Saint Anthony Orthodox Church
103 Carolina Street at South Presa
Very Rev. Leo Poore, Rector
San Antonio, Texas 78210
June 29, 2007
Saints Peter & Paul
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
It has been more than six months since our hand carved iconostas arrived from Bulgaria and four months since its dedication. The Historic Giles Church is now adorned with a proper Orthodox icon screen executed in the traditional Byzantine style. We give thanks to God for the work of his servants, the artists, Peter Nedkov and George Goutsev of Sofia, the distinguished donors who offered the necessary material support, and the volunteer workers who assisted in the installation. Any uncertainty or trepidation that anyone may have had about the necessity or appropriateness of this endeavor no longer exists.
It is necessary for our spiritual lives and our salvation that we continue to glorify God with the beautification of His holy temple where we are called to come on a regular basis to attend the divine services, confess our sins and receive the Holy Sacraments, and to perform good works within and outside of our parish community.
The present state of restoration of our temple directs our attention to the icon screen and the clergy. It is most proper, however, that the architectural structure of our temple be a reflection of the totality of God’s creation in a union of heaven and earth – a reflection of the Kingdom of God. For this reason, it is proper to adorn the interior of our temples, sometimes in their entirety.
However, our situation is unique because of its character as the Historic Giles Church. Our temple possesses a style and architectural detail that no other building in the world has. For this, any further adornment must respect the integrity of the Giles Church design elements. These elements include the barrel ceiling, the eye brow arches above the tall windows, the wide trim boards and chair rail, and original location and style of the light fixtures. Is it possible to do respect these design elements while maintaining the canonical order of a properly appointed Orthodox Church?
After much study and consideration, our iconographer, Mr. George Goutsev, has proposed a “next phase” of iconography to consider. The attention is directed to the ceiling above the icon screen, just forward of the screen and just behind it. Near the center of the nave would be a 10’ 6” diameter canvas icon of ChristPancrator (the Ruler or All-Powerful). This is one of the most widely used images in all of Orthodoxy.
Above the altar resides the Platytera Ton Ouranon (More Spacious than the Heavens) icon at 10’ diameter. The Virgin is enthroned in an attitude of supplication with Christ in the bull’s eye center of her lap. She provides the link between heaven and earth. Her icon “unites” the Christ Pantocrator ceiling icon with those of us standing on the ground. The Platytera is surrounded by an Angel on each side. The hymn to honor this image of the Theotokos is the Megalinarion sung during Great Lent:
All of creation rejoices in thee, O Full of Grace,
the assembly of angels and the race of men.
O sanctified temple and spiritual paradise,
the glory of virgins,
from whom God was incarnate and became a child,
our God before the ages.
He made thy body into a throne,
and thy womb He made more spacious than the heavens.
All of creation rejoices in thee,
O Full of Grace. Glory to thee!
This set of ceiling icons would provide a proper, next step beautification of our temple to place it in a more proper and fuller theological context. Anonymous donors have stated an intention to sponsor the ceiling icons of Christ Pantocrator and Platytera with Angels. This offer of such a generous gift has been accepted by the Parish Council and I, as your parish priest, bless this action. If there are any concerns regarding the reception of this gift, please contact me as soon as possible. Otherwise, I will permit this offering to stand on behalf of the parish. It is estimated that this work could be completed and shipped by the end of this calendar year. We would like to have installation completed in time for Great Lent 2008. An artist’s rendition of the work will be available on the bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall and on our website @ www.OrthodoxSanAntonio.org.
Giving glory to God for all things, I remain,
Yours in Christ,
Very Rev. Leo Poore