St. Mary's Holy Place Ikons

The Holy Place (altar area) represents the glory of God.   The Holy Table at its center represents the throne of God.   As such it is covered with rich fabrics, representing God 'clothed in majesty' (Psalm 92.)   The walls of the Holy Place are decorated with an array of special icons placed in specific positions as prescribed by the holy canons of the Church.   Let us now look at the newly appointed icons of the Holy Place of St. Mary's Protection written by the hand of the iconographer Ivan Rumayantzev.

Beginning at the very top of the Holy Place, in the curve of the apse is the icon of the Mother of God, Platitera (#1).   Platitera is a Greek word meaning 'broader' than the heavens and comes from the ponderous idea that Christ who is broader than all the heavens contained Himself within the Virgin's womb.   Her image is flanked by two angels (#2 and #3) who hold rapidia, the processional fans which denote a rank of honor to Him who is contained within the Holy Virgin.   She stands directly above the Holy Table watching each and every Divine service, which makes us partakers of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Directly behind the Holy table is the icon of Christ, the High Priest (#4) so called because he is dressed in the vestments of a bishop.   His presence there reminds us that he is the true celebrant of the Divine Liturgy offering us Himself in theBody and Blood of the holy Eucharist.   As we sing throughout the Liturgy that all the heavenly powers are present with us, so Christ is surrounded by the angelic hosts again holding symbols of honor, the same rapidia that also flank the Holy Table itself.

The High Priest is surrounded by the four great liturgical fathers of the Church who composed the main liturgies that are used throughout the church year.

To our right of Christ is Saint John Chrysostom, the Golden Tongued (#5).   He lived in the fourth century and wrote the Divine Liturgy used on most Sundays and weekdays of the year.   Next to Saint John is the image of Saint James, Brother of God (#6).   He is the stepbrother of Christ who according to the Book of acts became the first bishop of Jerusalem after Pentecost and composed one of the earliest liturgies of the Church.   It is only used by some Byzantine churches at his feast on October 23rd.   Several other Eastern Churches also use this liturgy on a more regular basis.

To our left of the High Priest is Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesaria in Cappadocia (#7).   He was a contemporary of Saint John Chrysostom and is credited with composing an earlier liturgy atill used on his feastday (January 1st), Theophany, the Sundays of Great Lent, and several other times during the liturgical year.   At the side of Saint basil is Saint Gregory, the Dialogist, Bishop of Rome (#8), a sixth century Church Father who wrote the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts used during the weekdays of the Great Fast.

Thus these four great liturgical fathers have provided the Byzantine Church with a wealth of prayer life, establishing some of the most profound and beautiful services of the Christian Church.

Next to Saint Gregory over the Table of Preparation is an icon of the Nativity of Christ (#9).  ) Just as the bread and wine areprepared by the priest to become the body and Blood of Christ, so did Christ prepare for our salvation through His death and Resurrection by taking on human flesh at His birth.   It is a truly great meditation for the priest celebrating the Rite of Preparation at each divine Liturgy.    Directly across fromthe Nativity icon by the icon of saint james is the image of Extreme Humility, (#10), the last of the new Holy place icons.   This soul searing icon represents the newly crucified Christ being placed lovingly in the tomb by His mother and beloved disciple.   This is the ultimate reason why He took flesh, the ultimate reason we offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, so that we can become partakers of eternal life.

So do all of the icons of the Holy Place come together to make the kingdom of God present in our midst and to invite us to be paricipants in the Mystical Banquet that will make us members of that heavenly kingdom.

The following is a diagram of the icons on the walls of the holy place, where the numbers (1 - 10) identify the positions of the individual icons.   Following the diagram is a list of the individual icons identified by their number on the diagram and their name.

Thumbnail graphics of these icons, also identified by number and name, follow the listing.   Additional photos show (#11) Platitera and Angels, (#12) Altar area (left), (#13) Altar area (right), and (#14) Platitera (Close-up).

To view a larger graphic of an individual icon, simply click on the thumbnail graphic.   Afterward, to return to the thumbnail page click on the "Back" button on your browser.

Holy Place Ikons Diagram

Holy Place Ikons Diagram

1. Platitera 8. Saint Gregory, the Dialogist
2. Angel (left) 9. Nativity of Christ
3. Angel (right) 10. Extreme Humility
4. Christ the High Priest 11. Platitera and Angels
5. Saint John Chrysostom 12. Altar area (left)
6. Saint James, Brother of God 13. Altar area (right)
7. Saint Basil, the Great 14. Platitera (Close-up)

Christ the High Priest
St. John Chrysostom
St. James, Brother of God
St. Basil, the Great
St. Gregory, the Dialogist
Nativity of Christ
Extreme Humility
Platitera and Angels
Altar Area (Left)
Altar Area (Right)
Platitera (Close-up)