O Lord and Master Jesus Christ, May We Humbly Accept Prayers, Donations, and Financial Support.
STONES AND SOULS
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, prophesied about the Temple of Moriah [Matthew 24:1-2]. This temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt since. Did He prophesy wrongly? Did stone remain upon stone? Do worshipers still enter it today? Did He prophesy wrongly?
A nation poured its whole soul into the walls of a single temple, and it remained empty and soulless. Whoever entrusts his whole soul to stone for protection and ceases to keep watch over himself, will truly be as capricious in the world as the shadow of an aspen tree.
"We have built God a temple," say the capricious, "and we have paid off its debt. From now on we only have obligations to ourselves alone. We have given to God what is God's, now we shall give to ourselves what is ours."
You wretches, what need will God have for a temple, if you have no need for it? What will your temple mean to the One for whom a single grain of sand is not too fine and the star-filled universe is not too spacious? Can those who are themselves homeless really build a home for the Teacher of all builders?
The Builder taught your ancestors and you yourselves to build Him temples, because you have need of them, not He. (Cf. Acts 7:48-50).
When you build for Him, you are building out of yourselves by means of Him. For earth can do nothing for Him without Him.
When you build the best for Him, you are setting an example for your soul, showing her what she should be building within herself. (Cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17).
When you build for Him better than for your own body, you are setting an example for your soul, showing her that she should also be building herself a stronger, more sublime and radiant habitation than what the body needs and "the body itself". (Cf. 1 Cor. 6:19).
When you build for Him, you are proving that your soul has not forgotten everything and has not reconciled herself to the shacks of the body.
You build Him expensive edifices, in order to remind your soul that she was intended for a royal palace, and not for hovels of clay.
You are not building a house for Him, but an image for your soul, a book and a reminder for your soul. The Lord is overflowing with grace, and He comes down into your stone temples to meet with your souls.
But what will become of your temples, you wretches, if your soul does not heed and follow the example? If the domes of your temples are forever higher than your souls? If the width of your temples is forever wider than the narrowness of your souls? What will become of your temples?
If the candles in your temples of stone are forever brighter than the thoughts of your mind? If the myrrh and incense are forever more fragrant than the fragrance of your hearts? What will become of your temples?
If your altars are forever shining more brightly than all the shrines of your souls? If the splendor of your Liturgies are forever more splendid than the splendors of your souls? If the resounding of the prayers in your temples finds more of an echo in the walls of stone than in your souls? What will become of your temples?
They will become the dead monuments of dead souls. And once they become this---once they cease to be an example for the building up of the soul and become arrogant---truly, stone will not remain upon stone. And you, wretches, will wander about as the shadows of those who built the temples and knew what they were building and why; and you will dance all over the world as capricious as the shadow of an aspen tree.
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956)
LORD JESUS CHRIST---THE SON OF GOD---CALLED HIS DISCIPLES
"Ecclesia" is the gathering of those who have been "called" by Jesus Christ to an assembly of unity. The initial community of apostles and disciples appear in history with the name "ecclesia", translated from the Greek as "church". As a church, they were members and existed as a single, living, organic body of breath and life. These people knew by immediate personal experience their relationship with God and neighbor was established on His "Covenant". This community, open to all nations, was founded on a new covenant with God and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. For one to be a member and have a share in this Mystical Body of Christ is an act of accepting the "New Covenant". With appropriate preparation, everyone is called to participate in the Eucharist Meal through "breaking bread" and "blessing the cup". "Take and eat: This is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins". "All of you drink of this: This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins". "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Cf. 1 Cor 11:24-25).
