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Creating an Iconostasion

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Iconostatsis 1In the Greek Orthodox Church, the traditional term for a place of family worship is iconostásion. Here icons are placed together along with other religious items to facilitate worship and prayer. The iconostásion generally contains the following items.

 

  • Icons of Christ, the Theotokos, saints, and Church feasts
  • Cross
  • Prayer book
  • Bible
  • Seal for Holy Communion bread
  • Censer
  • Charcoal and incense
  • Light (electric or candle)
  • Holy oil
  • Holy water from Theophany (Epiphany)
  • Seasonal items from church holidays such as a piece of vasilópita, palms from Palm Sunday, flowers from Good Friday, an Easter egg
  • Wedding, baptismal and Paschal candles
  • Marriage crowns [with or without a case (stephanothíki)]

These contents may be prayerfully modified to meet the needs of inter-Christian households. Other items that might be added include a family Bible, rosary and meaningful quotes from the non-Orthodox partner’s Christian faith tradition.

Location

Iconostatsis 2If possible, set up the iconostásion somewhere accessible to all members of the family. Traditionally it is located so the family faces east when praying. According to Orthodox belief, Christ, the light of the world, will come again from the East. This is why all Orthodox churches have altars on the east side. Locate the iconostásion near an electrical outlet if you choose to have an electric light burning continually. Also allow room for expansion to add icons and items in the coming years.

Arrangement

There are many ways to arrange the iconostásion. The items may go into a glass-enclosed cabinet, on open shelves, and/or on the wall above a small table. You may find it easier to work with the censer, candle and books from a small table or open shelf. The arrangement depends on your home and the number of items.

Care

Respectfully keep the iconostásion clean, including periodic polishing of any silver icons. Seasonal items from the previous year such as the vasilópita, palms from Palm Sunday, flowers from special services, and the Easter egg should be disposed of on Holy Thursday by burning them in a metal container or foil. Since holy items should not be disposed of in the trash, and no one should step on them, bury the remains in an isolated location in the yard.

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