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Author Topic: Why beautify our churches instead of giving to the poor?  (Read 3563 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: March 09, 2011, 11:08:14 AM »

I have found that the beautiful adornments of our Orthodox Churches, the radiant vestments, the gold chalices, etc., are often a shock to Protestants, particularly those “Evangelicals” who are particularly iconoclastic and may pride themselves over such iconoclasm.  The popular and widely attended “mega churches” today are often set up as auditoriums without even an image of the cross present, just to emphasize that, according to them, such things aren’t “necessary” for salvation.

With this in mind, and having just started Great Lent in which Orthodox Christians should give particular attention to alms giving, I would like to share the brief life of St. Erasmus of the Kiev Caves (+1160).  He is commemorated today on the Old Calendar (March 9/Feb 24) in the Orthodox Church. 

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St. Erasmus of the Kiev Caves

Erasmus was a monk in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He inherited great wealth from his parents and spent all on adoring churches, especially on silver-plating and gilding icons. When he had become impoverished and remained without anything, he was despised by all. The devil whispered to him that he squandered his estate in vain; instead of distributing his wealth among the poor, he gave it for the adornment of churches. Erasmus succumbed to this temptation and believed it for which he despised himself and fell into a state of despair and began to live aimlessly and lawlessly. When the hour of his death approached the brethren assembled around him and discussed his sins which he himself was not conscious of. All at once, he straightened up in bed and said: "Fathers and brothers, it is as you say; I am sinful and unrepentant, but behold St. Anthony and St. Theodosius appeared to me and after that, the All-Holy Mother of God told me that the Lord gave me more time for repentance." The Mother of God also spoke these encouraging words to him: "The poor you have with you in every place and my churches you do not." Erasmus lived for three more days, repented and fell asleep in the Lord. This teaches us that zeal for the Church and adornment of the churches is a task pleasing to God. St. Erasmus died in the year 1160 A.D.

http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/prolog.htm
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 11:09:25 AM by jah777 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2011, 11:15:20 AM »

I daresay that even the smallest of the 'mega-churches' found across America has a budget which dwarfs that of even the largest of Orthodox Churches in the western hemisphere. Just because they are 'plain' and unadorned does not mean that they are austere. The costs of outfitting their auditoriums with their circus like theater fixtures, special effects departments, television production facilities etc... are high. likewise, many of their Board Chairs, i.e. their preachers, live in luxury along with their staff.
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2011, 11:27:58 AM »

Because man does not live by bread alone.

It's not an either/or issue. "And"
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2011, 11:40:52 AM »

They can also read Exodus 25-28. The old worship of the blood sacrifice is transformed by the Eucharist but the template remained (does not the "reformation" in Hebrews 9:10 speak of this?).
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2011, 12:19:57 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2011, 12:31:18 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

That is a great line, I shall remember it. Thanks! It is pithy and right to the point.
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2011, 03:09:46 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

Nice reference. Apropos and awesome source.
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2011, 03:14:11 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

That is a great line, I shall remember it. Thanks! It is pithy and right to the point.

It is, but then again, from the other side, how do you think a poor person who comes into the church and sees all the adornments feels knowing that they have no food in their stomach?

I'm not in favor of the line of thinking that we should avoid iconography and whatnot because there are poor in the world who need help.  I agree with ialmisry, it's "AND."  But I do think (and a friend opened my eyes up to this to some extent just today) that we should be sensitive about it and attempt to give the real reasons for it, not just smart off.

One way of approaching it might be: that same criticism was leveled by Judas Iscariot against the woman who anointed Christ with the oil shortly before His passion.  Christ made it clear that it was a good and right thing to spend our money in adoration of Him.  In fact, our Church believes that this Gospel is so important that it is one of the major themes of the Bridegroom services during Holy Week.  There can be much elaboration from there, but those are my first thoughts.
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2011, 03:20:02 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

That is a great line, I shall remember it. Thanks! It is pithy and right to the point.

It is, but then again, from the other side, how do you think a poor person who comes into the church and sees all the adornments feels knowing that they have no food in their stomach?

Then give them some food or money.
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2011, 03:34:02 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

That is a great line, I shall remember it. Thanks! It is pithy and right to the point.

It is, but then again, from the other side, how do you think a poor person who comes into the church and sees all the adornments feels knowing that they have no food in their stomach?

I'm not in favor of the line of thinking that we should avoid iconography and whatnot because there are poor in the world who need help.  I agree with ialmisry, it's "AND."  But I do think (and a friend opened my eyes up to this to some extent just today) that we should be sensitive about it and attempt to give the real reasons for it, not just smart off.

One way of approaching it might be: that same criticism was leveled by Judas Iscariot against the woman who anointed Christ with the oil shortly before His passion.  Christ made it clear that it was a good and right thing to spend our money in adoration of Him.  In fact, our Church believes that this Gospel is so important that it is one of the major themes of the Bridegroom services during Holy Week.  There can be much elaboration from there, but those are my first thoughts.