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6). The Way, The Truth, and The Life is a person, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Absolute Truth mystically defines and manifests the Church. The Church is the gathering in the Eucharistic Meal. There is only one Church! The Church does not exist as a secular establishment nor a religious institution. It is not a governing hierarchy nor a building complex. It is not a public organization for singing songs and promoting moral behavior or social services. It is the People of God gathering in the "breaking of the bread" and the "blessing of the cup". In the Acts of the Apostles, when the first Christian Community began, we have the first record of this initial foundation which constitutes and makes up the Church. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles= doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Christianity is by nature and essence, both covenantal and communal. And as such, the Eucharist is the expression of Christ's covenant in His mystical presence---the "Gathering in His Name".
"Between the first and second comings of the Lord, between the God-man and the God-universe, between the fallen and transfigured states of being, stands the Orthodox Church, as a boundary and a crossing place. And every Christian, through communion with holy things, i.e., the Eucharist, and in the communion of saints, is himself a 'living boundary', a place where death passes over into Divine Life".
It is the Church that introduces eternity into history and offers history the perspective of eternity. The Church is the Body of Christ, which transcends place and time, a transcendent communion where all things are present in the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is not simply awaited as something that is to come. The Kingdom of God is perceptible as something now present.
Orthodoxia (right teaching and worship) must be fulfilled through Orthopraxis (right living). "If you know all these things, you are blessed if you do them" (John 13:17).
The hour which is coming, and already present, is the hour of the "Presence of Christ" in the Eucharistic Meal at Divine Liturgy.
"When You Assemble as a Church..." (1 Cor 11:18). For Saint Paul and for all of early Christianity, these words refer not to a temple, but to the nature and purpose of the gathering which is to reveal and to realize the Church. This gathering is Eucharistic. Its end and fulfillment embody the setting wherein the "Lord's Supper" is accomplished. The maturing Sacred Tradition of the Church revolved totally around the triunity of the Assembly, the Eucharist, and the Church.
WHY BUILD A TEMPLE?
"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17).
"God is love." (1 John 4:8). The essence of the All Holy Trinity is a community of Love, timeless and pre-eternal, existing as three persons in one nature. Love is not an attribute assigned to God by human logic and understanding. Love and beauty are revealed in His creation through His Uncreated Energies which transfigure natural elements to the higher spiritual dimension. Only God Himself, through His Love, Beauty, Goodness, Truth, and absolute Freedom, assigns and verifies the meaning of the work we do in His Earthly Creation. God's providential order and spiritual principles are the foundation of earthly beauty. For God is the highest beauty reflected in life, creativity, and reality.
The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches us and guides us in the spiritual life even through architectural designs, construction materials, and adornments of structures. The observer enters into the grace, dignity, harmony, wholeness, balance, symmetry, poise, and integration of the building itself. All this is expressed through the utilization of forms, symbols, diffuse lighting, royal colors, optics, mathematical and geometrical proportions of the physical relationships of dimension, weight, density, and texture. These reflect the principles of God's creation and lead the soul (memory, will, intellect, imagination, emotion, and understanding) upward to a conscious awareness of the spiritual plane. All creation came into being through God's Love and Mercy, not out of any necessity or preexisting matter. Mankind erects buildings for man to express due worship and reverence for the Glory of God, the salvation of the human race, and the transformation of the cosmos.
The relationships of order, balance, harmony, integration and beauty are brought into the world with man's cooperation. Truly a "synergy", God and man working together, each doing their part in the transformation of all creation. Material creation ("very Good" Gen 1:31) is designed by God and fashioned by human hands which expresses beauty and glorifies its Creator.
There exists a dynamic interrelationship of the integrity of architectural structure and function which merge with distinctive iconography, hymnography, incense, vessels, ritual movements, gestures, vestments, and the disposition of the heart (core of one's being). Every design aspect reveals and celebrates the meaning and expresses the appropriateness of Orthodox Worship. Truly one enters into the Peace of Christ, a condition where nothing is lacking.
