It is said that a certain emperor decided to bear all the costs of building a huge cathedral. He spared no expense throughout the project. After the completion of construction, a memorial plaque was installed at the entrance, mentioning the emperor as the person who consecrated and inaugurated the cathedral. The following day, the authorities noticed that the emperor’s name had been erased from the plaque and replaced with two other names. They were quite surprised, and removed the plaque and replaced it with another one bearing the emperor’s name. This process however was repeated several times, until the emperor heard of it. He immediately prayed to God asking Him to reveal the reason for what happened. An angel then appeared to him and told him that two children deserved, more than he, to have their names inscribed on the plaque, since they had paid much. The emperor wondered how two children could have paid much, when he was the one who paid all the expenses. The angel said that the two children deserved this honour because they loved God so much, that they longed to offer something towards building His house. Seeing that all they possessed in this world were two hearts full of love, they resolved to carry a container of water to the camels carrying the stones to build the Lord’s house; thus they toiled every morning, offering their labour and their love.
Truly, the house of the Lord needs unseen soldiers - young, old, men and women - capable of offering pure, precious love.
The house of the Lord is neither built by the priest nor the deacons alone; rather, by every living member. When Jeremiah belittled himself, he heard the Lord’s voice saying,
“Say not, I am a child … for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1.7-8).
Do not say that you are not up to participating in the house of the Lord because God’s work will be manifested in whatever you give. Do not worry about the lack or abundance of your means, for God who created our tongues spoke through Moses’ mouth, who said,
“… But I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exod. 4.10).
I recall an incident of a lady who came to me, gave me about one hundred dollars and, to my astonishment, asked that the money be used to build a church consecrated to Archangel Michael. I gave the money to another senior priest (Father Pishoy Kamel of Alexandria) who also expressed surprise, and who put it in safekeeping. A few months later, under very unusual circumstances, that sum was used to build a church consecrated to the Archangel Michael.
If you want to build a church for the Saviour, listen to the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Teach those who are on the outside that you were in the presence of God, that you were with the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and with all the heavenly hosts.” The Saint expects every man to build a house for the Lord within his wife’s heart, and every wife within her husband’s heart, and every slave within his master’s heart. Each day, all those who attain the new life in Christ will join the Lord in a life full of love, joy and rejoicing.
With a true, mature love, enriched with meekness, we can build houses for the Lord in many hearts, regardless of age, talent, or social standing.
It suffices here to quote from Origen:
My Lord Jesus Christ, make me worthy to participate in building Your house... The temple of the Lord, that He wants us to build, is holiness; this is how a tabernacle for God can be erected within each person’s heart.
In this tabernacle, various precious stones and pure materials refer to the variety of good deeds and traits:
Gold refers to faith, silver to spreading the word of God (Ps. 12.6), copper to patience, fine woods to the knowledge that a believer enjoys in the solitude of the wilderness, hemp to virginity, turquoise to love, onyx to the love of martyrdom, and sapphire to the quest for the kingdom of heaven.
These are the materials with which the tabernacle is built.
May the soul have an Alter in the middle of the heart.
On this Alter, the burnt offerings of prayer and mercy will be raised.
The bulls of pride, the rams of wrath, and the goats of lust will be slaughtered on this Alter with the knife of humbleness.
The soul will thus know how to build within the holy of holies of its heart, a beacon that shines unceasingly.”
A New Church and a New Heart
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