Church isn't instead of taking care of the poor. It is for the poor. Meeting  material and financial needs is not the primary mission of the Church.
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2011, 05:04:09 AM »

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Mark 14:3-9
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2011, 06:33:50 AM »

A beautiful explanation that I have heard is that for us, the church structure is housing the most beautiful, sacred, and important thing in this world and in any other, which is the Body of Christ, and as such, why would we not want to make it as beautiful as we can?
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2011, 06:45:36 AM »

In some parts of the world the church or synagogue might be the only beauty the poor have access to. Also, the articles that add beauty to worship are one time expenses; if you sold a gold blessing cross or a silver Torah crown you might feed some for a day, but after thta money's gone they'll still need help and the ornaments will be gone.
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2011, 07:46:26 AM »

In some parts of the world the church or synagogue might be the only beauty the poor have access to.

Palaces of the people
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« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2011, 09:29:51 AM »

In some parts of the world the church or synagogue might be the only beauty the poor have access to.

Palaces of the people

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« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2011, 09:41:41 AM »

The Diocese of Moscow runs 400 soup kitchens daily, organised by parish priests, as well as monks and nuns, and volunteers.

It runs clinics for alcoholics and for addicts.

It runs orphanages.  Surprised that no urchin has nicked the Patriarch's watch!  

It runs minibuses in the winter which pick up those sleeping on the streets so that they don't die of cold during the night.

I would be fairly sure that other dioceses do the same.
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« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2011, 11:37:24 AM »

I daresay that even the smallest of the 'mega-churches' found across America has a budget which dwarfs that of even the largest of Orthodox Churches in the western hemisphere. Just because they are 'plain' and unadorned does not mean that they are austere. The costs of outfitting their auditoriums with their circus like theater fixtures, special effects departments, television production facilities etc... are high. likewise, many of their Board Chairs, i.e. their preachers, live in luxury along with their staff.

You are absolutely correct.  I use to be an audio engineer and technician and I installed many multimedia systems in church auditoriums.  Most people have absolutely no idea what all that equipment really costs.  In mega-churches we are talking literally miles of cabling, mixing consoles in the $50,0000 to $100,000 range and projectors where just the lenses are $5,000 each.  Even smaller churches regularly spend $20,000 on a sound and lighting system.  In fact, unless you have installers working for free and are getting wholesale pricing on equipment, it is often difficult to do an installed system for less than that.  Just expounding on this point.  I don't think this is a very good argument as to why we should adorn our churches though.
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« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2011, 12:03:40 PM »

I daresay that even the smallest of the 'mega-churches' found across America has a budget which dwarfs that of even the largest of Orthodox Churches in the western hemisphere. Just because they are 'plain' and unadorned does not mean that they are austere. The costs of outfitting their auditoriums with their circus like theater fixtures, special effects departments, television production facilities etc... are high. likewise, many of their Board Chairs, i.e. their preachers, live in luxury along with their staff.

You are absolutely correct.  I use to be an audio engineer and technician and I installed many multimedia systems in church auditoriums.  Most people have absolutely no idea what all that equipment really costs.  In mega-churches we are talking literally miles of cabling, mixing consoles in the $50,0000 to $100,000 range and projectors where just the lenses are $5,000 each.  Even smaller churches regularly spend $20,000 on a sound and lighting system.  In fact, unless you have installers working for free and are getting wholesale pricing on equipment, it is often difficult to do an installed system for less than that.  Just expounding on this point.  I don't think this is a very good argument as to why we should adorn our churches though.

I didn't intend it as an argument of support of our Church designs and liturgical accessories, it was intended to make the point that in spite of our adornments, our budgets are fall smaller even in our largest congregations. Just as a mega Church pastor will defend these expenses as being necessary from his point of view to advance his message, our message is conveyed along with  the traditional adornments. The theological arguments in support of Orthodoxy's position can follow from that as anyone questioning us from a fiscal point of view will be put on the defensive with my first point, thereby allowing us to advance the second, more important, point.
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« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2011, 12:07:23 PM »

I daresay that even the smallest of the 'mega-churches' found across America has a budget which dwarfs that of even the largest of Orthodox Churches in the western hemisphere. Just because they are 'plain' and unadorned does not mean that they are austere. The costs of outfitting their auditoriums with their circus like theater fixtures, special effects departments, television production facilities etc... are high. likewise, many of their Board Chairs, i.e. their preachers, live in luxury along with their staff.

You are absolutely correct.  I use to be an audio engineer and technician and I installed many multimedia systems in church auditoriums.  Most people have absolutely no idea what all that equipment really costs.  In mega-churches we are talking literally miles of cabling, mixing consoles in the $50,0000 to $100,000 range and projectors where just the lenses are $5,000 each.  Even smaller churches regularly spend $20,000 on a sound and lighting system.  In fact, unless you have installers working for free and are getting wholesale pricing on equipment, it is often difficult to do an installed system for less than that.  Just expounding on this point.  I don't think this is a very good argument as to why we should adorn our churches though.

