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[[File:Antiminsio.jpg|right|200px|thumbnail|A Greek antimension of 1717 AD.]] [[Image:Antimins.jpg|right|200px|thumbnail|A Serbian antimension from the 17th <!-- or 16th? --->century.]]The '''antimension''' , (from the Greek for : ἀντιμήνσιον, "instead of the table"), also called the ; in Slavonic: '''antimins''' (Slavonic), is one of among the most important furnishings of the [[altar]]in Orthodox Christian liturgical traditions. It is a rectangular piece of cloth, of either linen or silk, typically decorated with representations of the entombment of [[Jesus Christ|Christ]], the four [[Evangelist]]s, and scriptural passages related to the [[Eucharist]]. It often has a very A small [[relics|relic]] sewn into it. During the of a [[Divine Liturgymartyr]], it is unfolded on the altar just before the [[Anaphora]], and the Eucharist is [[Consecration of the Eucharist|consecrated]] on sewn into it. The antimension must be [[consecration|consecrated]Eucharist] and signed by the [[bishop]], indicating his permission for the Eucharist to cannot be celebrated in his absence. It is, in effect, the [[priest]]'s permission to officiatewithout an antimension.
The antimension is placed in the center of the altar table and is unfolded only during the [[Divine Liturgy]], before the Anaphora. At the end of the Liturgy, the antimension is folded in thirds, and then in thirds again, so that when it is unfolded the creases form a cross. When folded, the antimension sits in the center of another slightly larger cloth, the ''[[eileton]]'' (Slavonic: ''Ilitón'') which is then folded around it in the same manner (3 x 3), encasing it completely. A flattened natural sponge is also kept inside the antimension, which is used to collect any crumbs which might fall onto the ''Holy Table''. When the antimension and eiliton are folded, the [[Gospel Book]] is laid on top of them. The antimension must be consecrated and signed by a bishop. The antimension and the [[chrism]] are the means by which a [[bishop]] indicates his permission for [[priest]]s under his [[omophorion]] to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and [[Holy Mysteries]] in his absence, being in effect the church’s license to conduct divine services. If a bishop were to withdraw his permission to serve the Mysteries, he would do so by taking back the antimension and chrism from the priest. Whenever a bishop visits a [[church]] or [[monastery]] under his omophorion, he will enter the altar and inspect the antimension to be sure that it has been properly cared for, and that it is in fact the one that he issued.  Only a bishop, priest, or [[deacon]] is allowed to touch an antimension. Since the antimension is a consecrated object, they must be vested when they do so—the deacon should be fully vested, and the priest vested in at least stole ([[epitrachelion]]) and cuffs ([[epimanikia]]). The antimension is a substitute for the altartable. A priest may celebrate the Eucharist on the antimension even if there the altar table is no not properly consecrated altar. In emergencies, war and persecutionwhen an altar table is not available, the antimension serves a very important pastoral needby enabling the use of unconsecrated tables for divine services outside of churches or [[chapel]]s. Formerly if the priest celebrated at a consecrated altar, the sacred elements were placed only on the eileton. However, in current practice the priest always uses the antimension, even on a consecrated altar that has relics sealed in it. At the Divine Liturgy, during the [[litany|Litanies]] (''Ektenias'') that precede the [[Great Entrance]] the eiliton is opened fully and the antimension is opened three-quarters of the way, leaving the top portion folded. Then, during the [[Litany of the Catechumens]], when the deacon says, "That He (God) may reveal unto them (the catechumens) the Gospel of righteousness," the priest unfolds the last portion of the antimension, revealing the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. After the Entrance, the [[chalice]] and [[diskos]] are placed on the antimension and the [[Holy Gifts|Gifts]] (bread and wine) are consecrated. The antimension remains unfolded until after all have received [[eiletonHoly Communion]] and the chalice and diskos are returned to the [[Table of oblation]] (Prothesis). The deacon (or, if there is now often used to wrap no deacon, the priest) must very carefully inspect the antimension when to be sure there are no crumbs left on it. Then, it is not in usefolded, followed by folding the eiliton, and after which the [[Gospel]] Book placed on top of it.
Although St. [[Theodore the Studite]] (759-826) mentions "fabric altars," the term "antimension" is not found before the late twelfth century.
==Oriental Orthodox practice==
In churches of the Syriac tradition a wooden tablet, the ''ţablîtho'', is the liturgical equivalent of the antimension. However, it is no longer used by the Antiochian Orthodox Church which follows the liturgical practice of Constantinople, and thus uses the antimension.
In the [[Church of Ethiopia|Ethiopian Tawahedo Church]], the ''tâbot'' is functionally similar to the tablitho. However, this word is also used in the Ge'ez language to describe the [[Ark of the Covenant]]. The Ark is symbolically represented by the ''manbara tâbôt'' (throne of the Ark), a casket that sits on the altar table. The tabot itself, the wooden tablet, is taken out before the anaphora, and symbolizes the giving of the [[Ten Commandments]].
*[[w:Antimension|''Antimension'' on Wikipedia]]
==External linklinks==
*[ Antimens or Antiminsion] from ''A Dictionary of Orthodox Terminology'' by Fotios K. Litsas, Ph.D. (Orthodox Research Institute)
*[ Antimensions from Mount Athos] at the Orthodox Multimedia Gallery
[[Category:Liturgical objects]]

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