The Epiclesis /Part four: The Epiclesis – The Temple and Iconostasis/

26 November 2018

The biblical model of the Christian temple is the vision given by God (to Moses). It was applied to the Jerusalem Temple. The basic structure consists of the Holy of Holies, where God is present in a special way, the Holy Place, where the priests offered sacrifices to God, and the place for people.

The Eastern temple with an iconostasis, altar and tabernacle has preserved this biblical structure to this day. The Western Church had preserved it only until the Second Vatican Council which carried out an absurd reform. After the reform, the priest, who represents the people and offers sacrifice to God on the altar in their behalf, has turned his back to the centre of the temple, which is the tabernacle where God’s presence dwells constantly. Moreover, in many places the tabernacle has been removed from the centre of the temple. The reform has also removed the rail which separated the place for priests and for those who served at the altar.

The reform has interfered with the Liturgy, too. The long-standing tradition with a sense of sacredness has been violated and secularized by the spirit of aggiornamento. At the same time, the reform has started a self-destructive process of violation of the fundamental truths of faith and God’s commandments. Today, 50 years later, we can see the disastrous fruits in the sphere of doctrine and morals. Pseudo Pope Bergoglio approves Holy Communion for remarried divorced people or people who publicly refuse to repent and promote immorality. What sense does it make? What is more, some Canadian bishops advocate the admission of people to the sacraments even shortly before suicidal euthanasia. This is a degradation of the sacraments and a sacrilege.

At present, the Vatican along with the apostate Bergoglio reject the necessary spiritual reform. However, they enable every Episcopal conference to continue the liturgical modifications, allowing even deeper profanation. Those who want to maintain the inward unity with the orthodox teaching and Tradition of the Church, though outwardly they do not have the strength to separate from the Vatican’s apostasy, should use an opportunity to make a useful modification of the Liturgy and liturgical space. Many priests propose that when celebrating the Liturgy the priests should again adopt the posture which was maintained throughout the long centuries of the Church’s tradition. The Orthodox Church has maintained it until the present time. The priest does not celebrate the Liturgy with his back to the centre, i.e. the tabernacle, but both he and the people face it. Neither is the tabernacle removed from the centre of the temple. Turning one’s back to the tabernacle is no innocent change. One must know that in religious symbolism, the “east” has always symbolized the kingdom of God and the “west” the kingdom of darkness. That was why temples were built with the altar on the eastern side, and both the priest and the believers faced the altar, i.e. the east, with their backs to the west. Sts Cyril and Methodius told the catechumens to spit towards the west as a gesture of renouncing the devil and his demons. When Vatican II’s liturgical anti-reform made the priest turn his back to the tabernacle, i.e. to the east, and face the west, it thus made an expressive gesture of turning away from God towards the devil! If, however, some theologians say that it is because the priest renews baptismal vows in every Liturgy, renouncing the devil, it would actually mean spitting at the people, and that’s nonsense. So moving the altar forward and making the priest turn his back to the tabernacle is no innocent gesture! The more so because we can now see the fruits of the Vatican II aggiornamento pseudo reform.

As for the arrangement of the liturgical space, according to the biblical model the altar should be separated from the Holy of Holies. A visible cross should be a part of the altar. The Holy of Holies should be behind it. There should be enough space between the altar and the Holy of Holies to allow the priest to pass when he censes the altar and then even the Holy of Holies. The tabernacle in the Holy of Holies should be separated at least by a curtain with adoring angels on the front side, one on the right and one on the left. There can be two sanctuary lamps in front of the Holy of Holies.

The question of restoring the sacred space either by separating it by a railing or by a combination of two icons or statues of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Virgin is a matter that requires a feeling for architecture, aesthetics and mainly for spirituality.

The basis for the necessary reform today is to restore the liturgical posture of the priest so that he faces the tabernacle – the spiritual centre of the temple – as it used to be practised throughout the history.

