A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation; the concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy. In the Greek language the term can apply to women, but in modern English it is in use for men; the word nun is used for female monastics. Although the term monachos is of Christian origin, in the English language monk tends to be used loosely for both male and female ascetics from other religious or philosophical backgrounds. However, being generic, it is not interchangeable with terms that denote particular kinds of monk, such as cenobite, anchorite, hesychast, or solitary. In Eastern Orthodoxy monasticism holds a special and important place: "Angels are a light for monks, monks are a light for laymen".
Orthodox monastics separate themselves from the world in order to pray unceasingly for the world. They do not, in general, have as their primary purpose the running of social services, but instead are concerned with attaining theosis, or union with God. However, care for the poor and needy has always been an obligation of monasticism, so not all monasteries are "cloistered"; the level of contact though will vary from community to community. Hermits, on the other hand, have little or no contact with the outside world. Orthodox monasticism does not have religious orders as are found in the West, nor do they have Rules in the same sense as the Rule of St. Benedict. Rather, Eastern monastics study and draw inspiration from the writings of the Desert Fathers as well as other Church Fathers. Hesychasm is of primary importance in the ascetical theology of the Orthodox Church. Most communities are self-supporting, the monastic’s daily life is divided into three parts: communal worship in the catholicon.
Meals are taken in common in a sizable dining hall known as a trapeza, at elongated refectory tables. Food is simple and is eaten in silence while one of the brethren reads aloud from the spiritual writings of the Holy Fathers; the monastic lifestyle takes a great deal of serious commitment. Within the cenobitic community, all monks conform to a common way of living based on the traditions of that particular monastery. In struggling to attain this conformity, the monastic comes to realize his own shortcomings and is guided by his spiritual father in how to deal with them. For this same reason, bishops are always chosen from the ranks of monks. Eastern monasticism is found in three distinct forms: anchoritic and the "middle way" between the two, known as the skete. One enters a cenobitic community first, only after testing and spiritual growth would one go on to the skete or, for the most advanced, become a solitary anchorite. However, one is not expected to join a skete or become a solitary. In general, Orthodox monastics have little or no contact with the outside world, including their own families.
The purpose of the monastic life is union with God, the means is through leaving the world. After tonsure, Orthodox monks and nuns are never permitted to cut their hair; the hair of the head and the beard remain uncut as a symbol of the vows they have taken, reminiscent of the Nazarites from the Old Testament. The tonsure of monks is the token of a consecrated life, symbolizes the cutting off of their self-will; the process of becoming a monk is intentionally slow, as the vows taken are considered to entail a lifelong commitment to God, are not to be entered into lightly. In Orthodox monasticism after completing the novitiate, there are three ranks of monasticism. There is only one monastic habit in the Eastern Church, it is the same for both monks and nuns; each successive grade is given a portion of the habit, the full habit being worn only by those in the highest grade, known for that reason as the "Great Schema", or "Great Habit". The various profession rites are performed by the Abbot, but if the abbot has not been ordained a priest, or if the monastic community is a convent, a hieromonk will perform the service.
The abbot or hieromonk who performs a tonsure must be of at least the rank he is tonsuring into. In other words, only a hieromonk, tonsured into the Great Schema may himself tonsure a Schemamonk. A bishop, may tonsure into any rank, regardless of his own. Novice, lit. "one under obedience"—Those wishing to join a monastery begin their lives as novices. After coming to the monastery and living as a guest for not less than three days, the revered abbot or abbess may bless the candidate to become a novice. There is no formal ceremony for the clothing of a novice, he or she simply
Jesus referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, is described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. All modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew, baptized by John the Baptist and began his own ministry, he preached orally and was referred to as "rabbi". Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how to best follow God, engaged in healings, taught in parables and gathered followers, he was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities, turned over to the Roman government, crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, the community they formed became the early Church.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated annually on December 25th as Christmas. His crucifixion is honored on his resurrection on Easter; the used calendar era "AD", from the Latin anno Domini, the equivalent alternative "CE", are based on the approximate birthdate of Jesus. Christian doctrines include the beliefs that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin named Mary, performed miracles, founded the Christian Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, from where he will return. Most Christians believe; the Nicene Creed asserts that Jesus will judge the living and the dead either before or after their bodily resurrection, an event tied to the Second Coming of Jesus in Christian eschatology. The great majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of the Trinity. A minority of Christian denominations reject Trinitarianism, wholly or as non-scriptural. Jesus figures in non-Christian religions and new religious movements.
