Orthodox Church Design

ytterbiumanalyst

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David Young said:
antiderivative said:
The giant auditorium churches depress me, they give me the feeling of being in a business meeting room. I don't understand why people would want to throw away all church architecture.
It is not the architecture that casts a heavy pall of despair over me, but the gimmicks, the coloured lights, the style of music and entertainment-type performances, which deprive the events of any sense of true religion for me.
Exactly! This is what is wrong with megachurches--not that they are large, but that they are large because they perform for an audience. An immense gathering of Christians to worship God truly is amazing.
 
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David Young said:
I didn't really misunderstand you, but maybe I was being just a little bit naughty. You see, we also think Christ is present, but spiritually.

One of us is misunderstanding what actually happens at the Eucharist, but I do not believe that the true blessing which God gives is dependent on our correct and accurate theological understanding. If you are right, I am sure we too partake of his body and blood; if we are right, I am equally sure you partake of the blessings won by his body and blood given for us all at Calvary.
See my response to this here: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,19850.new.html#new

David Young said:
There are people (like some who post on these threads) for whom the beauty is a pointer to Christ, and in whom it prompts worship; there are (I think) others who get stuck at the external ambient beauty and feel no need to penetrate what it is all about. This cannot of course be proved, but we all need to ensure that our religion is centred in Spirit and in truth, in the inner person. You are right in adding that a person can attend any church merely for the externals.
We agree that people can get caught up in the externals; what you have yet to prove is how our decor detracts from Christ. If someone decides to get caught up in the externals of the faith (whether it be the iconography in an Orthodox Church or the Praise & Worship band at a Protestant Church) that is the individual's choice. Not the Church's fault.

David Young said:
You shall: how do I upload them?
I have no clue. LOL  :D  ???
 
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If someone is distracted by iconography, at least they are seeing a Bible story or saint's life being depicted. If there is no iconography, people can still get distracted by counting ceiling tiles and all sorts of things.
 

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HandmaidenofGod said:
what you have yet to prove is how our decor detracts from Christ.
I don't think it does - at least, no more than the externals of any brand of Christianity can be where someone stops. All I am saying is that each of us must ensure he worships God with the heart, mind and soul, and we need to keep and eye on each other, especially pastors need to do this, to stir each other up where needed to true religion, the faith that works by love.
 
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David Young said:
I don't think it does - at least, no more than the externals of any brand of Christianity can be where someone stops. All I am saying is that each of us must ensure he worships God with the heart, mind and soul, and we need to keep and eye on each other, especially pastors need to do this, to stir each other up where needed to true religion, the faith that works by love.
Of course; this is why the relationship between a parishioner and his Spiritual Father is so important. Through the sacrament of confession, the Spiritual Father is able to see where each person is in their walk with Christ, and guide them along the path. It is like having a guide along the trail; someone who is there to point you in the right direction when you stumble and fall.

The importance of this relationship cannot be understated.

On a personal note, knowing that I have someone there to guide me, someone who is personally involved in helping me achieve salvation is very comforting. It’s helpful to know that there is someone I can turn to whenever I have questions, and that there is someone there to pray for me, and pray over me when needed. It has been a great help in my spiritual growth.
 

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ialmisry said:
an Evangelical church.  ... "the church where we don't pray."  "It's not really a Church," he told me when 8 "but a place where we sit and watch people."
I've been thinking about this, and I see what he means. Mind you, remember that when I went to the Orthodox a few Sundays ago in Handbridge, we only watched and listened, and there was no audience participation at all except the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed.

Nonetheless, I see what the lad meant. I often wish we had liturgical prayers, that is, ones we all say together. But then, many of our hymns are just that, except that instead of saying them we set them to music and sing them together. We do try to will our agreement with the minister's prayer, and sometimes a service is thrown open for anyone to lead the congregation in prayer, especially (in our case) at the Lord's Supper. And don't forget that an Evangelical church will have a prayer meeting at some point in the week, when the people come together and pray.