PLANNING THE TEMPLE---THE CHURCH BUILDING FACING EAST
Byzantine architectural style puts one in the pictorial framework characterized by domes and cruciform shape, round arches and windows with arched heads. The spacial dynamic relationship across the volume of the church creates an artistic envelope where the beholder is linked with heaven on earth. One observes and is observed! The overall effect, inside and outside, is one of intimacy! The size and dimension of the architectural elements: walls, ceilings, vaults, domes, roof, cornices, apses, doors, windows, arches, and bell tower make visible those aspects of spiritual truth which transform humanity. These elements also reveal simplicity, unity, roundness, introspection, accuracy, spontaneity, depth, and paradoxically: activity and stasis. The exterior of the building is plain and unadorned.
A widespread basic church plan is a "cross-in-square". The structure rises up out of a cross and a central dome rests at the intersection of the arms of the cross. A hallmark of Byzantine architecture for the Orthodox Christian world is the central dome located at the highest point of the church. This mystical geometric hemisphere of celestial space hovers over the floor. Before blessings descend upon us, we first and foremost must accept the cross. Smaller domes or vaults are placed over the four corners of the cube, between the arms of the cross.
The church building, as the House of God, is the background and setting for Orthodox Worship. The total experience of worship involves all human senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and fragrance). The exterior and interior of the church building flow naturally from the dome to the ground. All this creating a sacred place aesthetically pleasing and affecting the unity of all things in God.
Within the setting of the church structure, the most obvious sign of the Orthodox interior is the iconostasis. It separates the Holy of Holies from the remainder of the temple. Through its Holy Doors comes Christ, who alone leads the assembly to communion with the Holy Trinity. The icons speak to the worshiper and preach the Good News of the Gospel. The appropriate mood for praise, thanksgiving and petition is established.
The narthex or vestibule of the church is the entrance area where a gradual movement begins toward the Kingdom of God. Candles are lit, icons are reverenced, and prayers are offered for the living, the departed, and those yet to be born. All are alive in Christ. This section represents the world where humanity is called to repentance. At the large center of the church is the nave which represents the Kingdom of Heaven where the faithful gather together for worship. Christians understand that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a place but the actual presence of God in our midst.
The most sacred part of the church building, the sanctuary, reserved for ordained clergy and containing the Holy Altar with relics, represents what is above heaven. The tabernacle on the altar is the dwelling place of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He desires to be present to us in a very special manner as He gives Himself to us through communion of His Precious Body and Blood. "...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you", "does this offend you?", "Do you also want to go away?" (Jn 6:53,61,67). Church is truly the House of God. The Gospel Book, enthroned and ever-present on the altar, is the Word of God which brings the Good News of His love for all His creation, the destruction of sin and death, and granting of eternal life. "It is the Spirit Who gives life...the words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life"(Jn 6:63).
The church structure speaks to us in a non-verbal language using space, color, light and form. Even an empty church building speaks with the voice of God which always rings out in silence. One might say the temple fulfills its primary function merely by existing. It is, irrespective of the number of people present, an act of worship. A beautiful church, standing alone among great oak trees in the countryside, is a perpetual reminder of spiritual values. Sermons about the Good News of Christ are preached to those within the walls and the architecture preaches to those who just pass by. There is a monumental stillness that communicates without ambiguity. We should offer to God what is best and most beautiful while emphasizing the sacramental character. Unity and diversity are the common threads throughout God's magnificent creation.
Iconography generates a potential for individual awareness of God's presence among His people. The mystery of "presence" and the mystery of the "person" reveals that God dwells among men! There exists a motionless movement through symbols to actual presence.
Within the interior of the central dome is the icon of the Pantokrator, Christ the Almighty (Rev 1:18). He alone is triumphant over sin and death, and He reigns over heaven and earth. He gazes down over the whole church assembly, hearing their prayers and reminding everyone of His pervading presence in the universe. His eyes are fixed on his children worshiping in spirit and truth. His blessings descend upon all present and those absent for honorable reasons. Yet all humanity remains ultimately accountable to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ruler and redeemer of the cosmos, as all creation came into being through Him.
