The Holy of Holies

As a Priest with ROCOR I am truly humbled and struck by the ability that I may enter into the Holy of Holies within an Orthodox Church.  Who am I? I ask God regularly.

“As the Holy of Holies signified then, so now the Altar represents the Kingdom of Heaven. No one could enter the Holy of Holies except the High Priest once a year, and only with the blood of a purification sacrifice. The Kingdom of Heaven, after the fall of man into sin, was closed to us. The High Priest was a prototype of Christ, and his action told the people that a time would come when Christ, through the shedding of His blood and suffering on the Cross and Resurrection, would open the Kingdom of Heaven to all. Therefore, when Christ died on the Cross the veil of the temple which closed off the Holy of Holies was torn in two, and from this moment Christ opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to all those who with faith would come unto Him.”

The most important part of the church is the Altar or Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is the holiest place in the entire church and is where the Altar Table or “Throne” upon which the Mystery of Holy Communion served by the priest is located. The Sanctuary is built upon a raised portion that is usually higher than the other portions of the church so that all that is done there will be audible and visible during the service. The very word “Altar” means an elevated place of sacrifice.”

The above quotes were taken from:  http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/readings/LGFLS/building.shtml

We can also look elsewhere to see the Holy of Holies, especially on this day.  From OrthodoxWiki we learn about the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos:

 

“One of the more puzzling traditions regarding the Theotokos for modern Christians is the teaching that she is Ever-Virgin, that is, that she remained a virgin before, during, and eternally after the birth of Jesus Christ.

That the Holy Virgin Mary is Ever-Virgin (Aeiparthenos) is not to elevate her to some special status or to incite us to worship the creature rather than the Creator. Rather, it is an affirmation of who Christ Jesus is. Because He has chosen her to be his mother, to conceive Him, to give flesh to Him, to give birth to Him, we understand her as a finite dwelling place of the infinite God. Thus, because she is in this sense this new Holy of Holies, her ever-virginity is a natural characteristic of such an awesome reality.

The whole tradition of the Orthodox Christian Church has always held her to be in truth Ever-Virgin, knowing her personally from the beginning and then passing the truths on from one generation to the next, never expanding nor subtracting from what was known in the beginning.”

The Holy of Holies is a representation of heaven itself, God’s dwelling place, which we have access now through Christ. In Revelations, John’s vision of heaven — the New Jerusalem — also was a perfect square, just as the Holy of Holies was (Revelation 21:16).

“For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. …But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:24-26)

So again I am humbled and struck with the standard set!

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About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR and serve as Rector at St. Joseph of Optina Parish in Virginia Beach, VA
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