On Sunday, August 6th, 2023 – His Grace Bishop Irinej was well pleased to visit the parish of St. Nicholas in Monroeville, PA. The occasion for the visit was the installation of the new iconostasis and beautification of St. Nicholas Church for which the parish waited fifty years. The joy of the parishioners because of the visit of His Grace and because of the new iconostasis was immense since the blessing and the design of the new iconostasis was given by His Grace.


The original project that was suggested was meant to cover the pillars of the altar in a traditional manner that would not have allowed the architecture of the Church to “speak” and complimented to its fullest. Having intervened in a few architectural renderings and frecoes for our Diocese and seeing the potential for something full of grandeur and beauty, Bishop Irinej drew a detailed plan for how the new iconostasis should look. The new iconostasis is to be carved so that it is see-through. In a way, to be very light and elegant, and serve as a frame for the icons currently being done in Valjevo by master iconographer Tanja Ristic, who writes the icons on a background of 24K highly polished gold. The carver of the iconostasis, Miroslav Petrovic from Charlotte, took a trip to Ochrid where to find a pattern for the carvings in the iconostasis; he visited a museum where there was a beautiful old iconostasis from the 16th century that served as a model for what Miroslav was to carve. After a year and a few months of waiting, the new iconostasis was installed successfully due to the efforts of the Maintenance Committee of St. Nicholas Church.


Amongst many beautiful details on the Royal Doors, that were designed to soar in their impressive height, there are two peacocks, which are considered Birds of Paradise and have a profound symbolism in Orthodox theology. In the ancient world, it was believed that peacocks’ flesh could not rot away and were used as symbols of immortality. Every time the liturgy is served at St. Nicholas, the opening of the royal doors will invite people to the very source of immortality, Christ our God. Additionally, there are two fleur-de-lis (also known as a French Lily) carved on the royal doors, which bear deep meaning. Importantly, it is one of the symbols of the Mother of God. It is a sign of French royalty in particular and royalty in general. It is also one of the symbols, along with a lion, of the city of Lyon in France, which is the place where St. Irenaeus of Lyon was a bishop until he died as a martyr. The fleur-de-lis can also be found in the heraldry of the Kingdom of Serbia, come today’s Republic of Serbia. In like manner, it is the symbol of the City of New Rochelle, where our Episcopal Center and Diocesan Residence are located. Thereafter, His Grace’s family crest from the 14th century is surmounted by the fleur-de-lis. In this way, our iconostasis is not only connected to the hieromartyr, Saint Irenaeus, but also through the Saint to our Bishop and father Irinej, whose heavenly patron is the Holy Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon.


Many more projects are coming to St. Nicholas, but the most important is our spiritual growth. During the liturgy, Bishop Irinej chrismated Loretta Richey and welcomed her to the Holy Orthodox Church. Loretta’s chrismation and many other chrismations that happened in the last three years are a sure indicator that St. Nicholas parish puts spiritual growth as their priority from which stem all other blessed projects and are meant to beautify St. Nicholas Church, as does the new iconostasis.


His Grace Bishop Irinej pointed out in His sermon that many thought it would be impossible to install a new iconostasis and have not seen it as the reality of St. Nicholas. However, it is here! His Grace said, “When Christ calls us, saying ‘Come!’ we, too, can walk on water. Focus on Christ, and everything will be accomplished.” These words are taken to heart by the St. Nicholas congregation as they move towards even greater future projects.

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