the iconostasis

The most striking feature of the Melkite rite is its love of mystery.  This is especially seen when celebrating the Divine Liturgy.  The entire sanctuary is concealed by the Iconostasis, a lofty wooden screen interlaced with icons, separating the sanctuary from the rest of the church.  It is the most prominent and distinguishing external characteristic in a church of the Eastern tradition.

This “sanctuary barrier” that cuts off the altar from our view does not hold back the participation in the mysteries of the liturgy, but is rather an aid to the Melkite spirit of worship.  Melkite devotion is aroused by concealment as well as by exposition, and the doors of the iconostasis are not only to hide, but to reveal.  The icon screen is a tangible witness to the mystery we live in the liturgy.  It is not a barrier but a symbolic gateway into the Kingdom of Heaven.