“O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth” (Ps. 25/26:8).
Deep reverence and concern for the beauty of the Lord’s house is characteristic of the servants of God. The Psalmist loves the House of the Lord because it is the place where the Glory of the Lord dwells. It is that material place set apart from this world, it is set apart as a holy place, filled with holy things.
Elsewhere, the Psalmist instructs, “My soul hath longed for Thee … So in the sanctuary have I appeared before Thee to see Thy power and glory” (Ps. 62:2-3/63:1-2).
In his deep longing for God, he goes to the sanctuary. There he appears before the Lord and witnesses His power and glory. If it was so in the Old Testament, how much more so in the New. The Church, the temple, is full of the very glory and power of the Lord. This glory and power sanctifies everything in the church itself.
Echoing the tradition and teaching of the Fathers, Met. Arseny of Svyatogorsk (in modern Ukraine) has this to say about the holiness of the church temple, “We receive healing even from the door handle of the temple; simply by taking hold of it without even crossing the threshold of the temple we receive healing, healing of soul above all else because we are entering into the Temple of God, my brothers and sisters. As we enter into the Temple of God, we enter under the protection of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who guides us in all Truth … When we enter the Temple we are not alone, we are surrounded by the those holy ones who were well-pleasing to God, whose intercession we beseech; we are surrounded by the Angelic powers, who serve the human race in the matters of salvation … when we enter the Temple we are not just gathering together, for in Holy Communion we are united with Christ Himself. How then could anyone say that the Church could be a source of sickness, death, and misfortune? No, my brothers and sisters. Guard your souls… Be resurrected in your mind and thoughts … Remember the Commandments of Christ … Now is the time for repentance. Now is the time to run to God, not away from Him. Take hold of the hem of His garment, and ask for mercy … not only for ourselves but for the whole world.”
The holiness of the temple permeates even into the entry-door handles! It is, therefore, impossible that anything in this holy place could communicate corruption. For in the church building matter has been resanctified and reoriented to its proper use. In the beginning matter was not created corruptible. At current matter suffers under the affliction of sin and death perpetrated by mankind. Thus, in the fallen world matter does covey this corruption. Yet, in the holy place of the church matter becomes reinvigorated with grace and is reinstated to its original purpose and mode. Thus the holy things of the church, the sanctified matter, are indeed fulfilling the original laws of nature which were devoid of corruption.
The pious Metropolitan also instructs, “The world does not understand what is the Church, and moreover Who is present in Church. Here, in Church, is present the Creator of the world, God All-Powerful and Almighty, Who is able to not only heal the sick but raise the dead.”
The Church is holy because of the One present in it. Those who are becoming influenced by the world’s way of thinking begin to lose understanding of the reality of holiness in the church. The world cannot understand the things of God.
He continues, “Remember, that the Temple of God is such a place, as St. Gabriel of Georgia said, ‘If you knew what grace descends on people during the time of the Divine Liturgy, then you would collect the dust from the floor of the Church just to wash in it.’ For the Church of Christ is united by the very bounds of grace which flow from the covering grace of the very Throne of God Himself, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
If the very dust of the church is holy, how much more those things set apart in a mysterious manner for the working of the mysteries of the Faith? For the grace that is poured out has its very source in the Throne of God Himself. God Himself is present. If we fail to realize this, the deficiency is ours. In no way does our lack of cognizance of this reality interfere in its manifestation. Of course, it is not magic either.
Nonetheless, speaking in terms of essential reality, when Christians are striving to hold fast to the Truth and worship God truly, then these principles are inviolable. The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ does not communicate corruption.
In the midst of the church Christ Himself is present in His very Body and Blood. It is absolutely impossible that His Body and Blood or anything associated with It could convey corruption.
“The claim that through Holy Communion a person could contract sickness is blasphemous and sacrilegious because in Holy Communion we receive the very Body and Blood of Christ. If we are fearful that we may contract illness through Holy Communion, then, in such a thought, Christ becomes a source of sickness, death, and suffering. Not so! Holy Communion is the source of health, love, and every purification. The fire of Holy Communion consumes not only viruses and every microbe, in the fire of Communion even sins and transgressions are consumed, and we ourselves become set afire.”
The mystical fire of Holy Communion extends into all the temple and it purifies the temple and sanctifies it. What earthly sickness could endure this fire? None. The only thing we must fear is stubborn persistence in blatant sin. In such cases we must be terrified of this fire. Yet, if we approach with repentance then this fire will act to purify and strengthen the believer in every good thing. It will consume corruption and impart only incorruption and Life.
Let us all hold fast to the beauty of the Lord’s House. For in it His glory and power dwell, and they expel all that is of corruption.
Read my previous article, “A Kingdom Not of This World” which also deals with the sanctity of Church Temple.
(All words of Met. Arseny translated from the Russian by Fr. Zechariah)