A direct comparison for the function of the iconostasis can be made to the layout of the great Temple in Jerusalem. This architectural tradition can be seen carried forward in our Church.
At Jerusalem Temple, the holiest and inner-most portion was that where the Ark of the Covenant was kept - the Holy of Holies. This portion was separated from the second larger part of the building's interior, where faithful gathered, by a curtain or so called the "veil of the temple". The iconostasis represents the veil of the ancient Jerusalem Temple although its function and symbolism is not viewed as a structure which divides but rather as architectural feature that brings together the Nave (temple of the faithful) and the Holy of Holies (the Sanctuary) ). Therefore everything is full of symbolism in the structure of the Iconostasis. The Icons of Jesus Christ, of Mother of God (St. Mary) and of various Saints and feasts are there to create a particular Biblically based narrative, which is to guide the faithful into the realm of the Divine. Therefore the Iconostasis connects not separates and icons in the iconostasis are seen as visual aid or “windows”/“bridges” into an invisible, but real according to Christian faith, realm of the Divine Reality or in other words: Heaven.
BOTTOM ROW OF ICONS
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The bottom row of icons in the Iconostasis presents a theological interpretation of the foundation of Christian faith, which is based in Old Testament history of salvation. These images of Old Testament events are not placed according to historical or Holy Scripture chronology but according to a particular theological interpretation of the iconographer and builders of this iconostasis. The main theme that could be deducted from imagery used in this composition is:
From - Faith - to - Divine Revelation and Covenant – to – Sacrifice and Redemption – to – Salvation.
ICON #1 “Prophet Daniel in the Lions’ Den” – An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel (Ch.6), where Prophet Daniel is being thrown into the lions’ den for his refusal to denounce the worship of his God. Daniel is spared his life on the account of his unwavering faith in God.
ICON #2 “Sacrifice of Isaac” - An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis (22:1-19), where Abraham’s faith is tested by God’s order to sacrifice his only son Isaac. (This event is also viewed as precursor/prophesy of Sacrifice of Son of God, Jesus Christ) Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son for God’s sake was enough for God, who spares the life of Isaac. Abraham’s faith is proven to be unwavering.
ICON #3 “Aaron and Moses at the Altar of Incense” - An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus(Ch.9, 10, 16), where Moses and his brother Aaron bring burnt offerings in their worship of God on the behalf of the people. This Old Testament image of sacrifice is replicated by incensing the iconostasis every time the worship is taking place in the church. The Deacon uses this door to exit the Holy of Holies and bring forth incense for incensing the iconostasis and people.
ICON #4 “Moses & Burning Bush” - An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus (22:1-19), where Moses experiences the presence of God, who reveals Himself to him. . (Note: notice iconographer’s particular interpretation of burning bush by depicting in the flame a specific icon of Mother of God & Jesus Christ – this kind of icons is called an “Icon of the Sign”)
ICON #5 “Moses on Mount Sinai” - An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus (Ch.31 & 34), where Moses, who led Israelites out of Egyptian captivity, climbs a mount of Sinai to receive 10 Commandments - the basis of moral law but also a Covenant between God and Humanity.
ICON #6 “Sacrifice of Melchizedek” - An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis, where Melchizedek brings first bloodless sacrifice of bread & wine as an offering in his worship of God. (Note: This image alludes to the gifts of bread and wine, which are offered for consecration during the celebration of The Divine Liturgy – Holy Mass)
ICON #7 “Moses Raises Staff with the Serpent in the Dessert” - An event described in the Old Testament in the Book of Numbers (21:9). God told Moses to erect a statue of a bronze serpent on a pole to protect the Israelites, who were dying from the bites of the "fiery serpents" which God had sent to punish them for rebelling against God and Moses. (This event is viewed as precursor/prophesy of Redemptive/Saving power of the One who will be raised on the cross - the Son of God, Jesus Christ)
ICON #8 “Prophet Elias is being taken to Heaven” - An event described in the Old Testament in the 2nd Book of Kings (Ch.2), where Prophet Elias (or Elijah) is being taken on the fiery chariot to Heaven. This last image is a reference to an ultimate destiny of every faithful: “salvation in the Kingdom of God”, but it also points to the “End of Times” and particularly to the New Testament Book of Revelation (11:3-12)
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ICON #1 “First Holy Family – Family of Mother of God: St. Joachim, St. Anna and young Most Holy Mother of God, Mary.”
ICON #2 “St. Nichola The Wonderworker – Bishop of Myra”
ICON #3 “St. Stephen Archdeacon”
ICON #4 “Most Holy Mother of God, Mary & Jesus Christ”
ICON #5 “The Holy (Royal) Doors contains: Icon of Annunciation, Icons of Four Evangelists: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke & St. John”
ICON #6 “Jesus Christ – The Teacher.”
ICON #7 “St. Philip Archdeacon”
ICON #8 “St. John The Baptist”
ICON #9 “Jesus Christ teaching Old Testament Scribes in Jerusalem Temple”
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Series of 12 Major Feasts in Church Calendar – Events from Life of Most Holy Mother of God – Mary and Jesus Christ:
ICON #1 “Nativity of Most Holy Mother of God”
ICON #2 “Presentation (Dedication) of Most Holy Mother of God in Jerusalem Temple”
ICON #3 “Annunciation”
ICON #4 “Nativity of our Lord, God & Saviour, Jesus Christ”
ICON #5 “Presentation (Dedication) of our Lord, God & Saviour, Jesus Christ in Jerusalem Temple”
ICON #6 “Theophany (Epiphany) – Baptism of our Lord, God & Saviour, Jesus Christ in river Jordan by St. John The Baptist”
ICON #7 “Transfiguration of our Lord, God & Saviour, Jesus Christ”
ICON #8 “Entry into Jerusalem of our Lord, God & Saviour, Jesus Christ”
ICON #9 “Resurrection – Descent into Hades”
ICON #10 “Ascension”
ICON #11 “Pentecost – Descent of Holy Spirit”
ICON #12 “Dormition (Falling Asleep) of Most Holy Mother of God - Mary”
ICON #13“Last Supper”
ICON #14“ icon called Deisis (icon of supplication) (Greek: δέησις, "prayer" or "supplication”)
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ICON #1 “Archangel Gabriel”
ICON #2 “Protection of Most Holy Mother of God - Mary”
ICON # 3“Archangel Michael”