Holy space is strictly arranged in Eastern Orthodox churches. The center part of the building, where the faithful sit or stand, is distinct from the sanctuary, the place of the priests and the altar. Between the nave and the sanctuary is a wall-like structure or iconostasis. Lurking in the word iconostasis is the word icon, a term used of images or depictions. These are often attached to the wall and add to its ornate appearance.
Physically the iconostasis stands between these special spaces although theologically, the iconostasis is considered to be a point of connection. Icons depict saints, apostles, and Christ himself, personalities who unite believers to their God. Doors in the iconostasis allow passage for the priests. A gap left between the top of the iconostasis and the ceiling allows for the communication of words and song.
I’m thinking about such things today as I stand in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (Palestine). Pictured here is the iconostasis in the Greek Orthodox portion of the building. Just below the sanctuary is a cave. Reliable traditions suggests that Jesus was born in this cave.
It is a good place to be with Christmas around the corner!
I’m in Israel-Palestine right now with a group from Chantilly, Virginia. Today we visited Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, sites associated with the story of the birth of Jesus.
Consider this your invitation to participate in a trip of adventure and renewal. For a complete list of travel opportunities, see our 2019 schedule here. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.