Whilst it is very common for Christian places of worship to have a space where an altar/table stands, the manner in which that space is marked off (if it is marked off) varies, e.g. a low wall, or a rail, or a screen may be in place.
Our parish’s two principal ikons - one of Christ, and one of his Mother (her official title in Greek, ‘Theotokos’, means ‘the Birth-giver of God’), who is holding the infant Christ - have been painted in order to stand on either side of the central entrance into the space where the altar/table stands.
Christians believe that our approach to God is through Christ: but Christ did not suddenly appear from nowhere, and the stories to do with his Mother, Mary (and also his extended family e.g. John the Baptist) have always been considered as important for understanding both who he is and what he is about.
Our two principal ikons are painted in a way that symbolizes this way of understanding who Christ is, e.g. the colour of Christ’s shirt is the same colour as his Mother’s veil, and this references both that he has taken flesh in the womb of his mother, and that she is clothed with his innermost nature, which is divine.
We believe that Christ’s Mother was the first to experience the renewal of nature that begins with the conception of Jesus in her womb.
The infant Jesus is depicted as close to his Mother, and reaching out to embrace her; but he is also holding a scroll as a sign that he is both the fulfilment of the words spoken to her by the angel (Lk 1, 28-37) and that he embodies everything that the Prophets have heard of the Word of the Lord concerning Christ. Mary is shown guiding our eyes towards her infant son, with her left hand: to all who seek an approach to God, she offers her son.
The Icon of St Maria