venerable Anthony the New, monk of Kios in Bithynia (865) (Greek).
Venerable Ioannicus of Devich (Serbia).
St. Austremoine, first bishop of Clermont and apostle of the Auvergne (3rd c.).
St. Theoclites, bishop of Sparta (870).
St. Botolph, of Boston (England), abbot and confessor (680) (Celtic & British).
St. Tudwal, bishop of Lan Pabu.

The Scripture Readings

1 Timothy 1:8-14

8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Glory to God for His Grace

12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Luke 19:45-48

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a‘den of thieves.’ ”

47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.

About the author

Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

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