Can heaven and salvation be glimpsed with our eyes?

The hundreds of icons inside St. Dimitrie Romanian Orthodox Church in Easton are more than just images of angels, Christ, saints and Biblical figures. They are an essential part of worship in the church, providing the faithful a gateway to  Heaven. The images are a manifestation of the unseen, the incarnation of their faith and God.  

“The icons have always been a way of representing salvation and the Bible and pictures before people had Bibles,” said Fr. George Coca. “Before they could read, they had the icons that showed them the various scenes of our salvation history. But it’s also what we call ‘the windows to heaven.’”

Parishioners say one can feel the presence of God and the saints inside the domed church on Sport Hill Road.

Many of the icons were painted intricately on the walls of the church by the accomplished iconographer Dhimitri Cika using vivid colors of shades of blue, orange and red. There are hand-carved icons that convey Christ’s life in pictures and the story of salvation. One of the most prominent icons is of Mary and the baby Jesus flanked by angels painted on the wall behind the altar. Orthodox Christians call Mary Theotokos, which means “God-bearer” or “Mother of God.” Looking up at the circular dome roof of the church one sees Christ cloaked in a blue robe holding a Bible surrounded by saints.

The icons of St. Dimitrie Romanian Orthodox Church. – Photo by Rick Falco

The iconostasis, a wooden screen bearing icons that divides the altar from the rest of the church, represents the unity of the Lord, his mother and all saints and angels in the mystical heavens.

The screen was completed in the 1960s and brought to the Easton church from the first parish that began in 1924 in Bridgeport as the Cultural Society of St. Vasile established by Macedo-Romanians who had settled in the Bridgeport years earlier.

The icons inside St. Dimitrie – like any Christian Orthodox Church – are not to be worshiped, but rather to serve as a reminder of Biblical events through visual representation. 

Coca said the icons are placed in the church in such a way that one can follow them and see from the beginning to the end how Christ affects our salvation. There are icons of a narrative of Jesus’ life from his birth to his death. Christ at Gethsemane. His crucifixion. His resurrection.

“We don’t worship the icons, but we worship the Lord who is depicted in the icon and venerate the icons and give them honor because they do represent the heavenly realms and the other sources for our life, the spiritual side rather than the physical,” said Coca.

St. Dimitrie has about 350 parishioners of various backgrounds. It has a tight-knit community of dedicated volunteers with a Sunday school and an active Ladies Auxiliary group.

Many of the icons were donated to the church by parishioners. Some icons are donated in memory of deceased loved ones. Some donate icons in a form of prayer for good health. 

Sutiri Sam Giavara, builder of the Church and icon program co-chair, said that there are about 65 parishioners who have donated icons to the Church. There are many variations offered and ways of donating icons. 

The church invites everyone  to learn about the Orthodox Christian faith and join in its worship. The church is located at 504 Sport Hill Road. Sunday Liturgy begins at 10.a.m. For more information visit their website by clicking here.

(L-R) Spiro ‘Peter’ Fatsy, Father George Coca ans Sutiri ‘Sam’ Giavara – Photo by Rick Falco

Angela and Lucian Florea made a donation to have the church’s vestibule walls marbleized. Others have donated icons for the sake of their grandchildren’s health.

“We do them both ways. ‘In memory of,’ we call that an IMO or ‘in health of.’ That’s one way to donate. Or, ‘in honor of’ as well,” said Giavara.  

The current Easton church was built in 2008 and consecrated in 2010, which means many of the icons in the church are fairly new.

“We have the older ones from our first parish which was built almost 100 years ago, so a couple of them have to be at least 85 years old but the majority are new,” said Coca.

Next year, the church community will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the founding of its first parish.

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