I didn't intend it as an argument of support of our Church designs and liturgical accessories, it was intended to make the point that in spite of our adornments, our budgets are fall smaller even in our largest congregations. Just as a mega Church pastor will defend these expenses as being necessary from his point of view to advance his message, our message is conveyed along with  the traditional adornments. The theological arguments in support of Orthodoxy's position can follow from that as anyone questioning us from a fiscal point of view will be put on the defensive with my first point, thereby allowing us to advance the second, more important, point.

Right on.
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« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2011, 12:20:28 PM »

Also, the articles that add beauty to worship are one time expenses; if you sold a gold blessing cross or a silver Torah crown you might feed some for a day, but after thta money's gone they'll still need help and the ornaments will be gone.


Exactly.

Also, sometimes these items may be gifts given to the priest which are used in the Church.
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« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2011, 12:24:02 PM »

Why strip the house of God of its ornaments, when the houses we live in are packed to the gills with stuff that could be sold to feed the poor?
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« Reply #21 on: March 11, 2011, 01:04:20 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

That is a great line, I shall remember it. Thanks! It is pithy and right to the point.

It is, but then again, from the other side, how do you think a poor person who comes into the church and sees all the adornments feels knowing that they have no food in their stomach?

I'm not in favor of the line of thinking that we should avoid iconography and whatnot because there are poor in the world who need help.  I agree with ialmisry, it's "AND."  But I do think (and a friend opened my eyes up to this to some extent just today) that we should be sensitive about it and attempt to give the real reasons for it, not just smart off.

One way of approaching it might be: that same criticism was leveled by Judas Iscariot against the woman who anointed Christ with the oil shortly before His passion.  Christ made it clear that it was a good and right thing to spend our money in adoration of Him.  In fact, our Church believes that this Gospel is so important that it is one of the major themes of the Bridegroom services during Holy Week.  There can be much elaboration from there, but those are my first thoughts.

Church isn't instead of taking care of the poor. It is for the poor. Meeting  material and financial needs is not the primary mission of the Church.

That was exactly my point.  It's "and."  We do both.  We do not do one to the exclusion of the other.
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« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2011, 01:06:17 PM »

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Mark 14:3-9

Thank you!  That was exactly what I was referencing!

And btw, OZ, I haven't seen you in a while to say...
I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2011, 01:32:30 PM »

I daresay that even the smallest of the 'mega-churches' found across America has a budget which dwarfs that of even the largest of Orthodox Churches in the western hemisphere. Just because they are 'plain' and unadorned does not mean that they are austere. The costs of outfitting their auditoriums with their circus like theater fixtures, special effects departments, television production facilities etc... are high. likewise, many of their Board Chairs, i.e. their preachers, live in luxury along with their staff.

You are absolutely correct.  I use to be an audio engineer and technician and I installed many multimedia systems in church auditoriums.  Most people have absolutely no idea what all that equipment really costs.  In mega-churches we are talking literally miles of cabling, mixing consoles in the $50,0000 to $100,000 range and projectors where just the lenses are $5,000 each.  Even smaller churches regularly spend $20,000 on a sound and lighting system.  In fact, unless you have installers working for free and are getting wholesale pricing on equipment, it is often difficult to do an installed system for less than that.  Just expounding on this point.  I don't think this is a very good argument as to why we should adorn our churches though.

I didn't intend it as an argument of support of our Church designs and liturgical accessories, it was intended to make the point that in spite of our adornments, our budgets are fall smaller even in our largest congregations. Just as a mega Church pastor will defend these expenses as being necessary from his point of view to advance his message, our message is conveyed along with  the traditional adornments. The theological arguments in support of Orthodoxy's position can follow from that as anyone questioning us from a fiscal point of view will be put on the defensive with my first point, thereby allowing us to advance the second, more important, point.

On the hand the biggest mega-church in my city gives literally at least 10 million dollars in *direct* charity to folks in the city. How much of that is raised through corporate sponsorship, I dunno.

I do know the financial break down of the money  (which is incredibly modest) to simply keep the parish I attend running and the number of households the money to operate the parish comes from. It is frightening on how few households the parish relies upon to barely manage to meet its yearly expenses.

The charitable monies collected within the parish relative to the number of registered households is frankly an embarrassing amount.

The mega-church packs thousands and gives millions directly to poor households and significant amount of volunteer hours.

I could get into the minutia further, simply because the mega-church in question is very active in my part of the city, which is one of the worst in the States. And they have been working on a program while with the best intentions would likely exacerbate the problems of my neighborhood. So due to litigation against the proposed church funded initiative, some of the financials of the church have been made more transparent than usual.

EDIT: The millions mentioned above is just the local monies raised, not counting the other multiple millions they give to international efforts.


