The first question you might ask is why do orthodox churches have domes? The answer may surprise you. Domes have several reasons, including similarity to Catholic churches, the Orientation of the building to East-West, and Symbolism of the flame of a candle. Continue reading to learn more. You’ll be glad you read this article! Here are some examples of domes and the symbolism they represent.
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Symbolism of the flame of a candle
The symbolism of the flame of a candle is extensive in the Orthodox Church. A lit candle is symbolic of people in church, their presence, and their attention to God’s Word. The flame of a candle softens the heart, representing the Spirit of God. A lit candle is also symbolic of the joy and spiritual triumph of the Church. In many ways, the flame of a candle is representative of a lit heart.
The lighted candle is often the first thing a visitor to an Orthodox church sees when entering. In addition to making an offering, many Orthodox worshipers light candles during difficult moments. At Pasch night, lit candles are used to transform people into icons. Symbolism of the flame of a candle in Orthodox churches is rich and rooted in hands-on approaches to faith.
Similarity to Catholicism
While there are differences between Orthodox and Catholic faith, they share many common features. Both are Christians who accept the seven sacraments, believe in Christ’s literal presence in the Eucharist, and recognize apostolic succession. In addition to the domes and spires, both use candles. Orthodox churches are often reminiscent of Catholic churches in style. Orthodox churches may also be similar to Catholic churches in size.
In the interior of an Orthodox church, there is a narthex (or preparation hall) where worshippers kiss a special icon before entering the nave. The dome is adorned with brightly colored symbols. The top dome depicts Jesus ascending to Heaven; the bottom is covered with apostles and prophets from the Old Testament. On the sides of the dome, there are angels representing the traditional Christian view of Heaven’s hierarchy.
Orientation to East – West
Orientation to East-West is not a new concept in Orthodox churches. The first Orthodox church dates back to Jesus Christ. The Apostles, and later bishops, appointed others to serve as their successors, a process known as Apostolic succession. The early Christian world was organized around five Patriarchates, and four of them remain Orthodox today. By the late third or fourth century, Orthodox Christianity had firmly settled into its present form, with numerous Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the Church, whose lives and work have been incorporated into Orthodox worship practices.
Today, the largest Orthodox church in the world is the patriarchate of Moscow, which survived persecution after the 1917 Russian Revolution. This patriarchate is ranked fifth in the hierarchy of autocephalous churches, behind the patriarchates of Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, and Bulgaria. In addition to these patriarchates, the Church of Rome, Greece, and Serbia are also Orthodox. Nonpatriarchal churches include the archbishoprics of Athens, Cyprus, and Tirana, Albania. Metropolitanates of Prague and Poland also practice this orientation, but are not patriarchal.
Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem
In the orthodox churches, the chalice is an important part of the worship service. This cup is used for Holy Communion. It represents the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Its symbolism is significant in Christian life and is found in many artworks. Here are some examples of orthodox churches’ use of the chalice. This symbol also appears in art from other Christian religions.
The curtain in the Holy Sepulchre is also symbolic. It is drawn back during the significant parts of the service. It represents the breaking of the connection between heaven and earth, which was made at the time of Adam’s fall. It also represents the entry of the Lord into the assembly of people. The crucifixion also commemorates the breaking of the curtain, which allowed humankind to enter the temple.
Symbolism of the celestial liturgy
The Orthodox Church has a rich liturgical tradition. The central actions of the service, such as the consecration of the bread, the distribution of wine, and the chanting of the prayers, are designed to appeal to the senses. Each liturgical element carries meaning and hints at the meaning of the whole service. These elements include the Holy Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts.
The emergence of these visual representations reflects the process of canon development and the spirit of the living Tradition. The collective effort of the liturgical service reflects the “inner meaning” of the Church’s life, which St. Nektarios calls esoteric. It is a visual representation of the incarnate Logos, whose divine form manifests itself as the Tradition’s symbolism.