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Author Topic: Closing the Iconostasis doors before communion?  (Read 5213 times) Average Rating: 0
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Eugenio
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« on: July 06, 2007, 01:22:21 AM »

So, for only the second or third time in my life, I attended a liturgy in an OCA parish. I saw something there that I found extremely unusual:

They closed the Iconostasis doors before the priest brought out the bread and wine! In fact, there was a good long time when these doors were closed, and the only thing that was going on was that the choir was singing.

Because I usually attend a Greek Orthodox Church (and years before, infrequently attended an Antiochian church), I found this practice quite unfamiliar to me.

Why do they close the iconostasis doors immediately before communion in OCA churches?
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2007, 01:37:12 AM »

Did they also close a curtain behind the doors?

What you have stated is done in most OCA parishes before communion. It represents the priest getting the communion ready to distribute to the God fearing faithful, who have prepared themselves to receive the awesome mysteries of Christ through prayer and fasting.
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2007, 10:00:00 AM »

It also represents the temple curtain being torn in two when Christ was crucified. Since at that time the bread and wine is changed to Christ's body and blood (and let this thread please not turn into a discussion of transubstantiation)--a type of incarnation--the curtain is closed. When Christ is presented as the sacrificial Lamb, just as he was on the cross, the curtain is torn in two and the people, the royal priesthood, "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2007, 11:29:45 AM »

It was not until our Fr. Bishop +BASIL came to visit our parish back in August of 2006 that we started (or restarted) closing the doors during the choir's singing of the koinonikon.  We have, unfortunately, no curtain to close either.  I do not know how many temples within the Antiochian Archdiocese actually close their doors at this point.  Since my priest is pretty traditional and was not doing prior, my guess is that notclosing the doors and curtain is more widespread.
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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2007, 11:34:28 AM »

Might be. The closest non-OCA to me is over 200 miles away, so I've rarely seen a church that didn't have a curtain; but for the same reason my experience is pretty limited.
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2007, 11:42:03 AM »

It is the same in the Romanian Church: the priest communes behind the closed curtain (dvera) and doors.
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2007, 01:33:20 PM »

We only close the doors right before the priest brings out the Pascha candle Easter night.

He says it's more for the lighting effect than anything  Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2007, 01:44:07 PM »

The only GOAA parish I've seen where the doors are closed before communion is my own one in New Kensington, PA. Our priest sometimes uses the curtain as well. Most GOAA parishes don't even have curtains here, in my experience.
However, our priest served most of his pre-retirement time (he came out of retire to pastor us) was in OCA (and on loan to the Serbs) where he probably picked up some good habits.  Shocked
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« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2007, 02:34:17 PM »

Closing the curtain and or doors a very holy and spiritual part of the Holy Communion.

Someone was well put in already stating the bibilical significance. Well put! and true!

This tradition comes down to us from the Jerusalem tradition.

This has been the common pratice in the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Church for centuries and continue today. When the body and blood goes back onto the Alter the dors are closed again and do not re-open until the preist and deacons emerge for the benediction.

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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2007, 12:07:38 AM »

So what goes on during the time when these doors are closed? I'm just awful curious...

Do the priests and/or deacons say additional prayers? It seems like an eternity. Is there a certain, set amount of time these doors are supposed to be closed?

In a moment of weakness, I wondered about a secret handshake, but then took my mind off of that thought by saying the communion prayer to myself a second time.  Wink

Please forgive the flippancy. But for someone not used to it, this was a little startling. For a brief moment, it almost felt like we were leaderless. Shocked
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Thomas
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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2007, 02:10:57 AM »

His Grace Bishop BASIL (Essey) of the Antiochian Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America has indeed advised his Parishes in his diocese to closed the doores or curtains while the clergy commune. It has been done so in my parish for many years at his direction.

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« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2007, 10:00:49 AM »

My priest was joking with us one Sunday that when he went to his wife's Russian Church, the priest gave the blessing to the congregation by moving his arm, and nothing else, around the curtain and making the sign of the cross.
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2007, 01:28:17 PM »

[/i]
I'm just awful curious...

Do the priests and/or deacons say additional prayers?

In a moment of weakness, I wondered about a secret handshake, but......

My brother do not squash flat what is made for your benefit.

Allow yourself to EXCEPT the mystery.

Othodoxy is the true worship.

If we are with God than we know Him by His virtue. His vitue can not be seen with eyes. His virtue is 'experienced' within us'.

The liturgy is designed by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are blessed in everyway possible during liturgical prayer.....

Our eyes are consecrated by looking upon the rightious stare of the Icons of the saints (which is the Iconographical laguage of Gods Holy word) and seeing the beauty of the Holy Alter with the Light of the clergical vestments which is the evidence of the fire of the Holy Spirit which fell upon the Apostles and the Holy church at pentacost.

We hear the voices of the angels singing; enraptured in prayer when the true Messiah our LOrd and Savior Jesus Christ suffered on the cross shacking the earth which exist in the holy liturgical prayers of the deacons and priests.