It's not quite as prayerless as it seemed from the report you quote: nonetheless, it is a salutary lesson for us Evangelicals to heed.
 

ialmisry

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Cleopas said:
Me thinks you make to much of these layouts, positions, forms and what not.
The Lord said that where 2 or 3 are gathered together in His name that He is in their midst. That truth applies in a church building, or a barn. With ornate fixtures and sacred instruments for such services and without. Indoors and outdoors. God dwells not in temples made with hands, nor of rock or stone, but in us His people.  ;D
But who is His people.  That is the question.

The Church buiding is the Gospel in architectural form, but yes, we (meaning us Orthodox) can worship without them.  During Communism, many priests used to go into the forest with only an antimens (the cloth icon that contains relics and the permission of the bishop to gather as a parish on it) out into the woods, where the people would gather and Divine Liturgy was celebrated on the antimens laid on a wagon, etc.  But for us who have means and freedom, there is no excuse for NOT having "these layouts, positions, forms and what not."  My sons, as I mentioned, used to go with their mother to a well know mega-church, which is huge: my son compared it to a mall, with all the shops but no Cross.  He noticed it was missing something.  Our Orthodox parish is quite modest in size, but when I showed the antimens to my son, when it was spread out on the altar, he remarked "mama's church doesn't have half the things we do."  Of course, with the antimens, the importance is that it shows that we have Apostolic succession, the living link to the NT Church, and with the Universal Church throughout the world.

Which brings up a comparison of two or three gathered in His name, and those CLAIMING to gather in His name: He who said "The person who listens to you listens to Me, and the person who rejects you rejects Me" also said “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters."

For instance, looking at the image that Handmaiden has graciously posted, there is the altar, the episcopal throne (in any Church, not only the cathedral, as any Church parish exists only by virtue of the bishop delegating a priest so it may gather), and the icons.  Your two or three don't have these things, and I assume you claim that they shouldn't miss them.  Needless to say, I, and more importantly, Christ's Church, disagrees with you.

The altar: a priest I know (actually he is rather well known) talked about going to talk to a congregational church in New England.  He remarked that when he entered the "church" he noticed a small altar and a BIG pulpit, which told him all he needed to know about that parish.  While talking about Orthodox worship, one of the parisioners asked him about incense, so he burned some.  The minister said, in all the 300 year history of the parish, it was sure that it was the first time incense was offered in that church.  Worship means sacrifice and offerings, the altar reminds us that Sunday is not about us, it's about Him.  The ecclesiology of the two or three gathered in His name to request things seems to forget that, and "worship" means little more than a ad hoc meeting to present a wish list, along with sharing idiomatic "understandings" of Scripture.

The priest also noticed on entry that in the doorway all the names of the ministers from the 1600s were written on the walls of the narthex. That's still 1600 year short of the Apostles. The throne reminds us that we were received into the Church, we didn't make her up.  We are gathered because we are the flock that has a shepherd appointed over it directly from the Good Shepherd.  And being in union with the bishop, we are in union with all the other bishops in communion and their flocks across the world and through time, i.e. the One, Holy, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC Church.

And then there is the icons.  Your two or three gather and decide what they think scripture is telling them.  But without any bearings, they don't see their are reading their own projections into it.  The icons show the Cloud of Witnesses who surrounded us.

Witnesses to us, because they have passed the Faith and demonstrated it to us.

Witnesses for us, because they intercede now before the Throne.

Witnesses against us, because if we decide to add or subtract the Faith delievered once and for all to these saints, who passed it on to us, the testimony that they have left in all the generations from c. 33 A.D. to the present will leave us without an excuse.l

So, yes, it is nice to think that you need only two or three to hang out a shingle to make a church, but it can, and usually is, very parochial.
 

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HandmaidenofGod said:
I do hope to "cross the pond" again some day to make it to England. If you ever have the chance to take pictures of the church I'd love to see it.
When you do come to Britain, let me know what you'd like to see - ancient churches, picturesque villages, countryside, historic towns, or whatever - and if I'm not free to show them to you I may at least be able to give some advice about where to look.

I shall try to attach a picture of St Peter's Chapel, Bradwell on Sea, built ca 654 AD. If a photo appears, that is it! I couldn't get good pictures inside because of the angle, but I think you might like the icon of Christ and the other decor.

[attachment deleted by admin]
 

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_Seraphim_ said:
Orthodox icons and chants ...Cleopas, David, what say ye?
Can't comment on the chants - haven't got speakers on the computer.