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« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2011, 01:55:24 PM »

I have found that the beautiful adornments of our Orthodox Churches, the radiant vestments, the gold chalices, etc., are often a shock to Protestants, particularly those “Evangelicals” who are particularly iconoclastic and may pride themselves over such iconoclasm.  The popular and widely attended “mega churches” today are often set up as auditoriums without even an image of the cross present, just to emphasize that, according to them, such things aren’t “necessary” for salvation.

With this in mind, and having just started Great Lent in which Orthodox Christians should give particular attention to alms giving, I would like to share the brief life of St. Erasmus of the Kiev Caves (+1160).  He is commemorated today on the Old Calendar (March 9/Feb 24) in the Orthodox Church. 

Quote
St. Erasmus of the Kiev Caves

Erasmus was a monk in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He inherited great wealth from his parents and spent all on adoring churches, especially on silver-plating and gilding icons. When he had become impoverished and remained without anything, he was despised by all. The devil whispered to him that he squandered his estate in vain; instead of distributing his wealth among the poor, he gave it for the adornment of churches. Erasmus succumbed to this temptation and believed it for which he despised himself and fell into a state of despair and began to live aimlessly and lawlessly. When the hour of his death approached the brethren assembled around him and discussed his sins which he himself was not conscious of. All at once, he straightened up in bed and said: "Fathers and brothers, it is as you say; I am sinful and unrepentant, but behold St. Anthony and St. Theodosius appeared to me and after that, the All-Holy Mother of God told me that the Lord gave me more time for repentance." The Mother of God also spoke these encouraging words to him: "The poor you have with you in every place and my churches you do not." Erasmus lived for three more days, repented and fell asleep in the Lord. This teaches us that zeal for the Church and adornment of the churches is a task pleasing to God. St. Erasmus died in the year 1160 A.D.

http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/prolog.htm


Great story from the prolog, thanks.

I once read a sermon by St John Chrysostom along the same lines. It is not a sin against the poor to have beautiful Churches: it is God's House, for His glory and for the worship of the community. It would be sinful, however, to have beautiful and richly-decorated private homes, which is only for our own selfish use. Before we turn our sights on the Temple of the Lord, we had better make sure we've simplified our own lives sufficiently.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2011, 01:58:04 PM by bogdan » Logged
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« Reply #25 on: May 19, 2011, 12:00:27 PM »

The mission of the Church is to call souls to God. Love and charity play a huge role in that. Beauty and majesty do, too. Thus, the Church should provide love and charity to the poor, and should also be beautiful and majestic.
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« Reply #26 on: May 19, 2011, 01:33:07 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I would just like to point out a fact from the Cathedral history in Europe.  The large cathedrals such as Chartres in France were built by the tithes, taxes, contributions, and labor of the common people and the poor alike alongside the wealthy and the craftsmen.  Further, it were these local parishioners who attended the services at these Cathedrals.  These Cathedrals, unlike the palaces of the princes and kings, were the palaces of the people.  While the people may have lived outside in squabble, when they attended Mass they were elevated to the highest living as the King, like it is written in the Psalter, "The poor I will raise from the ashes, the needy from the dustbin, to sit him with [with the splendor] of princes, even the princes of their own people."

In Orthodox it is similar, these are our churches, and it is not just to elevate the clergy or the wealthier parishioners that we adorn our churches, but rather to elevate our entire community into a richer experience.  Further, it is like the Israelites did to the Egyptians, stripping the people of their gold jewelery and melting it down to create the Ark and other gold instruments for Worship.  Thus we in Orthodox continue to convert the vane wealth of this material world into adorned worship of our Creator.  Gold is worthless aside from its visual glory and the sacrifice it takes to yield it to this purpose.  We give our glory to God when we give Him our gold instead of keeping it in our own coffers.

In regards to the poor, surely we have enough wealth to do both, it really shouldn't be a this or that issue.  Yes, absolutely we should be centered on charity and the poor, as this is the very centrality of Christianity, but lets not get Puritan about it and start to whitewash our churches pretending that it will automatically turn our adornments into food for the poor.  As this thread as already mentioned, these megachurches are the result of whitewashed, iconoclast religion and I assure you there are millions of these Christians who are concerned little and do even less for the poor Sad

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« Reply #27 on: May 19, 2011, 07:10:54 PM »

The church is used by everyone, so not only the clergy get something out of it. It's not the same as owning the car that you drive. It's more like building a library, or a town hall.

Also, we can give to the church *and* to direct relief services for those in need. Many times, in fact, it's the church that provides food, clothing and shelter to the poor- and the more the people support it, the more they are able to help people.  Wink
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« Reply #28 on: May 19, 2011, 08:16:31 PM »

Because man does not live by bread alone.

It's not an either/or issue. "And"

This was my thought too.  Why do Protestants assume beautiful ornate churches ignore the poor and plain churches don't?
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« Reply #29 on: May 23, 2011, 09:52:47 PM »

Lenny Bruce once said : "Just because the poor have to live in a S---- House, they dont need to pray in one too."