In Islam, Jesus is considered one of the Messiah. Muslims believe Jesus was a bringer of scripture and was born of a virgin, but was not the son of God; the Quran states. Most Muslims do not believe that he was crucified, but that he was physically raised into Heaven by God. In contrast, Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill Messianic prophecies, was neither divine nor resurrected. A typical Jew in Jesus' time had only one name, sometimes followed by the phrase "son of <father's name>", or the individual's hometown. Thus, in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth". Jesus' neighbors in Nazareth refer to him as "the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon", "the carpenter's son", or "Joseph's son". In John, the disciple Philip refers to him as "Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth"; the name Jesus is derived from the Latin Iesus, a transliteration of the Greek Ἰησοῦς. The Greek form is a rendering of the Hebrew ישוע, a variant of the earlier name יהושע, or in English, "Joshua", meaning "Yah saves".
This was the name of Moses' successor and of a Jewish high priest. The name Yeshua appears to have been in use in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus; the 1st-century works of historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote in Koine Greek, the same language as that of the New Testament, refer to at least twenty different people with the name Jesus. The etymology of Jesus' name in the context of the New Testament is given as "Yahweh is salvation". Since early Christianity, Christians have referred to Jesus as "Jesus Christ"; the word Christ was a office, not a given name. It derives from the Greek Χριστός, a translation of the Hebrew mashiakh meaning "anointed", is transliterated into English as "Messiah". In biblical Judaism, sacred oil was used to anoint certain exceptionally holy people and objects as part of their religious investiture. Christians of the time designated Jesus as "the Christ" because they believed him to be the Messiah, whose arrival is prophesied in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament.
In postbiblical usage, Christ became viewed as a name—one part of "Jesus Christ". The term "Christian" has been in use since the 1st century; the four canonical gospels are the foremost sources for the message of Jesus. However, other parts of the New Testament include references to key episodes in his life, such as the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Acts of the Apostles refers to the early ministry of its anticipation by John the Baptist. Acts 1:1 -- 11 says more about the Ascension of Jesus. In the undisputed Pauline letters, which were written earlier than the gospels, the words or instructions of Jesus are cited several times; some early Christian groups had separate descriptions of the life and teachings of Jesus that are not included in the New Testament. These include the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel
The Byzantine Empire referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic and military force in Europe. Both the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical terms created after the end of the realm. Several signal events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire's Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the new capital, legalised Christianity. Under Theodosius I, Christianity became the Empire's official state religion and other religious practices were proscribed.
Under the reign of Heraclius, the Empire's military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use in place of Latin. Thus, although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome insofar as it was centred on Constantinople, oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, characterised by Eastern Orthodox Christianity; the borders of the empire evolved over its existence, as it went through several cycles of decline and recovery. During the reign of Justinian I, the empire reached its greatest extent after reconquering much of the Roman western Mediterranean coast, including North Africa and Rome itself, which it held for two more centuries; the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 exhausted the empire's resources and contributed to major territorial losses during the Early Muslim conquests of the 7th century, when it lost its richest provinces and Syria, to the Arab caliphate. During the Macedonian dynasty, the empire expanded again and experienced the two-century long Macedonian Renaissance, which came to an end with the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.
This battle opened the way for the Turks to settle in Anatolia. The empire recovered during the Komnenian restoration, by the 12th century Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest European city. However, it was delivered a mortal blow during the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked in 1204 and the territories that the empire governed were divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople in 1261, the Byzantine Empire remained only one of several small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence, its remaining territories were progressively annexed by the Ottomans over the 15th century. The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 ended the Byzantine Empire; the last of the imperial Byzantine successor states, the Empire of Trebizond, would be conquered by the Ottomans eight years in the 1461 Siege of Trebizond. The first use of the term "Byzantine" to label the years of the Roman Empire was in 1557, when the German historian Hieronymus Wolf published his work Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ, a collection of historical sources.