We smell the sweet smell of incense which symbolize Christs birth form the Holy Virgin Mary mother of God (she is the coal and the censor)and His death, resurrection and ascention for our sakes.

We raise our hands in prayer as Christ raised His Holy hands on the cross While asking His father.."forgive them for they know not what they are doing" as well as saying His other six prayers in our behalf.

We stand (not sit) because we are guilty as charged and are prepared for sentencing for our many sins.

We open our mouths and take in the Holy Body and precious blood of Christ for remission of our sins which we masticate with our horrible teeth and swallow into our cursing throats and consume into our stomachs filled with the cares of the world.

We sing and praise and clap and rejoice that we are able to recieve the great and immortal gift of salvation.

We leave the santurary aware of Gods love for us although we are unworthy of His love.

Now....After having all your senses and all your body completely consumed in worship and being keenly aware Gods main purpose; how can we still be curious of Gods mystery?

We must focus on our worship and enjoy our blessings.

The myteries that remain remind us that we are still Gods people and that He has much more in store for you us.

Thank God for the Orthodox Church.

Your servant

Deacon Amde Tsion
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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2007, 04:51:55 PM »

I've heard that the doors are supposed to be closed for the consecration as well (when the priest says "Take, eat, this is my body...."). However, our Antiochian parish doesn't do that (in fact there's quite a few things our priest doesn't do properly).
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2007, 08:21:50 PM »

in fact there's quite a few things our priest doesn't do properly
Just because a parish closes or doesn't close doors isn't right or wrong. Following the tradition of the parish and how the Bishop desires the services to be held is always what is proper.
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« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2007, 08:36:33 PM »

Good point. There are few things a priest can do that are "wrong." If he is leading you to do things that are counter to Christ's life and teachings, then he is indeed wrong. But in things which are left open to variety, such as this issue seems to be, then he is neither right nor wrong. The parish in a neighboring city always provides wine for the people to drink after taking the Eucharist; my parish does not. I have seen this practice at times in other parishes; at other times, I have not. It doesn't seem like there is any rule for it; each parish does what they are used to doing. Remember, Christ is the head of our Church; He is the example we must follow, above any human tradition.
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« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2007, 10:13:08 PM »

Good point. There are few things a priest can do that are "wrong." If he is leading you to do things that are counter to Christ's life and teachings, then he is indeed wrong. But in things which are left open to variety, such as this issue seems to be, then he is neither right nor wrong. Remember, Christ is the head of our Church; He is the example we must follow, above any human tradition.

Very true.  A priest once told me that one cannot make a mistake during the celebration of the Liturgy or praying the offices.  The Liturgy and the offices are clearly bigger than we are.  So though I can get down on myself if I don't chant a sticheron in exactly the prescribed mode, I have to be reminded, i.e. humbled, that God does not depend on me, but I on him.  Unless of course, going into tone 6 from tone 5 is now considered "counter to "Christ's life and teachings."   Grin
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« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2007, 11:24:53 PM »

Unless of course, going into tone 6 from tone 5 is now considered "counter to "Christ's life and teachings."   Grin
I don't know how many times I've done something goofy like that.
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« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2007, 03:13:41 PM »

My OCA parish never has the Royal Doors closed during Divine Litugy. This has been the case for over 20 years.

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« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2007, 11:46:16 PM »

Closing doors and curtains during various parts of the liturgical services, including Vespers, Orthros, Divine Liturgy, etc., is certainly not unusual. Most priests' service books (ieratika) include rubrics that call for such actions.

Of course, these kind of rubrics don't appear in the manuscripts until quite late. Something like the late 16th century, possibly later. Hence why some modern versions of the ieratika have downplayed the rubrics' importance.
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« Reply #20 on: July 19, 2007, 03:14:02 AM »

Closing doors and curtains during various parts of the liturgical services, including Vespers, Orthros, Divine Liturgy, etc., is certainly not unusual. Most priests' service books (ieratika) include rubrics that call for such actions.

Of course, these kind of rubrics don't appear in the manuscripts until quite late. Something like the late 16th century, possibly later. Hence why some modern versions of the ieratika have downplayed the rubrics' importance.
Interesting...  Can you tell us more about what the rubrics have to say about closing/opening the iconostasis doors and how these rubrics developed?  I'd like to know more about this.
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« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2007, 09:15:09 AM »

Interesting...  Can you tell us more about what the rubrics have to say about closing/opening the iconostasis doors and how these rubrics developed?  I'd like to know more about this.
You have to remember that the iconstasis itself is a late development. The Beautiful Gates existed much earlier but they matched the precursor to the iconstasis and where only about waist height for the really tall ones. If you look at many of the Venetian manuscripts there are few mentions of opening and closing the Beautiful Gates. There is more mention of opening and closing the curtain and it is those rubrics that match more closely to the opening and closing of the Beautiful Gates in the Russian tradition.
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« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2007, 09:40:23 AM »

The following may help many of you understand the proper use of Orthodox architectural terms.

