The Royal Doors

The tradition and meaning of the Royal Doors

The iconostasis represents the Christian continuity from the veil of the Temple in Jerusalem which separated the people from the Holy of Holies that housed the Ark of the Covenant. Normally, the iconostasis has three doors in it. The two single doors to the right and left are called “deacons’ doors” or “angel doors” and they usually have on them icons of either sainted deacons (Saint Stephen, Saint Lawrence, etc.) or the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. These are the doors that the clergy will normally use when entering the altar.

The central double doors are the “holy doors”, which are considered to be most sacred, and may only be entered at certain sacred moments during the services, and only by ordained clergy (deacons, priests, bishops). Sometimes called the Beautiful Gates, or the Holy Doors, the Royal Doors are central to the iconostasis (icon screen) of every Orthodox temple.

The term Royal Doors is commonly used to describe the Holy Doors, because Christ passes through these gates during the Great Entrance at the Divine Liturgy (and most especially during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts). More properly, however, these doors should be called the “Beautiful Gate”, and in Greek this is the only term used, although the official English sites of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Antiochian Orthodox Church all use the term “Royal Doors”. In Russia, they are sometimes called the “Red Gates”, red being synonymous with beautiful.

Whatever its name, a typical gate consists of two hinged doors. Often they will be only half-height, but sometimes they go almost all the way to the top of the opening. The doors themselves are made of wood or metal and usually have painted on them an icon of the Annunciation in the form of a diptych (the Theotokos on the right door, and the Archangel Gabriel on the left), either alone or with the four Evangelists. Other icons may be used also. The doors may be intricately carved and gilded, and are almost always topped by a cross.

Theologically the Holy Doors represent the gates of Jerusalem, through which Christ entered on Palm Sunday. They also represent the entrance to the Heavenly Jerusalem. In the Russian practice, there are detailed rules as to when the doors are to be opened during Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy. When the gates are opened, it represents moments when God is especially present to his people, such as during the reading of the Gospel, or when the faithful are receiving Holy Communion. Most of the time the doors are closed. This is symbolic of penitence, a reminder that sin separates the individual from God.

There is also a curtain or veil behind the Holy Doors which is opened and closed at specific times during the services. While the veil is always open whenever the Holy Doors are opened, sometimes when the Holy Doors are closed, the rubrics call for the veil to be opened. The curtain is usually more plainly decorated.

Only the higher clergy (bishops, priests, and deacons) are permitted to go through the Holy Doors, and even they may only pass through them when it is prescribed by the liturgical rubrics.

During Bright Week (the week following Pascha), the Holy Doors and veil remain open the entire week. During this time, the open doors symbolize the open Tomb of Christ. The Epitaphios (icon representing the burial shroud of Christ) is visible on top of the Holy Table (altar table) through the open Holy Doors as a witness of the Resurrection. During Bright Week, the clergy, who would normally use the Deacons Doors to go in and out of the sanctuary, will always enter and exit through the Holy Doors

When a bishop serves the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Doors and veil are left open for the entire service (except during the communion of the clergy). The bishop will always pass through the Holy Doors, even at times when priests or deacons cannot. If the rubrics call for the Holy Doors to be closed, they will be opened for him to pass through, and then immediately closed again.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Sunday June 10, 2018 / May 28, 2018
2nd Sunday after Pentecost. All Russian Saints. Tone one.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. Fish Allowed

All venerable and holy Fathers of the Holy Mount Athos (movable holiday on the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost).
All venerable and holy Fathers of Bulgaria (movable holiday on the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost).
“Kaluga” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (1771) (movable holiday on the first Sunday of the Apostles’ Fast).
Venerable Nicetas, bishop of Chalcedon (9th c.).
St. Ignatius, bishop and wonderworker of Rostov (1288).
Venerable Helen of Diveyevo (1832).
New Hieromartyr Macarius, Dyonisius, Hieromartyr Nicholas deacon, Martyrs Ignatius and Peter (1931).
New Hieromartyr Heraclius confessor (1936).
Virgin-Martyr Hermogenas (1942).
St. Gerontius, metropolitan of Moscow (1489).
St. Eutychius, bishop of Melitene (1st c.).
Martyrs Heliconis and Dapni of Thessalonica (244).
Hieromartyr Helladius, bishop in the East (6th-7th c.).
“Nikeysky” (304), “Chukhlomsky” (Galich) (1350), “Orlovsky”, “Antiochsky” and “Tenderness” Icons of the Mother of God.
New Martyr Mitros (Demetrius) of Tripolitsa (1794) (Greek).
New Hieromartyr Zachariah of Prusa (1802) (Greek).
Venerable Sophronius, monk, of Bulgaria (1510) (Bulgaria).
St. Germanus, bishop of Paris (576) (Gaul).
Martyrs Crescens, Paul, and Dioscorides of Rome (326) (Greek).
St. William of Languedoc (812) (Gaul).
St. Andrew the fool-for-Christ of Constantinople (911).

The Scripture Readings

Mark 16:1-8

He Is Risen

16 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Romans 2:10-16

10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Matthew 4:18-23

Four Fishermen Called as Disciples

18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

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