I didn't look at all seventy icons, but all the ones I did look at were (I think) of Mary and Jesus. "What say ye?"

- Icons more generally can be of real beauty. That I can say immediately.

- Personally, I prefer ones that depict an event, even though the event must include people, to ones which only depict certain people: thus, the Last Supper or the Transfiguration holds more appeal that an icon of Mary, John, Peter or whomever.

- Some icons carry a more obvious meaning - such as the Christ Pantocrator we have discussed earlier.

- I can't appreciate pictures of people whose real appearance we have no idea of. I know that there is symbolism and artistry involved, including the conflated writing when there is writing, but I do not know the symbolism so I fail to appreciate it.

- The ones of Mary look very Catholic to me, as an outsider to both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Jesus is always smaller than Mary, and that seems to be the wrong way round. It is this sort of imagery that gives us Protestants the idea that Mary is nearer, or greater, or more important in popular piety than Jesus is - that Jesus is a remote, somewhat unapproachable figure - and of course that makes us think the Orthodoxy is really Catholicism without the Pope (not that I think that, but I used to before I started reading about it, which most Evangelicals don't).

I hope that doesn't seem insensitively curt or blunt; I have tried to answer truthfully.
 

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David Young said:
- The ones of Mary look very Catholic to me, as an outsider to both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Jesus is always smaller than Mary, and that seems to be the wrong way round. It is this sort of imagery that gives us Protestants the idea that Mary is nearer, or greater, or more important in popular piety than Jesus is - that Jesus is a remote, somewhat unapproachable figure - and of course that makes us think the Orthodoxy is really Catholicism without the Pope (not that I think that, but I used to before I started reading about it, which most Evangelicals don't).
Could this possibly be because Mary is invariably shown with the Child Jesus?  Depicting her with Christ as a child accentuates her role as Theotokos (eg His Mother) and leads one to not think of her apart from Jesus.  You'll also note that in most every icon of Mary and Child, she is usually gesturing in some way to Jesus.
 
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David Young said:
HandmaidenofGod said:
I do hope to "cross the pond" again some day to make it to England. If you ever have the chance to take pictures of the church I'd love to see it.
When you do come to Britain, let me know what you'd like to see - ancient churches, picturesque villages, countryside, historic towns, or whatever - and if I'm not free to show them to you I may at least be able to give some advice about where to look.

I shall try to attach a picture of St Peter's Chapel, Bradwell on Sea, built ca 654 AD. If a photo appears, that is it! I couldn't get good pictures inside because of the angle, but I think you might like the icon of Christ and the other decor.
Thank you for the picture. I would like to see the interior some day, as it doesn't look like much from the outside.  ;)
 
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David Young said:
Can't comment on the chants - haven't got speakers on the computer.

I didn't look at all seventy icons, but all the ones I did look at were (I think) of Mary and Jesus. "What say ye?"

- Icons more generally can be of real beauty. That I can say immediately.
- Personally, I prefer ones that depict an event, even though the event must include people, to ones which only depict certain people: thus, the Last Supper or the Transfiguration holds more appeal that an icon of Mary, John, Peter or whomever.
- Some icons carry a more obvious meaning - such as the Christ Pantocrator we have discussed earlier.
This is true, all icons aren’t plainly obvious. But, all things about God aren’t plainly obvious either. As we learn about the Church and her iconography, so too do we learn about God and His nature. This is not to say that if one is a Master Iconographer he knows all about God; it just means that things are revealed over time. After all, did you understand everything about Christ when you started your walk with Him?

David Young said:
- I can't appreciate pictures of people whose real appearance we have no idea of. I know that there is symbolism and artistry involved, including the conflated writing when there is writing, but I do not know the symbolism so I fail to appreciate it.
These are things that are learned over time. Remember, iconography is meant to be used as an educational tool in the Church. It is not uncommon for my priest to refer to an icon in the Church during one of his sermons and to talk about what is going on in it. No one would be expected to walk into an Orthodox Church and automatically know what is going on in all of the iconography. Even in icons where the event is clear (say the crucifixion of Christ) there is often a lot of meaning that is implied that isn’t obvious to the uninformed eye.

