During the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, after the exchange of rings and the bestowing of crowns, the couple takes their first steps of married life led by the celebrating Priest that holds the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Symbolically, this represents a promise to walk on the road that lays ahead of them together, seeking salvation by following Christ that opens the way into His Kingdom. This ceremonial walk is just the beginning of their journey through the rest of their lives, but they will remember these first steps forever; this is their “hochzeit” as the Germans call it, the “high-time” of their life.
On July 14th 2012 we experienced a similar joy when we took our first steps into our New Church led by Metropolitan Isaiah, steps that will be remembered from generation to generation. This is our “high-time”, a time for bliss and celebration of the achievement that with God grace we have fulfilled in our community of faith. But as the first steps of a newlywed couple are only the beginning of their life together, so our steps into the new church are not our final destination, but the beginning of a journey on the road ahead of us reaching into heavens.
The now opened doors of our New Church unlock for us new possibilities of expressing our faith. The adequate liturgical space will allow for the services of the Orthodox to unravel in their full glory: the architectural elements, the processional spaces, the natural light, the iconography will all contribute to a wholesome experience of transfiguration of our senses toward a better perception of the promised Kingdom.
But this is a mere other step on our way because we are not to worship as a closed community that only takes care of its own members and shuts the doors in the face of others. Our doors are to remain open to anyone that wants to enter and inquire. “Come and see” is an open invitation we send to everyone. What they will see in the new liturgical space will possibly lead them to discover the depth of our teachings and, at the appropriate time, join the faith of the Apostles. This is what happened to the Slav people when coming back from a liturgy at Saint Sophia cathedral in Constantinople they exclaimed:”We did not know if we were on heaven or on earth”. It was not just the purity of the dogmas that attracted the Slav, but it was their expression into worship that persuaded them to convert.
Bringing more people to the faith however is not the final destination either, but yet again another step. With growth comes now the possibility to do more things in the community at large, to reach out towards those in need outside our familiar environment. By our works with them we will be judged : “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” (Mathew 25:45). I am not talking just of material help but also about offering the needed spiritual food that many hunger for and we have in abundance. The ways in which we can show these works of love toward the people around us are endless. God never ceases to bestow His mercy upon us so our mission in the world should also never conclude, but find new forms of expression. Caring, teaching, feeding, caressing, encouraging, praying are ways of showing human solidarity in the light of the Scriptures and they should all be part of our present and expand into our future. We should have the vision to seek these opportunities as they present themselves and spread the abundant love that God has bestowed upon us.
We are to reach out, not to be self sufficient, this is the great commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mathew 28:19). A single, isolated Christian is no Christian, said Tertulian in the 4th century. We are not to be separated, we are not to remain in isolation but we are to enter into the joy of the kingdom together, with all those that bear the image of God in them.
The first steps on this holy road lying ahead have already been taken: we’ve built a church and opened its doors to the world. Let us keep them open for the future, let the people come in, welcome them, show them love, reach out whenever possible and our church will always be full, not just of bodies, but of persons seeking perfection in Christ by imitating His great love for mankind.