Part1: Parts of the Church Building
1. Holy Sanctuary (Madbaha) - Place of Sacrifice
2. Part inside the rails (Azhikakam) - Holy Place
3. Nave (Hykala) - Main hall for congregation
4. Narthex (Court of the Gentiles)
The Syriac term madhb'ho means the holy place. It is at the eastern end of the Church and represents heaven. "Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the East. And behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East....and the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east" Ezekiel 43:1,2,3. "... for the facade of the temple was toward the east..." Ezekiel 47:1. In the Sanctuary the Body and Blood of our Lord are offered by the priest, the representative of Lord, in the midst of deacons and candle lights.
The veil that separated the Madbaha (Sanctuary) and the Nave signifies the sky which separates the Heaven and Earth. (Exodus 36:16, 40:3,21)
The alter is often referred to as the 'Table of Life' because on it we find the bread of life. It is also called the 'Tomb of the glorified Lord' because the bread and wine placed upon it are transformed into the Body and Blood of our resurrected Lord.
this is a piece of wooden slab placed at the center of the altar and is covered with cloth. The Paten and Chalice are placed over it. It is consecrated with Holy Chrism by a Bishop during the consecration of a church. Each tabalitho has inscribed on it the following: "The Holy Ghost has hallowed this tabalitho by the hands of Mar..." and the year. The Holy Qurbana can be celebrated any where with this slab. Without this the Qurbana cannot be celebrated. Thabilitho symbolizes the cross on which our Lord was crucified.
The cross is placed in the middle of the altar. It symbolizes our Lord's sacrifice on Mount Golgotha. The Cross is the symbol of peace, victory, and salvation. It is also described as the weapon in the struggle against Satan.
The sign of cross is made with the right hand. The thumb, first finger, and second finger are brought together and the first finger is extended further than the thumb and second finger, indicating that Christ is the One and Only Savior. The sign of cross is drawn starting from the forehead, down to the chest and then from the left to the right shoulder. This tradition symbolizes that the Lord Christ, came down to earth from the heights, and redeemed our earthly body from the gloomy paths of darkness (left), to the paths of truth and light (right).
God is the light of the world. Jesus said "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" John 8:12. The candle in the middle of the altar represent the resurrected Lord. The twelve candles represents the twelve Apostles. The burning of wax reminds us that we should be prepared to sacrifice ourselves to lighten others.
The Chalice which holds the Eucharistic wine is the most important of all sacramental vessels. The Patent holds the Eucharistic bread. The Paten and Chalice recall the mystery of the Last Supper, the bread standing for the Body of Christ and the Wine for His precious Blood.
This white veil is used to cover the Paten and Chalice. It represents the fact that the Divine Mysteries are hidden from the understanding of men and that the divinity and humanity united in Christ, the Divine Word, is beyond human comprehension just the same way as the transformation of bread and wine to flesh and blood of Christ is beyond our perception (Samuel, 1967)
Meaning of other Church Vessels
The Censer It has a lower half and upper half, four chains and 12 bells. The lower cup of the censer represents the earth and the upper cup the heaven. The coal in it represents the sinners. The chains represent the Holy Trinity. The first chain stands for God the Father. The second and third chains represent the human and Godly nature of the son. The fourth chain represents the Holy Spirit. The 12 bells represent the 12 Apostles of Christ. The four chains have a total of 72 links to represent the 72 evangelists of the Old Testament who prepared men to be worthy of the new covenant with God. The fire signifies the Holy Spirit by whose contact the black coal shines and glows. The incense shows the grace of the Holy Trinity. As the smoke goes up to the high so also our prayers should go high (Psalm 141:2)
A Fan shaped silver object mounted on a long pole. In the center of the fans, the seraphic face and wings are represented. The fans symbolize the presence of angels around the altar. The sounds represent the seraphim's and the flutter of their wings around the mysteries. It is carried in processions and shaken at the most solemn parts of the Qurbana.
This is the pulpit which symbolizes the heights of Mount Sinai from where God spoke to Moses and handed him the stone tablets (Exodus 34:2). Mathew 5:1 tells us that Christ went up a mountain to preach the gospel to the multitude. Therefore the Book of gospel, which points to Christ Himself, is placed on the gospel stand.
The church is built with the altar at the eastern most part so that the priest may celebrate facing the east and all may stand behind him facing east. It is believed that the second coming of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, will be from the east, the place of the rising sun. "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Mathew 24:27).
- Samuel, A. Yeshu, H. E. (1967). Anaphora - The Divine Liturgy of Saint James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. New York.
- Rajan, Mani Rev. Dr. (1994). Queen of the Sacraments. Seminary Publications. Mulanthuruthy.
- Panoor, Punnose Dr. (1994). A Guide to the Orthodox Liturgy and Faith. Madras.
- Varghese, C.K. (1999). The Living Sacrifice. Pandalam, Kerala
- Syriac Orthodox Resources - http://sor.cua.edu