David Young said:
- The ones of Mary look very Catholic to me, as an outsider to both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Jesus is always smaller than Mary, and that seems to be the wrong way round. It is this sort of imagery that gives us Protestants the idea that Mary is nearer, or greater, or more important in popular piety than Jesus is - that Jesus is a remote, somewhat unapproachable figure - and of course that makes us think the Orthodoxy is really Catholicism without the Pope (not that I think that, but I used to before I started reading about it, which most Evangelicals don't).

I hope that doesn't seem insensitively curt or blunt; I have tried to answer truthfully.
Aside from icons that are telling events that involved the Theotokos prior to Christ’s birth (the presentation of Mary into the Temple, the Annunciation of Christ’s birth), Mary is always with Christ. As the diagram in Post #2 shows, an icon of Mary holding Christ as a child is usually on the left side of the Beautiful Gates, and an icon of Christ as Pantocrator is usually on the right. This symbolizes how He came (as a child), and how He will come again (as Ruler over all.) Even in the icon of the Platytera (see attached), which is usually in the apse of the sacristy behind the iconostas, Christ is sitting on Mary’s lap. This represents how Christ came through her (literally/physically) as the gateway into this world.


The Theotokos always points us to Christ. In fact, even in icons of the saints where Christ may not be pictured, they are pointing to Christ, whether it be holding a cross or their fingers positioned in such a way that make the initials for “Jesus Christ” in Greek.

Furthermore, the reason it seems “Catholic” to you is because the two groups do have a shared history, and Orthodox style iconography is present in Catholic Churches.

In regards to Protestants thinking that Catholics and Orthodox Christians worship Mary; that is from ignorant assumptions about veneration.  It seems to me that Protestants feel that everything in a church should be plainly apparent to all who walk in within 2 seconds of walking into the church building. We do not share this belief.

Most accusations from Protestants towards the Orthodox and Catholic churches come from ignorance, rather than the concerted effort to learn about and study our faiths. Furthermore, most bigotry expressed by Protestants to Orthodox and Catholics come from lies told by Protestant pastors at the pulpit. This includes statements such as “Catholics/Orthodox are not Christians.” “All Catholics/Orthodox are going to hell.” “They worship Mary.” “They worship the saints.” Etc. (I never really understood why Protestant pastors would waste time preaching lies about other faiths from their pulpit. Wouldn’t the time be better spent worshipping the Trinity?)

The point is that just because everything isn’t plainly obvious in meaning doesn’t mean it detracts from worshipping the Holy Trinity. What few in the Protestant Church fail to remember is that it was all this symbolism and “accretions” that carried the faith from generation to generation for over 1500 years so that the Protestant Reformers could even know that Christ existed.
While to you all of this may “detract” from worship of the Holy Trinity, if you were to read our services, read our prayers, you would see that is not so.

For there is only one we worship, and that is the one Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Everything in the Church just points to Him.



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nstanosheck

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Michał Kalina said:
Slavic Churches usually have more developed iconostasises:
  • the second row (the first one has already been described by HandmaidenofGod: the icon of Mystical Supper in the middle and icons of 12 Major Feasts
  • the third row: icon of Deesis  and icons of the 12 Apostles
  • the fourth row: icon of Theothokos and icons of Old Testament Prophets
  • the fifth row: icon of Holy Trinity or the Anastasis and icons of New Testament Saints
No, the Desis icon is flanked by the Theotkos, the Forerunner, St Michale & St Gabriel the Archangels, Sts. Peter & Paul, St Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. gregory, and St. Nicholas of Myra and any local saints.
The 5th would be the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah icon with the Patriarchs of the OT.
 

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I know what Deesis is. I meant that the abbreviated Deesis (Christ, St. John and Mary) is surrounded by separate icons of the Apostles.
 

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Michał Kalina said:
I know what Deesis is. I meant that the abbreviated Deesis (Christ, St. John and Mary) is surrounded by separate icons of the Apostles.
And again I say No. The Russian standard after the "abbreviated" is Sts Michael & Gabriel the Archangels, Sts Peter & Paul, Sts Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Gregory, and St Nicholas of Myra, followed by local saints of veneration which MAY include the other Apostles.
 
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