Rubik’s Iconostasis

In Eastern Christianity, an iconostasis is a wall filled with icons and religious artefacts that separates the nave from the sanctuary. There’s a more than usually extreme set of liturgies and rubrics for priests, bishops and abbesses to follow which govern its use and practice. It’s principal use is as a separator. As far away from me as might be possible to get.

Local churches create their own real or virtual iconostases. Sets of rules, gates through which some can pass and others cannot. To a greater or lesser extent, almost every denomination does it.

I was speaking to someone the other day about education. They pointed out that a classroom situation is one of the most artificial settings kids ever have to face. They are all trying to or more usually being compelled to do the same thing at the same time with people of their own age. In a sense, we do this when we walk through the the doors of the church. is saying the same thing at the same time any necessary guarantee of meaning?  Perhaps it’s hardwired into us to develop a politics of specificity in what we do in terms of collective spiritual response and how we gain access to transcendence. But, what if such politics were absent?  If disbelief can be suspended this far, what might church look like?

A large room with a big open central gathering space. perhaps with big tables. What might be on them – or better – what might we like to bring to put on them? As community members, we bring our own objects to the table, worship toys, ritual objects, flyers, teaching material, artwork. We work at tables, we play games at them, some of us pray sitting at them, some are places where we read, discuss, argue. A table is an altar, what might we put on it? Around the edge, sofas, coffee tables, small corners , places of refuge, perhaps with cushions and soft lighting. ‘Going to church’ might end up with an hour of prayer in front of a candle, singing with the kids, writing songs and working them out prophetically together, developing a eucharistic liturgy, belonging to a ‘thinking space’ where discussion and teaching in loose seminar format might be happening, people drifting from one space to another.
How would community work? How would Eucharist work? How would pastoral and prophetic leadership work? Membership? I think the only two criteria might be a desire to meet and interact with the Creator of the Universe and a willingness to leave prejudice, preconceptions and pride at the door, in expectation of which face of the cube God presents to us at any one time.

10 thoughts on “Rubik’s Iconostasis

  1. Sorry, but this is an epitome of pseudo-intellectualism. Do you secretly need some rationalization, writer? Just accept that what you are is fine! Things will be much better for you.

    By the way r u a “Christian”? If yes, how do you question the tradition even Christ accepted? If not why don’t you leave Christians alone?



  2. …secretly need some rationalization…. Not secret at all; I wouldn't bother posting here if it were. We all do. Even you. Don't apologise, by the way. You're at liberty to say what you like and (perish the thought) think what you like as well. As am I.
    And, for information, things are just fine with me. so I wonder why you put the word 'Christian' in speech marks. All of us are trying to make sense of a cosmos which seems chaotic and flawed, rationalising it with a God who is complete, perfect and interactive.


  3. “Vagabond”,

    I see a very different person when you respond to my comments, than the one who posts posts! So, I did make you think and get angry, didn’t I!

    Why I put “Christian” in quotes? Because I felt you would sound wise and lecture on how “Christian” does not mean one specific thing. But you avoided answering. So, are you or are you not a “Christian”?

    I don’t want to show how intelligent I am. So I am not trying to make sense of cosmos. I don’t even know what cosmos is and how it matters to me.

    I apologized because I felt I would make you angry.

    Finally, I hope you know why I put “Vagabond” in quotes.



  4. *smile*
    I don't particularly like the use of the word “Christian” – I'm sure you know that in its original context, it was a term of abuse. But, I suppose if a label must be applied…
    I just happen to think that we tend to try to put God into boxes of our own manufacture and I agree with Karl Barth that the 'otherness' of God doesn't really allow us to get to 'know his mind' – not in the silly, Hawking sense, but in the sense of the development of transcendence.
    And, no. You didn't get me angry.


  5. … But you made me happy because exactly as I expected, you started with, “we tend to try to put God…” routine. How predictable! How ostrich-like: as if the world cannot see. You also did start a lecture on the word “Christian”- now you know why the quotes in my initial comments!

    Please wake up “Vagabond”! The context of “Christian” you mention was 2000 yrs back! Today, the world understands the word easily and here is you who don’t like it because of its context of 2000 yrs back! -That too when users of the word then did not treat Jesus with the reverence we do, today.

    See, many people not from my community mention the word for my community with a negative connotation. But I use the same word with pride. By that token, if you are so influenced by the connotation meant by those who did not treat Jesus with the reverence, then you cannot be a Christian. I got my answer, which you so avoided to give.

    I am a Christian- meaning a follower of Christ and not ashamed of it. Will not avoid using “Christian” as some “wise” do!

    You have your right to write what you like but my request is please don’t write against our Christian practices sounding wise.



  6. Karl Barth would have turned in his grave! No, no, would have rejoiced in his grave at an intellectual agreeing with him!

    Hawking- Silly? Wow! What are you doing wasting your time in a desert, sir?


  7. Anon – you're not really interested in listening – if you were you'd understand more clearly the points being made and you'd realise there's no need to flame.
    I think I've had enough of you.


  8. I read your posting earlier, MathMan, but didn't have time to comment. Coming back now to find the running commentary is…interesting.

    My original thought was of Paul's admontion that everything be done decently and in order, each person preferring others before himself, and that some sort of leadership becomes necessary at some point.

    Nevertheless, such a gathering as you desribe has the capacity to uplift, refresh, and rejuvenate the spirit through the act of shared worship. But then again, so does any group of two or three, gathered in His name. =) The potential is always there. Thankfully.


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