The term comes from "Byzantium", the name of the city of Constantinople before it became Constantine's capital. This older name of the city would be used from this point onward except in historical or poetic contexts; the publication in 1648 of the Byzantine du Louvre, in 1680 of Du Cange's Historia Byzantina further popularised the use of "Byzantine" among French authors, such as Montesquieu. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that the term came into general use in the Western world; the Byzantine Empire was known to its inhabitants as the "Roman Empire", the "Empire of the Romans", "Romania", the "Roman Republic", as "Rhōmais". The inhabitants called themselves Romaioi and as late as the 19th century Greeks referred to Modern Greek as Romaiika "Romaic." After 1204 when the Byzantine Empire was confined to its purely Greek provinces the term'Hellenes' was used instead. While the Byzantine Empire had a multi-ethnic character during most of its history and preserved Romano-Hellenistic traditions, it became identified by its western and northern contemporaries with its predominant Greek element.
The occasional use of the term "Empire of the Greeks" in the West to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire and of the Byzantine Emperor as Imperator Graecorum were used to separate it from the prestige of the Roman Empire within the new kingdoms of the West. No such distinction existed in the Islamic and Slavic worlds, where the Empire was more straightforwardly seen as the continuation of the Roman Empire. In the Islamic world, the Roman Empire was known as Rûm; the name millet-i Rûm, or "Roman nation," was used by the Ottomans through the 20th century to refer to the former subjects of the Byzantine Empire
A censer, incense burner, perfume burner or pastille burner is a vessel made for burning incense or perfume in some solid form. These vessels vary in size and material of construction, have been in use since ancient times in many cultures, in both secular and religious contexts, they may consist of simple earthenware bowls or fire pots to intricately carved silver or gold vessels, small table top objects a few centimetres tall to as many as several metres high. Many designs use openwork to allow a flow of air. In many cultures, burning incense has spiritual and religious connotations, this influences the design and decoration of the censer. In Western contexts, "censer" is used for pieces made for religious use those on chains that are swung through the air to spread the incense smoke while "perfume burner" is used for objects made for secular use; the original meaning of pastille was a small compressed mixture of aromatic plant material and charcoal, lit to release the odour, pastille-burners were designed for this, for use in the home.
The pastilles were made at home until their heyday in the early 19th century, the burners are made in pottery or porcelain. Some types could be used as pomanders, where the perfume diffuses by evaporation rather than burning. For direct-burning incense, pieces of the incense are burned by placing them directly on top of a heat source or on a hot metal plate in a censer or thurible. Indirect-burning incense called "non-combustible incense", is a combination of aromatic ingredients that are not prepared in any particular way or encouraged into any particular form, leaving it unsuitable for direct combustion; the use of this class of incense requires a separate heat source since it does not kindle a fire capable of burning itself and may not ignite at all under normal conditions. This incense can vary in the duration of its burning with the texture of the material. Finer ingredients tend to burn more while coarsely ground or whole chunks may be consumed gradually as they have less total surface area.
The heat is traditionally provided by charcoal or glowing embers. For home use of granulated incense, concave charcoal briquettes are sold. One lights the corner of the briquette on fire places it in the censer and extinguishes the flame. After the glowing sparks traverse the entire briquette, it is ready to have incense placed on it. For direct-burning incense, the tip or end of the incense is ignited with a flame or other heat source until the incense begins to turn into ash at the burning end. Flames on the incense are fanned or blown out, with the incense continuing to burn without a flame on its own. Censers made for stick incense are available, they serve to catch the ash of the burning incense stick. In Taoist and Buddhist temples, the inner spaces are scented with thick coiled incense, which are either hung from the ceiling or on special stands. Worshipers at the temples light and burn sticks of incense. Individual sticks of incense are vertically placed into individual censers; the history of censers in Chinese culture began in the late Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
The Chinese words meaning "censer" are compounds of lu, which originated as a type of Chinese bronze. Xianglu "incense burner. Xunlu means "small censer, esp. for fumigating or scenting clothing. "Censing baskets" were globes of hollow metal, pierced with intricate floral or animal designs. They were used to perfume garments and bedclothes, to kill insects. Shoulu means "hand-held censer; the boshanlu or hill censer, which became popular during the era of Emperor Wu of Han, displayed a microcosmic sacred mountain. These elaborate censers were designed with apertures that made rising incense smoke appear like clouds or mist swirling around a mountain peak; the Han Dynasty scholar Liu Xiang wrote a boshanlu inscription: I value this perfect utensil and steep as a mountain! Its top is, it contains red flames and green smoke. A myriad animals are depicted on it. Ah, from it sides I can see further than Li Lou. Archeologists excavated many boshanlu at Mawangdui, some contained the remains of ashes. Analysis revealed aromatic plants such as maoxiang, gaoliangjiang and gaoben.