That is a great line, I shall remember it. Thanks! It is pithy and right to the point.

It is, but then again, from the other side, how do you think a poor person who comes into the church and sees all the adornments feels knowing that they have no food in their stomach?

I'm not in favor of the line of thinking that we should avoid iconography and whatnot because there are poor in the world who need help.  I agree with ialmisry, it's "AND."  But I do think (and a friend opened my eyes up to this to some extent just today) that we should be sensitive about it and attempt to give the real reasons for it, not just smart off.

One way of approaching it might be: that same criticism was leveled by Judas Iscariot against the woman who anointed Christ with the oil shortly before His passion.  Christ made it clear that it was a good and right thing to spend our money in adoration of Him.  In fact, our Church believes that this Gospel is so important that it is one of the major themes of the Bridegroom services during Holy Week.  There can be much elaboration from there, but those are my first thoughts.

I agree with what you say, and disagree with your friend's interpretation.

It wasn't in "adoration of him" she was honoring the day of his burial.  This means that there are certain points in our lives when we should be able to have something special.

We can't "adore God" with material possessions because if he wanted something, he'd simply create it.  We adore him through sacrifice and doing his will, following his commandments etc.

I do find it completely ironic of how many EO churches are so elaborate, ornate, and expensive (absolutely not all).  I don't think God really cares how fancy it is.  Mainly I believe it to be psychological delusion "enhancing" the church building making it feel more "nice and holy".   When in turn all that money should be as a charity to widows & orphans as the early church taught.  The Eucharist was even celebrated in tombs in the early church.  God doesn't need all that "fluff".

Now in defense, I've also seen poor churches built out of stones & in caves. 

It's always ironic to me that God & Faith often seem to matter more in the poor churches than the wealthy ones. 

You can't serve God & Money.
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« Reply #30 on: May 23, 2011, 10:10:31 PM »

It wasn't in "adoration of him" she was honoring the day of his burial.  This means that there are certain points in our lives when we should be able to have something special.

Does it affect your view if I say that the Lord's saving passion, burial and third-day resurrection are made present in a manner outside-of-time on each occasion the Liturgy is celebrated?
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« Reply #31 on: May 23, 2011, 10:27:50 PM »

I do find it completely ironic of how many EO churches are so elaborate, ornate, and expensive (absolutely not all).  I don't think God really cares how fancy it is.  Mainly I believe it to be psychological delusion "enhancing" the church building making it feel more "nice and holy".   When in turn all that money should be as a charity to widows & orphans as the early church taught.  The Eucharist was even celebrated in tombs in the early church.  God doesn't need all that "fluff".
Disclaimer: I am not necessarily in favor of elaborate churches or against plain ones.

For me, I love stepping into an Orthodox church. I smell the incense and see the icons around me, and it is truly a soothing balm on my soul. My friend said that I look completely at peace in the church.

God doesn't need the fluff...but then again, we are humans. We crave beauty and try to create a representation of the grandeur of heaven. I don't feel guilty for loving art, and I don't feel guilty for purchasing icons and enjoying the quiet, simple, otherworldly beauty of Orthodox churches.

Now, is God going to ignore our worship if we don't have this kind of place? I think He will be grateful wherever and whenever we worship, personally. But as humans, we want tradition. We like carving out little spaces and doing things that are a change from the drudgery of every day life. I knew this was missing in my Protestant years, and I am glad to be back on this side, I do have to say.

Now, of course I think a church should be a resource in many other ways for the poor. But I think about Jesus' response to Judas when he criticized the woman for pouring the perfume on his feet, and I don't think it's necessarily wrong for a church to be "decorated," so to speak. (I can't think of a better word than that at the moment.)
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« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2011, 10:01:53 AM »

I do find it completely ironic of how many EO churches are so elaborate, ornate, and expensive (absolutely not all).  I don't think God really cares how fancy it is.  Mainly I believe it to be psychological delusion "enhancing" the church building making it feel more "nice and holy".   When in turn all that money should be as a charity to widows & orphans as the early church taught.  The Eucharist was even celebrated in tombs in the early church.  God doesn't need all that "fluff".

"...And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 5 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 6 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 7 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. 8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it."
Exodus 25-28 contains detailed instructions for the beautiful adornment of the tabernacle and even the priest's robes. If God doesn't care, why this attention to interior decoration?

Quote
It's always ironic to me that God & Faith often seem to matter more in the poor churches than the wealthy ones.
Sorry to be blunt, but this is nonsense. In order to know this, you would have to possess knowledge of every human heart, as well as detailed financial knowledge of the church and its members. What about the Prosperity Gospel, which has misled plenty of people of limited means?

Early Christians may have worshipped in caves but it was not by choice or according to some esthetic ethic or theology. It was simply because they were persecuted. They gathered for worship often in the wealthier believers' homes (probably for reasons of space) and as soon as they could meet publically they built and decorated beautiful houses of worship, with paintings and frescoes, such as Dura Europa and the recent excavations in Israel.

