added curtain use
The '''altar''' is the area at the east end of a [[church]], usually behind an [[iconostasis]] (altar screen). The word (Hebrew: מזבח - ''mizbe'ah'' - altar) means "a place of sacrifice" in Hebrew (Gr. hieron thysiasterion; Sl. prestol). The altar often is also referred to as the '''sanctuary'''. An '''Altar Table''' is located in the center of the altar as one enters through the [[Royal Doors]] in the iconostasis. This table is often referred to as the Holy Table.
Entry to the altar through the iconostasis from the [[nave]] is through the centrally placed royal doors or through the deacon's doors to the left and right of the royal doors. Only [[ordination|ordained]] [[clergy]] can pass through the royal doors. The altar may have other entries behind the iconostasis, but these are not used liturgically.
It is the tradition of the Orthodox Church that the laity stand in the nave, and do not enter the sanctuary without reason. Only people whose ministry or responsibilities require them to enter the sanctuary, and who have received a blessing, are permitted to enter.
The altar table is usually a cube with each dimension of about one meter or cubit. The table may be made of wood or stone. The table is usually covered with a brocade covering, the [[Liturgical colors|color]] of which changes with the [[liturgical season]]. Atop the altar table is the [[Tabernacle (liturgical)|tabernacle]], a miniature shrine sometimes built in the form of a church, inside of which is a small ark containing the reserved [[Sacrament]] for use in communing the sick. Also, a multi-branch candle stand, usually with seven candles, is placed near the back of the table as one looks from the nave. Also kept on the altar is the book of the [[Gospel]]s and the [[antimension]], a silken cloth imprinted with an [[icon]] of [[Christ]] being prepared for burial, which has a [[relics|relic]] sewn into it and bears the signature of the [[bishop]]. The [[Divine Liturgy]] must be served on an antimension even if the altar has been consecrated and contains relics. When not in use, the antimension is left in place wrapped in the [[eileton]], a cloth of plain silk, linen, or cotton.
The Holy Altar has multiple symbolic meanings. First, it represents the Throne of God because through the sacraments celebrated upon this altar God’s saving and sanctifying [[grace]] is bestowed upon all people. It is also [[Golgotha]], the place where [[Jesus]] was crucified, because it is upon this altar that we re-enact the [[Passion]] of our [[Lord]] and [[Saviour]], and finally the Tomb of Christ because it is through Christ’s death that eternal life was granted to all people. This final representation is highlighted in the resurrection [[Matins]] service celebrated every Sunday because it is from the right or southern side of the altar table that the morning [[Gospel]] is proclaimed, symbolising the [[angel]] announcing the risen [[Christ]] to the Myrrhbearers.
Image:AltarStMarkBradentonFL1.jpg|<small>Altar Table: St Mark Church, Bradenton, FL, USA</small>
Image:AltarTheophanyNagoyaJapan.JPG|<small>Altar Table: Holy Theophany Church, Nagoya, Japan</small>