Scholars presume burning these grasses "may have facilitated communication with spirits" during funeral ceremonies. According to the sinologist and historian Joseph Needham, some early Daoists adapted censers for the religious and spiritual use of cannabis; the Daoist encyclopedia Wushang Biyao, recorded adding cannabis into ritual censers. The Shangqing School of Daoism provides a good example; the Shangqing scriptures were written by Yang Xi during alleged visitations by Daoist "immortals", Needham believed Yang was "aided
Our Lady of the Sign
The Icon of Our Lady of the Sign is the term for a particular type of icon of the Theotokos, facing the viewer directly, depicted either full length or half, with her hands raised in the orans position, with the image of the Child Jesus depicted within a round aureole upon her breast. The icon depicts the Theotokos during the Annunciation at the moment of saying, "May it be done to me according to your word.". The image of the Christ child represents him at the moment of his conception in the womb of the Virgin, he is depicted not as a fetus, but rather vested in divine robes, holding a scroll, symbolic of his role as teacher. Sometimes his robes are gold or white, his face is depicted as that of an old man, indicating the Christian teaching that he was at one and the same time both a human infant and the eternal God, one of the Trinity. His right hand is raised in blessing; the term Virgin of the Sign or Our Lady of the Sign is a reference to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign.
Such an image is placed in the apse of the sanctuary of an Orthodox church above the Holy Table. As with most Orthodox icons of Mary, the letters ΜΡ ΘΥ are placed on the upper left and right of the head of the Virgin Mary; this type of icon is sometimes called the Platytéra. The Platytéra is traditionally depicted on the half-dome, it is visible high above the iconostasis, facing down the length of the nave of the church. This particular depiction is on a dark blue background adorned by golden stars; the depiction of the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer is of ancient origin in Christian art. In the mausoleum of St Agnes in Rome is a depiction dating to the 4th century which depicts the Theotokos with hands raised in prayer and the infant Jesus sitting upon her knees. There is an ancient Byzantine icon of the Mother of God "Nikopea" from the 6th century, where the Virgin Mary is depicted seated upon a throne and holding in her hands an oval shield with the image of "Emmanuel". Icons of the Virgin, known as "The Sign", appeared in Russia during the 11th to 12th centuries.
The Novgorod Znamenie icon became venerated in the Novgorod Republic because of what Orthodox Christians believe to be the miraculous deliverance of Novgorod from invasion in the year 1170. There are a number of different feast days during the liturgical year which commemorate Our Lady of the Sign; the main feast is on November 27. Other feast days commemorate specific copies of the icon to which wonderworking power has been ascribed by the Orthodox Church. Many of these have special titles; some of the icons have more than one feast day. The accounts of a number of these may be found in the External links, below. March 8—"Kursk-Root" July 20—"Chukhloma" and "Abalaka" September 24—"Mirozh" Icon November 9—"Quick to Hear" November 27—Weeping Icon at Novgorod, "Tsarskoe Selo", "Kursk-Root", "Seraphim-Ponetaevka" and "Abalaka"Among the more famous variants of this genre are the Icons of the Mother of God of Abalatsk, Kursk-Root, Novgorod, Sankt Petersburg, Tsarskoye Selo and Vologda; the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka, one of Chicago's famed Polish Cathedrals, is home to a 9-foot-wide Iconic Monstrance of Our Lady of the Sign as part of the planned Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy, being constructed adjacent to the church.
