How to build our future
He shall build a house for My name. And he shall be My son, and I will be his Father.And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever. (1Ch 22:10)
The name we chose for the capital campaign associated with our New Church is "Building our future". It is a memorable phrase that captures the spirit but not enough by itself to explain the fullness of our undertaking. We need to further qualify our motto in order to understand why, what and how we will build the future of our community.
In the old times, the descendents of Noah built themselves a "city and a tower" for pride, to suit their own ego, to fulfill earthly, selfish and limited aspirations. "...they said, come, let us build us a city and a tower, and its top in the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole earth. (Gen 11:4)
They built the massive structure that we call the tower of Babel, for the wrong reason, a colossal mistake, repeating in fact the error Adam made when he listened to the serpent in paradise: the error of seeking self determination, separation from the Creator in the illusion that man can achieve and become something isolated from God.
This is not the type of project we want to undertake here, because we are not building any structure that will increase our earthly glory or feed our self esteem, but we want to increase and make known the glory of God. As King Solomon when he started building the temple in Jerusalem we say: behold, we purpose to build a house to the name of Jehovah our God, we shall build a house to His name. (1Ki 5:5).
We are building a proper house of God, a house in which we will be able to worship our God according to the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. We are not seeking a parting from God in this endeavor but, on the contrary, a place where we could meet Him in the most meaningful of ways. I say this because a church building is not just a shelter for the body, but is also an expression of our relationship with God. For this purpose it cannot receive any shape or form, but has to conform to the symbolical traditional architecture becoming a manifestation in brick and mortar of our sacred Theology.
The church represents more than simply the walls and, although we build it from stone, brick and other traditional means, to reach its desired spiritual purpose we need to employ a whole other series of construction materials that are first of all spiritual. I don't say this denying the need for the physical resources that are indispensable for its completion, but until we understand the need for our spiritual involvement we will either participate in it half heartedly or we will not participate at all.
A traditional prayer we read at the laying of the foundation of an Orthodox Church expresses this very fact:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who are the true God and the Brightness and Image of the Father which is from everlasting, and the Life Everlasting; You Who are the Corner-stone, born without the aid of seed of man from the Virgin Mount; You Who are the Foundation immovable of Your Church; Who also, through the shedding of Your precious blood, have founded Your Church, and raised it up by Your death, and perfected it by Your Resurrection and blessed it by Your Ascension, and have sanctified and enlarged it by the descent of thy Holy Spirit: Unto You do we now humbly pray: Send down the grace of Your Holy Spirit, and bless our undertakings."
The real foundation of our project is not one based on concrete piers but it rests on Christ: He is "the foundation immovable" of His Church. His blood, shed for us on the Cross, His sacrifice is what made our salvation possible and the Church to even exist. His sacred Blood continues to feed the entire Church through the Holy Communion giving it strength and substance. The churches of old were built on the tombs of the martyrs that were giving their lives for the edification of faith. The churches of new should also be built on sacrifice, not necessarily of blood, but nevertheless a sacrifice that would express a spirit of renewal, a rechanneling of our resources for what really matters into eternity, not just here on earth.
The walls of the church, raised by His death and perfected by His Resurrection are a symbol of our needed spiritual reconstruction that has to happen along with our building plans. Our commitment should be not only to build a church of stone but also a church of people united and growing together in Christ; people dying to sin to be refashioned into virtue.
A Church erected in this way has a sacred purpose: to follow Christ into His Ascension, to keep climbing the ladder of divine ascent until we reach our final destination in heaven.
The Church as the body of Christ was born at Pentecost through the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles were united then into a common cause: "Go and preach the Gospel to the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The same Holy Spirit should unite us today in our mission to build a new earthly abode for Him and a place of unity in peace and brotherly love for us; a place where we can hand down our faith to our children and share the Gospel with anyone willing.
These are the genuine building blocks of the foundation of our new church: sacrifice, commitment, purpose and unity. They are the secret ingredients of a project that will endure not just for some short earthly years but into eternity. United together in this effort we will truly be able to build a holy future for us and for the generations coming after us.