Symbols In Orthodox Church
By Manna Job, Member, St. Gregorios Fishkill
Many objects that we see and use in the Holy Qurbana have very remarkable significance. We should understand that they symbolize the divine concepts. Here are some insights.
1. THE ALTAR
The altar is the most important symbol of our church. It must be prepared with great care and respect. Everything should be placed as perfectly as possible. The altar is known as the Lord’s Table. It is also called the Thronos. Thronos is a Greek word means the throne or seat of the King of Kings. In our tradition we can only offer one Holy Qurbana on the same altar on the same day.
2. THE CROSS
The cross represents the presence of our Lord and savior. The top of the cross stands for love, the bottom stands for humility, the right side stands for obedience and the left side stands for patience. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and gained victory over death. The cross is the symbol of the passion of our Lord.
3. THE CANDLES
Christian church is a continuation of the Jerusalem temple. The lighted candles show this. There may be 12 candles on the altar representing the apostles or 7candles as of in the Jerusalem temple. Our life is a gift of god. The burning candles remind us that we must sacrifice ourselves to help others. Our souls are lighted by the Holy sprit. The candles also represent this. Like a candle we must give light to others by sacrificing ourselves.
4. THE ALTAR COVER
The altar cover is also called chithola. It is very colorful. There are three sections on the chithola which represents the Holy Trinity. The same color signifies the unity of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Our sacrifice to god is prepared from wheat and vine. This is why the chithola is embroidered with wheat and vine stalks.
5. PEELASA AND KASA
The peelasa and kasa are also known as paten and chalice. These are the sacred vessels because the Eucharistic elements are kept in these vessels during the service.
The tablitha is a small portable altar. It is arranged in the center of the altar. It is a small piece of wood or marble consecrated during the consecration of churches. Without tablitha the Eucharist service cannot be celebrated.
7. SACRAMENTAL FANS (MARBOSA)
The sacramental fans are made of silver or some other metal. In the center of the fan there is a seraphic face and wings. There are small bells around the rim. When the fan is shaken, it signifies the Seraphim and the flutter of their wings. The fans are used in processions and in Holy Qurbana.
The censer or dhoopakutti is used for burning incense. It represents the universe.
The bowl of the censer represents earth and the lid represents heaven. The four chains are also a part of the censer. The first chain represents the Father, the second and third chain represents the divinity and humanity of the Son and the third chain represents the Holy Spirit. There are 12 bells on the censer represent the apostles. When the priest or acolytes wave the censer, we must bow down and make the sign of cross.
There are more symbols. All these are to helping us to enjoy the feeling that we are in the heaven when we are worshipping.