The Monstrance will be found within the sanctuary's adoration chapel which will be the focus of 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration and where there will be no liturgies or vocal prayers, either by individuals or groups as the space will be meant for private meditation and contemplation. Blachernitissa Panagia Worship Our Lady of the Sign Icon of Our Lady of the Sign with explanation in Coconut Creek, FL Commemoration of the Weeping Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign" at Novgorod Icon of the Mother of God Kursk Root "of the Sign" Icon of the Mother of God "Chukhloma" from Galich Icon of the Mother of God "Mirozh" Icon of the Mother of God "Quick to Hear" Icon of the Mother of God of Abalaka Icon of the Mother of God of Tsarskoe Selo Icon of the Mother of God "Seraphim-Ponetaevka" Byzantium: faith and power, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on this icon
A priest or priestess is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They have the authority or power to administer religious rites, their office or position is the priesthood, a term which may apply to such persons collectively. According to the trifunctional hypothesis of prehistoric Proto-Indo-European society, priests have existed since the earliest of times and in the simplest societies, most as a result of agricultural surplus and consequent social stratification; the necessity to read sacred texts and keep temple or church records helped foster literacy in many early societies. Priests exist in many religions today, such as all or some branches of Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, they are regarded as having privileged contact with the deity or deities of the religion to which they subscribe interpreting the meaning of events and performing the rituals of the religion. There is no common definition of the duties of priesthood between faiths.
These include blessing worshipers with prayers of joy at marriages, after a birth, at consecrations, teaching the wisdom and dogma of the faith at any regular worship service, mediating and easing the experience of grief and death at funerals – maintaining a spiritual connection to the afterlife in faiths where such a concept exists. Administering religious building grounds and office affairs and papers, including any religious library or collection of sacred texts, is commonly a responsibility – for example, the modern term for clerical duties in a secular office refers to the duties of a cleric; the question of which religions have a "priest" depends on how the titles of leaders are used or translated into English. In some cases, leaders are more like those that other believers will turn to for advice on spiritual matters, less of a "person authorized to perform the sacred rituals." For example, clergy in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are priests, but in Protestant Christianity they are minister and pastor.
The terms priest and priestess are sufficiently generic that they may be used in an anthropological sense to describe the religious mediators of an unknown or otherwise unspecified religion. In many religions, being a priest or priestess is a full-time position, ruling out any other career. Many Christian priests and pastors choose or are mandated to dedicate themselves to their churches and receive their living directly from their churches. In other cases it is a part-time role. For example, in the early history of Iceland the chieftains were titled goði, a word meaning "priest"; as seen in the saga of Hrafnkell Freysgoði, being a priest consisted of offering periodic sacrifices to the Norse gods and goddesses. In some religions, being a priest or priestess is by human election or human choice. In Judaism the priesthood is inherited in familial lines. In a theocracy, a society is governed by its priesthood; the word "priest", is derived from Greek via Latin presbyter, the term for "elder" elders of Jewish or Christian communities in late antiquity.
The Latin presbyter represents Greek πρεσβύτερος presbúteros, the regular Latin word for "priest" being sacerdos, corresponding to ἱερεύς hiereús. It is possible that the Latin word was loaned into Old English, only from Old English reached other Germanic languages via the Anglo-Saxon mission to the continent, giving Old Icelandic prestr, Old Swedish präster, Old High German priast. Old High German has the disyllabic priester, priestar derived from Latin independently via Old French presbtre. Αn alternative theory makes priest cognate with Old High German priast, from Vulgar Latin *prevost "one put over others", from Latin praepositus "person placed in charge". That English should have only the single term priest to translate presbyter and sacerdos came to be seen as a problem in English Bible translations; the presbyter is the minister who both presides and instructs a Christian congregation, while the sacerdos, offerer of sacrifices, or in a Christian context the eucharist, performs "mediatorial offices between God and man".
The feminine English noun, was coined in the 17th century, to refer to female priests of the pre-Christian religions of classical antiquity. In the 20th century, the word was used in controversies surrounding the women ordained in the Anglican communion, who are referred to as "priests", irrespective of gender, the term priestess is considered archaic in Christianity. In historical polytheism, a priest administers the sacrifice to a deity in elaborate ritual. In the Ancient Near East, the priesthood acted on behalf of the deities in managing their property. Priestesses in antiquity performed sacred prostitution, in Ancient Greece, some priestesses such as Pythia, priestess at Delphi, acted as oracles. Sumerian en were top-ranking priestesses who were distinguished with special ceremonial attire and held equal status to high priests, they owned property, transacted business, initiated the hieros gamos with priests and kings. Enheduanna was the first known holder of the title en. Nadītu served as priestesses in the temples of Inanna in the city of Uruk.