The Pantokrator is surrounded by angels and archangels who serve Him and execute His commands. Worshipers experience the widest range of emotions from God's love and mercy and compassion to His condemnation and judgment. Yet as always during the Divine Liturgy, all participants exclaim "let us lift up our hearts"! "Let us give thanks to the Lord"! God Almighty! The Pantokrator!
Icons of the four Evangelists are present on the areas supporting the base of the central dome. The message of the Gospel is to be spread to the “ends of the earth”.
After the central dome, the place of Holiness and Glory, comes the sanctuary walls (apse) containing the icon of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God (Theotokos). She is holding Christ. She is the link between our Creator and His creation.
Adorning the walls are icons depicting saints, parables, and events in the life of Christ. They help us to "remember all that has been done for us", “the cross, the tomb, the descent into Hades and the release of its captives, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious coming”.
The icons announce the saints who observe the worshipers with glances and gestures and converse with one another and form their own sacred domain. The patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, teachers and ascetics welcome us to participate in their life which is a "Life in Christ". The "whole of reality" is illustrated on the walls of the Orthodox Church.
The priest censes first the altar, icons, and then the entire congregation. Every human being is a living icon of Christ, forever created in God's image and likeness (Gen 1:26), of which "likeness" is dependent upon the use of free will and choice. Humanity is called to live according to the "Good News" of Christ and His way of life. He is the message and the messenger!
The whole theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church is conveyed through the hearts of its members and within a single church building. Each Church becomes a "complete expression" of the complete cosmos. Everything and everyone is there. "In wisdom, You have made them all". The past, present, and future no longer exist within the confines of time. Christ is truly among us in joy and sorrow through His timeless presence in unbroken silence.
The Byzantine style of architecture has become the ideal vehicle for the conveyance of the extremely complex symbolism of the fully developed Eastern Orthodox Faith. The eternal message of Christian Life in terms of its deepest mystery is to make perfectly simple and clear the whole duty of man seeking the healing of his brokenness and his liberation from the slavery of self-centeredness, sin, and death.
It is only Christ who is the "Light of the World". Yet sunlight through the upper windows creates a particular illusion that the dome is resting on the radiance that floods through them. This illumination becomes the agent that seems to dissolve material substance and transforms it into a unique spiritual vision and the experience of God's abiding presence.
Spacial effects create a mystery that is overwhelmingly beautiful in its complex and unified interplay of space, surface, light, and shadows. Symmetry and closed spaces combine to produce an effect of the motionless and unchanging aspects of the deepest mysteries of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
DEDICATION OF CHURCH BUILDING
The Orthodox Temple will be located in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina and is dedicated to the Righteous Saint Joseph, the “Guardian of the Holy Family” (Commemorated December 31), and Saint Andrew, the “First Called Apostle” (Commemorated November 30).
For Jesus, His whole earthly mission is centered around God the Father. Yet Our Lord discovered human fatherhood through His foster-father, Saint Joseph. As he created, protected, and directed the home of Mary and Jesus, so shall he be the intercessor and protector of our Church Community.
"Saint Joseph is hidden and he hides". He is totally hidden from earthly speculation so that no one may see him before it is time. He humbly works in the background of family life where Jesus "grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40). "Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them" (Luke 2:51). The personhood of Jesus is bonded with Joseph and Mary who were blessed and united by God.
Saint Joseph, in a loving and mysterious relationship, is always in the heart of his Heavenly Father. His personality is kept in almost complete obscurity during the first centuries of Christianity and he is inseparable from his wife Mary. He alone underwent total conversion to be the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God and the guardian of the Christ Child.
At the time of their exile into Egypt, an angel of the Lord did not speak to Mary, but "appeared to Joseph in a dream" (Matt 2:13). Mary simply obeyed, knowing that God has ordered all things.