So while you may have personal preference for a simpler esthetic, neither history nor Scripture supports it.
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« Reply #33 on: May 25, 2011, 09:58:18 AM »

Churches don't have to be sumptuously ornate to be beautiful and conducive to prayer. Here is an Orthodox church at Briki. (Double left click to make it bigger.)

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« Reply #34 on: May 25, 2011, 10:24:39 AM »

What do y'all think of Bishop N. T. (Tom) Wright's assertion (if I understand him aright), that there are times and places where heaven and earth intersect, and we may experience the presence and influence of heaven? He seems to mention, as one example, old churches where people have worshipped and prayed for many years. I certainly find this, and have often wondered whether it is merely a psychological and æsthetic response on my part to my surroundings. Such a place can well be an Orthodox Church, or (for me) it can equally well be an early Methodist chapel. I vividly remember visiting a Byzantine church in the mountains of Albania, perhaps some 900 years old, which had been closed for many years during the Communist régime, was only in the initial stages of getting back into use and even had bats in it. The English Pentecostal friend I was with and I both instinctively responded warmly and immediately to our surroundings when the care-taker was found and opened it up, and we both said that, had we had our own transport, we would have driven up to the village on the Sunday morning to attend the worship. Brash, shiny churches with all the newest technology do nothing for me: they might as well be theatres, cinemas or other secular auditoria - but places where men and women have worshipped Christ, or have deeply sought and found pardon, new life and holiness, over many years, seem (even if it really is only psychological) to be places which invite the Bishop's concept of "intersection".
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« Reply #35 on: May 25, 2011, 11:15:07 AM »

What do y'all think of Bishop N. T. (Tom) Wright's assertion (if I understand him aright), that there are times and places where heaven and earth intersect, and we may experience the presence and influence of heaven?
Yep; that's a sacramental reality. In the East, the Mysteries are not limited to 7, although there are 7 major mysteries. Thus, all of existence may, at times, be used as a Mystery.

A Mystery being a moment where heaven and earth meet, where the uncreated condescends to the created.

That's how I reckon it, at least.
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« Reply #36 on: May 25, 2011, 11:35:52 AM »

He seems to mention, as one example, old churches where people have worshipped and prayed for many years. I certainly find this, and have often wondered whether it is merely a psychological and æsthetic response on my part to my surroundings....but places where men and women have worshipped Christ, or have deeply sought and found pardon, new life and holiness, over many years, seem (even if it really is only psychological) to be places which invite the Bishop's concept of "intersection".
Though you may have included it in these two words, I would add "emotional" to "psychological and æsthetic response". There are a few places from my pre-Orthodox days that elicit those responses in me. God will draw us to Himself in many ways. If our response is "merely ... psychological and æsthetic" then that's all it is. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference and I have to remind myself that my Protestant past started me on a spiritual journey that led eventually to the Orthodox faith. I have to recognize it for what it is - to appreciate what has gone before, but to live in the present, looking to the future.
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« Reply #37 on: May 25, 2011, 02:27:23 PM »

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there are times and places where heaven and earth intersect, and we may experience the presence and influence of heaven...

This was how the Divine Liturgy was explained to me.
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« Reply #38 on: May 25, 2011, 05:34:34 PM »

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there are times and places where heaven and earth intersect, and we may experience the presence and influence of heaven...

This was how the Divine Liturgy was explained to me.

The good bishop mentions also baptism and the Lord's Supper as two other "intersections". I liked the idea, and have been thinking about it a good deal since I read him on it (in his book "Surprised by Hope").
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« Reply #39 on: May 25, 2011, 05:39:03 PM »

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference

Yes, it is. But I've given up worrying, or trying to analyse my own soul. If I feel moved to prayer, or gratitude, or praise towards God, why worry in what 'part' of me is the initial prompt comes. It is good to give expression to it, and I hope and believe that God accepts such prayer, gratitude and praise.

But to come back to beautiful churches - or at least, to churches which evoke prayer and worship (for what A sees as beautiful can leave B cold, and vice versa): my pukka Evangelical friends always insist it's not the building, it's the presence of God among and within his people. And of course, they are right - but maybe not wholly right. The fact is there just are some places where it is easier to pray (or to preach, of course): there's something about the atmosphere that makes it flow more warmly, easily and readily. (And of course God is accessible to us in the other places too.)
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« Reply #40 on: May 25, 2011, 06:21:28 PM »

Just a thought: if no one gave to the church, the church would be poor, and couldn't do anything.  Huh I have said this before, but many churches in turn give some of their resources to the poor. A person can make room for different things in his or her choice of giving. Volunteers can also help the church, thereby saving money.  Smiley  People can donate new or gently used materials to the church; my parish has developed a modest lending library this way. Every time I go to the office, somebody's always running around with a table or cloths or cups for the next dinner.  Smiley  It is not necessary to buy the most expensive icons only; I think I've seen a post by Irish Hermit which showed large paper print icons in one church, and they looked as good as any others. There are different ways to accomplish things.
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« Reply #41 on: May 25, 2011, 07:54:15 PM »

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference

Yes, it is. But I've given up worrying, or trying to analyse my own soul. If I feel moved to prayer, or gratitude, or praise towards God, why worry in what 'part' of me is the initial prompt comes. It is good to give expression to it, and I hope and believe that God accepts such prayer, gratitude and praise.