They were recruited from the highest families in the land and were supposed to remain childless, own
An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples and other places of worship, they are used in Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism used such a structure until the destruction of the Second Temple. Many historical faiths made use of them, including Roman and Norse religion. Altars in the Hebrew Bible were made of earth or unwrought stone. Altars were erected in conspicuous places; the first altar recorded in the Hebrew Bible is. Altars were erected by Abraham, by Isaac, by Jacob, by Moses. After the theophany on Mount Sinai, in the Tabernacle—and afterwards in the Temple—only two altars were used: the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Altar of Incense. Altars in antiquity The word "altar", in Greek θυσιαστήριον, appears twenty-four times in the New Testament. In Catholic and Orthodox Christian theology, the Eucharist is a re-presentation, in the literal sense of the one sacrifice being made "present again". Hence, the table upon which the Eucharist is consecrated is called an altar.
Altars occupy a prominent place in both Eastern and Western branches. Among these churches, altars are placed for permanent use within designated places of communal worship. Less though nonetheless notable, altars are set in spaces occupied less such as outdoors in nature, in cemeteries, in mausoleums/crypts, family dwellings. Personal altars are those placed in a private bedroom, closet, or other space occupied by one person, they are used for practices of piety intended for one person. They are found in a minority of other Protestant worship places, though the term "Communion table", which avoids the sacrificial connotations of an altar, is preferred by Churches in the Reformed tradition; the altar plays a central role in the celebration of the Eucharist, which takes place at the altar on which the bread and the wine for consecration are placed. The area around the altar is seen as endowed with greater holiness, is physically distinguished from the rest of the church, whether by a permanent structure such as an iconostasis, a rood screen, altar rails, a curtain that can be closed at more solemn moments of the liturgy, or by the general architectural layout.
The altar is on a higher elevation than the rest of the church. In Reformed and Anabaptist churches, a table called a "Communion table", serves an analogous function. Churches have a single altar, although in the Western branches of Christianity, as a result of the former abandonment of concelebration of Mass, so that priests always celebrated Mass individually, larger churches have had one or more side chapels, each with its own altar; the main altar was referred to as the "high altar". Since the revival of concelebration in the West, the Roman Missal recommends that in new churches there should be only one altar, "which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church." But most Western churches of an earlier period, whether Roman Catholic or Anglican, may have a high altar in the main body of the church, with one or more adjoining chapels, each with its own altar, at which the Eucharist may be celebrated on weekdays. Architecturally, there are two types of altars: those that are attached to the eastern wall of the chancel, those that are free-standing and can be walked around, for instance when incensing the altar.
In the earliest days of the Church, the Eucharist appears to have been celebrated on portable altars set up for the purpose. Some historians hold that, during the persecutions, the Eucharist was celebrated among the tombs in the Catacombs of Rome, using the sarcophagi of martyrs as altars on which to celebrate. Other historians dispute this, but it is thought to be the origin of the tradition of placing relics beneath the altar; when Christianity was legalized under Constantine the Great and Licinius, formal church buildings were built in great numbers with free-standing altars in the middle of the sanctuary, which in all the earliest churches built in Rome was at the west end of the church. "When Christians in fourth-century Rome could first begin to build churches, they customarily located the sanctuary towards the west end of the building in imitation of the sanctuary of the Jerusalem Temple. Although in the days of the Jerusalem Temple the High Priest indeed faced east when sacrificing on Yom Kippur, the sanctuary within which he stood was located at the western end of the Temple.
The Christian replication of the layout and the orientation of the Jerusalem Temple helped to dramatize the eschatological meaning attached to the sacrificial death of Jesus the High Priest in the Epistle to the Hebrews." The ministers, celebrated the Eucharist facing east, towards the entrance. Some hold. After the sixth century the contrary orientation prevailed, with the entrance to the west and the altar at the east end; the ministers and congregation all faced east during the whole celebration. Most rubrics in boo