Why does the Church look like this? [Church Tour with Fr. Phillip Saba]

On Tuesday the 28th of May 2024, it was a blessing to have Father Phillip Saba give a spiritual talk to the Bible Studies group at St George, Redfern on the reasons why the Church looks the way it is and the significance of the different parts of the Church.

He began by saying that the design is Basilic in nature and the word ‘basilic’ means Kingdom, therefore the Church is shaped in a way regarding the Kingdom. The basilic Church is a representation of a boat, where the front is a round dome like the stern. The boat symbolises the Arc of Salvation where Noah took care of all the animals, but it also conveys that the boat is a safe haven and our protection from troubled waters as we journey through life from earth to heaven where Christ is ‘in charge of steering the ship.’

Father Phillip went on to discuss that the Church faces the East. Generally, the sun rises in the East and so, Christ represents light and is the Sun of Righteousness. We come into the Church from the West which represents darkness, and we enter the light in the East which is Christ.

The Church building is divided into 3 main parts – the Narthex, the Nave (or plate) and the Sanctuary (or Altar). The Narthex is where you first enter from the world, light candles and has the Patron Saint icon of the Church. Historically, it was where the Catechumens stood. The Nave is the centre where we pray, worship and have communion representing the Kingdom. On one side there is the Ambon where the Deacon stands to preach or read the Gospel. A raised area in the Nave leads to the Iconostasis which is a boundary between us and God but also acts as a gateway to heaven. It has icons of Saints who are role models that represent human beings like us and were able to achieve ‘Theosis’ which is our goal. We learnt that priests enter/exit through the side doors, however, limit themselves entering/exiting through the front royal doors, only if they have the body and blood of Christ in their hands. The icon of the Last Supper is seen at the top of the royal doors. Jesus Christ is on our right to signify He is seated at the right hand of the Father; the Theotokos icon on our left, and the patron Saint of the Church next to the Theotokos.

Thank you Father Phillip Saba for such a beautiful and enlightening talk on the architecture of the Church and its hidden meanings. We will definitely enter an Orthodox Church with renewed and knowledgeable minds, in the future.

Article published Friday 31 May, 2024