Russian Orthodox Liturgical Resources

Liturgical Handbook
of the Practices of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
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Handbook of Liturgical Practice of the Russian Church Abroad
Liturgical Question:
Apart from the customary objects (Gospel, Cross, antimins, etc.), what other sacred items may be placed on the Holy Table?
Handbook Category: Icons, Church Adornment and other Practical Matters (index)

The Holy Table, as the Throne of the King, is kept always in pristine condition and meticulously clean. Atop it, only prescribed sacred items are placed, and apart from these no others (see the entry herein on not placing service books, etc., upon it).

In general, the Holy Table is to have solely those items placed upon it which are specifically intended to be there. These are:

  • The antimins, folded, and atop it the Gospel book.
    • Take special note that the Gospel book must be bound with either a metallic or board cover; a Gospel book bound in leather may not be lain upon the Holy Table, though it may be used in other contexts.
  • Either one or two blessing Crosses, set to the right of the Gospel (if only one) or on both sides (if two). Beneath these are customarily placed folded, red cloths that are used during Communion.
    • In an Altar regularly served by a Bishop, beneath the cloth underneath the Cross on the right is additionally placed another folded cloth, which is used to cover the Gospel book before the Trisagion.
  • The ‘ark’, as it is often known: that is, the decorative vessel in which is kept the reserved Sacrament for the communing of the sick.

These are the only items specifically appointed to be always kept on the Holy Table, to which of course are added normal vessels and objects employed in the Liturgy, which are transferred to the Holy Table from the table of oblation at the customary times, and which are returned there at the conclusion of the Liturgy. Take special note that this listing does not include the seven-branched candlestand or additional candlestands, which ought to be fixed upon a smaller table behind the Holy Table, not on the Holy Table itself. It also does not include the dikiri and trikiri of a Bishop, in an Hierarchical context, as these are normally also kept not on the Holy Table but on small stands behind it.

In addition to the above regular items, the following may be placed on the Holy Table when need arises, though should never be kept there permanently:

  • The special vessel in which are kept the presanctified Lambs for the Divine Liturgies of the Presanctified Gifts during Great Lent. This vessel is kept on the Holy Table only when there are sanctified Lambs within it; otherwise it is kept in a safe place elsewhere.
  • Holy relics, which are placed temporarily upon the Holy Table prior to being taken out through the Royal Doors and brought into the centre of the Temple for veneration (but are not kept perpetually upon the Table).
  • A holy icon, which may likewise be placed temporarily upon the Holy Table prior to being taken out through the Royal Doors for, for example, a moleben or procession.
  • Likewise, a holy icon may be placed on the Table for the duration of a Divine Liturgy, in order to be blessed. It should generally be lain flat upon one of the rear (eastward) corners.
  • Wedding bands and baptismal crosses, which may be placed upon the Holy Table (on a small metal plate) as part of blessing them prior to a wedding / baptism.
  • The mitre of a bishop, when he is not wearing it; but not the mitre of an archimandrite, which is never placed on the Holy Table.
  • The panaghia or cross of a Bishop, when not being worn; or the cross of a priest if for some reason it must be taken off while he is in the temple.
  • The vial containing the holy chrism, which may be temporarily placed on the Holy Table prior to being taken up and used in a baptism service.

Part from these, other sacred items (e.g. holy oils or myrrh; anointing brushes; vestments; etc.) are not to be kept on the Holy Table.

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