And I am with you on that one. All of the things I mentioned can inspire worship. I get concerned, however, when people confuse an emotional or æsthetically pleasurable experience as worship.
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« Reply #42 on: May 25, 2011, 09:01:41 PM »

Throwing money at a problem rarely, if ever, helps in the long run.  Our churches do what they can to help out the poor.  But instead of forcing the Church to do all the work ask yourself, "When's the last time I volunteered at a soup kitchen?"  "What have I ever done to alleviate the suffering of others?" 
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« Reply #43 on: May 25, 2011, 09:03:42 PM »

Throwing money at a problem rarely, if ever, helps in the long run.  Our churches do what they can to help out the poor.  But instead of forcing the Church to do all the work ask yourself, "When's the last time I volunteered at a soup kitchen?"  "What have I ever done to alleviate the suffering of others?" 
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« Reply #44 on: May 25, 2011, 10:57:36 PM »

I do find it completely ironic of how many EO churches are so elaborate, ornate, and expensive (absolutely not all).  I don't think God really cares how fancy it is.  Mainly I believe it to be psychological delusion "enhancing" the church building making it feel more "nice and holy".   When in turn all that money should be as a charity to widows & orphans as the early church taught.  The Eucharist was even celebrated in tombs in the early church.  God doesn't need all that "fluff".

"...And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 5 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 6 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 7 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. 8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it."
Exodus 25-28 contains detailed instructions for the beautiful adornment of the tabernacle and even the priest's robes. If God doesn't care, why this attention to interior decoration?

Quote
It's always ironic to me that God & Faith often seem to matter more in the poor churches than the wealthy ones.
Sorry to be blunt, but this is nonsense. In order to know this, you would have to possess knowledge of every human heart, as well as detailed financial knowledge of the church and its members. What about the Prosperity Gospel, which has misled plenty of people of limited means?

Early Christians may have worshipped in caves but it was not by choice or according to some esthetic ethic or theology. It was simply because they were persecuted. They gathered for worship often in the wealthier believers' homes (probably for reasons of space) and as soon as they could meet publically they built and decorated beautiful houses of worship, with paintings and frescoes, such as Dura Europa and the recent excavations in Israel.

So while you may have personal preference for a simpler esthetic, neither history nor Scripture supports it.

Question, so why does Jesus Christ say "You can't serve God & Money" (new covenant), yet in order to bring Gold into the church, and fine linens, you obviously need money.  Jesus in the new covenant taught the rich man to basically give what he has to the poor and to "follow him".

But I can get badger skins pretty cheap, but I'd have to skin them. Goat hair I can get for free outside.  Ram skin I have no idea where I can get that.  But anyway, when I get this stuff is it okay to give it all to a priest to put on the altar?  Since God wants that stuff I think it would be bad not to give it to him.
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« Reply #45 on: May 25, 2011, 11:01:49 PM »

Just a thought: if no one gave to the church, the church would be poor, and couldn't do anything.  Huh I have said this before, but many churches in turn give some of their resources to the poor. A person can make room for different things in his or her choice of giving. Volunteers can also help the church, thereby saving money.  Smiley  People can donate new or gently used materials to the church; my parish has developed a modest lending library this way. Every time I go to the office, somebody's always running around with a table or cloths or cups for the next dinner.  Smiley  It is not necessary to buy the most expensive icons only; I think I've seen a post by Irish Hermit which showed large paper print icons in one church, and they looked as good as any others. There are different ways to accomplish things.

Well, churches need VERY little money to function. As for sacraments, that comes basically free.   

Usually I would say the fellowship is more expensive.   Especially if the church members are capable of supplying the needs of the church.  Such as bakers, bee keepers (wax), etc.
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« Reply #46 on: May 26, 2011, 09:31:44 AM »

Quote from: yeshuaisiam link=topic=34297.msg576429#msg576429
Question, so why does Jesus Christ say "You can't serve God & Money" (new covenant),
Actually, He doesn't. What He does say is You cannot serve God and Mammon, which is defined as greed.

Quote
yet in order to bring Gold into the church, and fine linens, you obviously need money.  Jesus in the new covenant taught the rich man to basically give what he has to the poor and to "follow him".