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« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2007, 09:55:35 AM »

Interesting...  Can you tell us more about what the rubrics have to say about closing/opening the iconostasis doors and how these rubrics developed?  I'd like to know more about this.

A solid answer would take many hours of typing. If you are really interested in the rubrics, the easiest thing for you to do is to read the liturgical texts in a reasonably complete Liturgikon or Ieratikon. If you don't read Greek, I think your best bet is to get a copy of that Liturgikon used widely by the Antiochians. It's fairly complete, from what I remember.

Otherwise, here's a decent, but very short, article from some Byzantine Catholics on the history of the Iconostasion: http://www.byzantines.net/epiphany/iconostasis.htm
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« Reply #24 on: July 21, 2007, 10:20:24 AM »

Not a bad article. I got something from it.

But I REALLY liked the piece on Hagia Sophia! Especially appreciated the views without Moslems additions. A pastime of mine is finding photos and digitally removing those monstrosities (along with editing interior photos). They did a great job.
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« Reply #25 on: July 21, 2007, 02:27:47 PM »

Otherwise, here's a decent, but very short, article from some Byzantine Catholics on the history of the Iconostasion: http://www.byzantines.net/epiphany/iconostasis.htm
Quite informative article...  Thank you.
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« Reply #26 on: July 21, 2007, 03:54:38 PM »

It is an informatie article, but it does have this quote, which may drive the Forum Moderator nuts:

Quote
The iconostasis has achieved a fairly uniform structure in Byzantine Christendom. It passes before the altar at the line of demarcation between sanctuary and nave. In the middle are the Royal Doors, so called because the clergy bearing the King of Glory passes through.

 Smiley
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« Reply #27 on: July 21, 2007, 04:47:41 PM »

It is an informatie article, but it does have this quote, which may drive the Forum Moderator nuts:

Quote
The iconostasis has achieved a fairly uniform structure in Byzantine Christendom. It passes before the altar at the line of demarcation between sanctuary and nave. In the middle are the Royal Doors, so called because the clergy bearing the King of Glory passes through.

 Smiley

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« Reply #28 on: July 21, 2007, 05:38:08 PM »

Reminder of the high calling that is yours as a priest and minister of the Holy Mysteries?

No, reminder that some historians miss the details that are important to context.
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« Reply #29 on: July 21, 2007, 05:59:06 PM »

I'll let Arimathea discuss this further if he so chooses, but earlier there had been a great discussion on the difference between the Royal Doors and the Beautiful Gates, and his attached illustration in this thread descrbes the different locations wonderfully. An excellent instructional session!

And then this referenced article shows exactly why there is a confusion: because the person who wrote the article is himself unclear of the differences between the Doors and the Gates, and mislables the Gates as Doors---which is something I see often happens in our parishes also.
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« Reply #30 on: July 23, 2007, 08:31:59 AM »

I liked the illustration but it leaves me confused. Why is the iconostasis in the center of the Narthex and not on the wall before the altar in the nave of the church. If no one but the emperor could go thru the Royal Doors, what doors do the people go through to approach the chalice, I did not see additional doors marked that they used to enter the Nave for communion. Do the people stand in the  Narthex or the nave?

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« Reply #31 on: July 23, 2007, 10:19:10 AM »

I liked the illustration but it leaves me confused. Why is the iconostasis in the center of the Narthex and not on the wall before the altar in the nave of the church.
The word iconostasis means icon stand, so anything that holds an icon is an iconostasis. In architectural terms the separation between nave and the sanctuary is the templon.

Quote
If no one but the emperor could go thru the Royal Doors, what doors do the people go through to approach the chalice, I did not see additional doors marked that they used to enter the Nave for communion. Do the people stand in the  Narthex or the nave?

a Confused Thomas
There are a number of things that are not marked in this illustration and if you notice there are two opening on either side of the royal doors. There is also another fact to keep in mind that after the end of the empire the rules about only the emperor entering via the royal doors no longer applied. Instead of including side doors for people to enter it was now common to just have the Royal Doors especially since the temple building were no longer being built on the grand scale as was being done by the Empire.
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« Reply #32 on: July 23, 2007, 10:56:16 AM »

If no one but the emperor could go thru the Royal Doors, what doors do the people go through to approach the chalice, I did not see additional doors marked that they used to enter the Nave for communion. Do the people stand in the  Narthex or the nave? 

In churches built on a grand scale (i.e. Churches that the emperor might actually visit), in addition to the Royal Doors leading from Narthex to Nave you would have 4-8 other doors leading from Narthex to Nave for people to use - they were quite large, too (not as big as the Royal ones, though).

As many people as could fit in the nave would stand there - Churches like Agia Sophia could hold well in excess of 20,000.  The overflow would then stand in the Narthex (and in your grand Churches you would typically have two Narthexes - an inner and an outer - so the capacity was quite large).
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« Reply #33 on: July 23, 2007, 12:18:04 PM »

Thanks for the clarification.

Thomas, not as confused as before
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