An Article for Theophany
Here is a great article for Theophany from Father Stephen Freeman! Enjoy.
For an Orthodox priest, the services of the Church involve many “comings and goings.” Part of any service takes place within the altar area, which is usually enclosed by an iconostasis, a wall on which icons are hung. The wall does not truly separate one area of the Church from another so much as it marks one area off from another – the space of the Church is itself an icon. But within these spaces, the priest (and deacon) move back and forth. Going out from the altar and entering back in to the altar. Each exit and entrance has its own meaning within the context of the service. I often think of the Psalm verse, “May the Lord bless your going and your coming in…” With this action, for me, has come an increased awareness of doors and entrances within Scripture. For the doors of the altar bear a relationship with the various “doors” in Scripture.
I have often thought about the meditation attached to the closed doors of the altar early in the service of Vespers. The priest stands before them, head bowed, and prays. I have been told that the closed doors represent the closed doors of paradise, with the priest standing outside them, like Adam, weeping for his sins. It is always a poignant thought.
The gates of paradise always have a strange double quality to them. When they are open the world becomes heaven. When they are closed all becomes Hades. It is the gates of Hades that Christ promises will not prevail against the Church.
I have also noted over the years that most people seem to concern themselves with the “larger” gates of Hades. They want to know who goes there, who stays there and why, and how they can avoid the entire thing. Some people seem to be experts on Hades and Hell.
Read the whole article here: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/01/06/theophany-gates-hades/