In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In the average parish, a set of new Deacon’s Doors may only be blessed once during the life of that parish, and certainly only once during any of our lives in this parish. So this is the one opportunity we’ll have to talk about what we’ve just done. We’ve installed Deacon’s Doors, and we’ve blessed the icons on them.

Many people would ask, why do we spend such a large sum of money having these doors built, and having the icons written, and bringing them to adorn this temple? As we heard in the prayers for the blessing of the icons, God commanded (in the original temple in Jerusalem) very fine adornments—gold and expensive woods and tapestries. All placed in the temple to beautify the house of God, to offer the best in the people’s worship of God. A very nice extension of this into our Church can be read on the Serbian Orthodox website: “The interior of an Orthodox church with its carved wooden furnishings, chandeliers, icons and other adornments, creates an aura of beauty and serenity. It fulfills the desire of the Orthodox Church to touch the senses, thereby touching the soul. The physical beauty of the church is reflective of the love and commitment the Orthodox have for their faith, but the furnishings of the church also serve as symbols of the intrinsic ideas of the faith. Every element from the use of candles to the placement of saints on the iconostas in the church has a significance in the Orthodox Christian Church.” The Church is made beautiful for the glory of God, and for our interaction with God in worship.

So what is the significance of the Deacon’s Doors, and the icons we have on them? The Deacon’s Doors are the normal way in and out of the altar area of a Church. The Royal Doors are used only in very specific moments of Liturgical services, and only a few people are blessed to go through the Royal Doors. So everyone uses the Deacon’s Doors when entering and exiting the altar – most notably, if we had a deacon, the deacon uses the doors frequently during the services to come out and offer and litanies in front of the Royal Doors. Symbolically (architecturally), the nave of the Church calls to our minds the world, and the altar area of the Church is to call to our minds the heavens. And the passage between the ways of this world and the Kingdom of God is not just an open roadway that we can move back and forth on as we see fit. Christ says that the road to the Kingdom is narrow, and difficult, and few will ultimately walk that road. We’re reminded of that difficult path, and of our struggle to walk it, by the iconostasis. This is why, generally speaking, the doors remain closed. Most of our services throughout the week and throughout the year are penitential in nature, they are services of great and deep repentance. And we’re reminded physically in the architecture of the Church of the alienation that our sin causes between us and our God. This is why, the Divine Liturgy, and in all the sacraments, the Royal Doors are opened.

Our Saints teach that with us in the Liturgy are all the saints and the hosts of heaven – that we’re raised up to Heaven to worship at the Altar of God. So the Royal Doors stay open, and we’re reminded of God’s invitation into the Kingdom. We’ll only close the doors a few times in the Liturgy – for the prayers of the catechumens (who aren’t yet members of the Church), and during the communion of the clergy (more for distractions than anything else). And one other time, just after the Great Entrance with the gifts to be offered. We close the curtain for that one litany, and in this we understand that we’re being reminded of our unworthiness to participate in this worship, and in communion of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ. For our humility we’re reminded of our unworthiness, but then the doors are opened again and we’re invited to participate in communion of the Body and Blood of our Christ.

Now specifically to the deacon’s doors – Fr. Andrew (our iconographer) said that the icons on the deacon’s doors can be of anyone who leads us into the Kingdom of Heaven. So basically, any of the saints can be on the doors because they all show us an example of the Gospel in action, they all direct us to Christ. Very often the icons will be of saintly deacons, or of the Archangels who minister at the Throne of God in Heaven. We chose to do something not as often seen, and to put on the doors two saints who are already patrons for our community, saints who are already interceding for us, and directing on the straight and narrow path to Christ. The great cloud of witnesses, the communion of the Saints, is real. Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand, and perhaps we really can’t understand it until, by God’s grace, we have an experience that reveals it to us.
But when the saints die in the flesh, they continue to live on with us in the Body of Christ. And our relationship with the Saints, and really our relationship with specific Saints, can be just as vibrant as our relationships with our families and fellow members of our parish. So we chose for our deacon’s doors two Saints that all of us in this community should be developing a relationship with anyway – St. Innocent is the patron of our parish hall, and St. John of Kronstadt is the patron of our parish rectory. We don’t have time to explore their lives, that’s something we should do of our own interest.

A few nice things for us to know in our parish relationship with these two saints…Fr. Andrew called to let us know the doors were finished and being shipped on St. Innocent’s feast day (Oct 6), and today is one of the feast’s of St. John of Kronstadt (birth and repose, canonization in December). And we didn’t know about this other connection until after the patron’s were chosen for the buildings – but St. Innocent and St. John were contemporaries, and St. John was very highly venerated as a living saint in Russia before his repose. So when St. Innocent was recalled from America to be the Metropolitan of Moscow, he would go and visit St. John of Kronstadt, and he highly revered him. So they knew each other, and St. Innocent’s cathedral in Moscow was the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Our patrons have already been ordering things to assure us of their holy intercessions before the throne of almighty God for the spreading of the Gospel in this place, and for the salvation of our souls.

Holy Fathers Innocent and John, pray to God for us who honor your sacred memory with icons and hymns and songs, that He be merciful to us, and save us. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Advertisements