Saint Joseph must disappear completely from the scene when Jesus begins His earthly mission. "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). There must not be the slightest ambiguity when Jesus is speaking about “His Father”. Righteous Saint Joseph, you represent the indispensable fatherhood on earth! Righteous Saint Joseph, protect and pray for us!
Saint Andrew was the son of Jonah and brother of Saint Peter, born in Bethsaida and a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee by profession. Saint Andrew was initially the disciple of Saint John the Baptist. When the Forerunner pointed out Jesus as the Christ “Behold, the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:36), Andrew brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus. Saint Andrew, known as the Protokletos (The First Called), because he was the first Apostle to be summoned by Jesus into His service. As Apostles, while Peter symbolically came to represent the Church of the West, Andrew likewise represents the Church of the East.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles drew lots to determine their sphere of labor for the Lord. Saint Andrew’s mission was to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor, part of Greece, and an area along the coast of the Black Sea, including the gateway city of Byzantium (Constantinople) (today Istanbul) where he founded the Christian Church there. It was in Byzantium that Saint Andrew ordained Stachys as bishop of Byzantium (later Constantinople), thereby establishing an unbroken line of 270 Patriarchs down to the present day Patriarch Bartholomew 1st. Saint Andrew went to Jerusalem around 50 AD for the First Synod of the Apostles out of which they established the ecclesiastical system.
He suffered crucifixion upside down on an X-shaped cross for the Lord in the year 62. Holy Apostle Andrew, pray to God for all of us!
This Orthodox Church will be the haven where Christians come together and "lay aside all their earthly cares". The entire assembly will celebrate the Divine Liturgy where Jesus "left nothing undone to lead us back to heaven (the presence of God in our lives), and bestow upon us Your future Kingdom".
What do we do when we come to Divine Liturgy? "We offer You(God) this spiritual and bloodless sacrifice, and we implore, and pray, and beg of You: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts that are offered here: 'And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ.' Amen! 'And that which is in this chalice the precious Blood of Your Christ.' Amen! 'Changing them by Your Holy Spirit.' Amen! Amen! Amen!"
Why we come to Divine Liturgy? "It is proper and just to sing to You, to bless You, to praise You, to worship You in every place of Your Kingdom. For You are God, ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing yet ever the same, You and Your only-begotten Son, and Your Holy Spirit." "That to those who partake of them(the Mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood), they may be for the spiritual peace of the soul, for the remission of sins, for the communion of the Holy Spirit, for the participation in the Kingdom of Heaven, for confidence in approaching You, not for judgment nor condemnation".
Our feeble attempt is to "stand before the Glory of Your Holy Altar and offer You due Worship and Glory" with symbols of words, gestures, and architecture. We will come together to meet the Living God in the manner in which He wishes to reveal Himself to us. God will "enable us to offer these gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins, and the transgressions of all Your people".
We thank You Lord Jesus Christ for "granting the requests of two or three gathered in Your Name". With the building of this Church structure, surely You will "sanctify those who love the beauty of Your House". We are "no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone"(Eph 2:19-20).
"O Lord our God, Whose might is beyond description, Whose Glory surpasses all understanding, Whose mercy is without limit, Whose love for man is beyond expression; O Master, in Your kindness, look down upon us and this Holy Church with pity, and bestow upon us and those praying with us Your abundant mercies and compassion."
"For to You are due all glory, honor, and adoration, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, always, now, and unto the ages of ages. Amen!"
"One thing I have desired of the Lord that I will seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life;
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to inquire in His temple." (Psalm 27:4)
"O Lord, save Your people
And bless Your inheritance." (Psalm 28:9)
Written, complied, and synthesized from sources of Orthodox Theology, Liturgy, and Byzantine architectural documents
December 6, 2003
Feast of Saint Nicholas
Archbishop of Myra
Revised on July 21, 2004 after the Groundblessing Service by
His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas:
Temple Building dedicated to SS Joseph and Andrew
O Lord and Master Jesus Christ, May We Humbly Accept Prayers, Donations, and Financial Support.