Some priests suggest a moment of silence after Consecration as another liturgical adjustment. It disposes one to be mindful of the reality of Christ’s redemptive death on the cross for us and our sins. In the Eastern Liturgy, this time of approximately five minutes is reserved for the Epiclesis after the words of Institution (the words of Consecration in the Latin Liturgy).

Iconostasis in the Eastern Liturgy

On the iconostasis there are two main paintings next to the Royal doors, namely the icon of Christ and of the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus in her arms. The Greeks have modest iconostases. The Eastern Slavs, by contrast, have iconostases filled with many images that can serve as a picture catechism of the life of Jesus. In some churches, there are also wall paintings. The point is that pure icons appeal to the imagination of the believer and dispose him to faith. Unfortunately, not all icons evoke reverence for God or the saints. Today, the entire decadent school of iconography, behind which there is not the Spirit of God but the spirit of pseudo-spirituality and even Satanism, is promoted under the guise of ecclesiastical art. Instead of disposing to true piety, the “icons” have a destructive influence. For example, Jesus is depicted with an abnormally long body and a tiny head, angels look like demons, John the Baptist with his countenance and untidy hair resembles a robber or a werewolf. Theology students are being convinced that this is the very higher spirituality which must be expressed by such caricatures rather than by real images. But this is stupid demagogy! And this demagogy has been promoted under great pressure especially since the second half of the last century. So the Eastern ecclesiastical art has likewise been covertly penetrated by the spirit of Vatican II.

The spirit radiating from the icons also depends on the spirit of a particular iconographer. If one has a spirit of alcoholism, sympathy for the occult, lives a licentious life or is influenced by negative spirituality, the paintings literally ooze with it.

Example: A priest enthusiastic about modern iconography invited the most famous follower of the modern school to paint a new iconostasis. When the priest solemnly unveiled it with great excitement, the faithful were shocked. Some of them said, “What’s that?!” Others said, “We won’t have it in our church! It’s a window to hell and not to heaven!” And still others, “Shall we now worship demons in our church?” The iconostasis had to be thrown out.

On the other hand, the Protestants falsely claim that the Catholics and the Orthodox commit idolatry by venerating icons or statues. This is another extreme. We do not worship icons as idols, but we venerate those whom they represent.

The Catholics and the Orthodox distinguish between the so-called cult of hyperdulia – the veneration of the Mother of God – and the cult of dulia – the veneration of saints. The Divine worship (the cult of latria) is due only to God, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. As early as the ninth century, iconoclasm was condemned by the Council and the veneration of sacred images was confirmed anew.

Note on the Divine Liturgy:

It must be admitted that in the Epiclesis the Eastern Liturgy gives a greater and deeper opportunity for personal participation in the working of the Holy Spirit. Do priests and the faithful make the best use of this opportunity for their sanctification?

Supplement: “The fullness of the Holy Spirit” – The Resurrection

With the words “The fullness of the Holy Spirit”, the priest performs a liturgical gesture, thereby making present the mystery of Christ’s resurrection. The biblical term “the fullness of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:3.5.55; Lk 4:1…) is connected with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles but also with the promise: “You will be ‘martyres’ (witnesses and martyrs) to Me.” (Acts 1:8)

To resist sin, i.e. lies and evil in us in the first place, sometimes means bloodless martyrdom. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” (Heb 12:4) If we receive Christ in the Liturgy, we share in His resurrection through the Holy Spirit: But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom 8:11)

If anyone does not want to keep the commandments of God, rejects the way of repentance and the Spirit of truth, and yet receives Holy Communion, he “eats and drinks judgment to himself” (1Cor 11:29).

What is the point of our life? Each of us will face death, God’s judgment, and then eternal happiness in glory or eternal suffering in hell. Both are unchangeable and eternal. You decide your own fate. You are a rational being, so think about the meaning of your existence.


+ Elijah

Patriarch of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate

+ Methodius OSBMr              + Timothy OSBMr

Secretary Bishops


Download: The Epiclesis /Part four: The Epiclesis – The Temple and Iconostasis/ (26/11/2018)


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Word of Life

“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

1Jn 3:24 (14/7/2019 – 28/7/2019)