But I can get badger skins pretty cheap, but I'd have to skin them. Goat hair I can get for free outside.  Ram skin I have no idea where I can get that.  But anyway, when I get this stuff is it okay to give it all to a priest to put on the altar?  Since God wants that stuff I think it would be bad not to give it to him.

Don't be silly. The point is, (as I'm pretty sure you know, though I can't for the life of me figure out why you want to waste time - in a discussion you started - by being deliberately obtuse) that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with beautiful churches or with money, for that matter. In Exodus, which is also part of Holy Scripture, God is apparently concerned about the beauty of His house. Now, is this for His benefit or for ours? My guess is ours.

You just have a different personal preference and a different opinion about what a church should look like. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not necessarily supported by Scripture or history, and it's somewhat disingenuous to pretend that it is.
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« Reply #47 on: May 26, 2011, 09:37:40 AM »

Well, churches need VERY little money to function. As for sacraments, that comes basically free. 

Seriously? Have you served on a parish council or board lately? Have you seen the utility bills? The insurance? Not to mention the priest's salary, FICA and health insurance?
Welcome to the real world.
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« Reply #48 on: May 26, 2011, 09:55:24 AM »

Well, churches need VERY little money to function. As for sacraments, that comes basically free. 

Seriously? Have you served on a parish council or board lately? Have you seen the utility bills? The insurance? Not to mention the priest's salary, FICA and health insurance?
Welcome to the real world.

Exactly. Our parish pays about $100,000 per year JUST FOR THE POWER BILL.  The total budget for this year is about $1M, and that's totally bare bones.

Quote
Usually I would say the fellowship is more expensive.   
Of our budget, less than 10% pays for anything having to do with fellowship (and that's pretty much all for the youth).  The vast majority is utilities and salaries. 


Quote
Especially if the church members are capable of supplying the needs of the church.  Such as bakers, bee keepers (wax), etc.
Really?  We are blessed to have parishioners in almost every line of work needed within the parish (except bee keeping, apparently).  They are extremely generous and do things for free or for discounted prices (even with a generous discount our new air conditioning unit is going to cost upwards of $500,000!).  And yet, we still need $1M a year just to function. And that's not even accounting for all the things we'd LIKE to be able to do! 

Sorry, my friend, but it costs a LOT of money to run a parish these days.

Personally, I think this conversation has descended into the ridiculous.  There is no reason that we cannot have beautiful churches AND minister to the needy and the poor.  We're SUPPOSED to do both.  If we're too cheap to cough up enough to do both, then that's a spiritual failing on our part.
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« Reply #49 on: May 26, 2011, 11:35:33 AM »

Personally, I think this conversation has descended into the ridiculous.  There is no reason that we cannot have beautiful churches AND minister to the needy and the poor.  We're SUPPOSED to do both.  If we're too cheap to cough up enough to do both, then that's a spiritual failing on our part.

I agree.


And I was reminded of this: But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” - John 12:4-5
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« Reply #50 on: May 26, 2011, 11:35:50 AM »

It is a common practice in Britain for Evangelical churches to tithe their annual income - that is to give away 10% of the total that comes in. This is usually done on a quarterly or annual basis, when income is totted up and a number of cheques distributed to the recipients. Is this what Orthodox (or other American) churches do?

Mainly, this giving goes to "spiritual" rather than humanitarian work, though the "spiritual" may well include such compassionate ministries as orphanages run by Christians.
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« Reply #51 on: May 26, 2011, 12:12:42 PM »

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I have found that the beautiful adornments of our Orthodox Churches, the radiant vestments, the gold chalices, etc., are often a shock to Protestants, particularly those “Evangelicals” who are particularly iconoclastic and may pride themselves over such iconoclasm.  The popular and widely attended “mega churches” today are often set up as auditoriums without even an image of the cross present, just to emphasize that, according to them, such things aren’t “necessary” for salvation.


have you read St. Dionysius and the Theology of Beauty.  Beauty draws us all closer to the Divine Creator, the origin  of all beauty.
Yes, we need to give to charities to help the poor but not at the expense of stripping our churches of beauty.  Both charity and beauty are needed.
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« Reply #52 on: May 26, 2011, 01:17:52 PM »

Both charity and beauty are needed.

Exactly.
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« Reply #53 on: May 26, 2011, 04:02:02 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Well, churches need VERY little money to function. As for sacraments, that comes basically free. 

Seriously? Have you served on a parish council or board lately? Have you seen the utility bills? The insurance? Not to mention the priest's salary, FICA and health insurance?
Welcome to the real world.

Exactly. Our parish pays about $100,000 per year JUST FOR THE POWER BILL.  The total budget for this year is about $1M, and that's totally bare bones.

Well, churches need VERY little money to function. As for sacraments, that comes basically free.

Seriously? Have you served on a parish council or board lately? Have you seen the utility bills? The insurance? Not to mention the priest's salary, FICA and health insurance?
Welcome to the real world.

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Usually I would say the fellowship is more expensive.   
Of our budget, less than 10% pays for anything having to do with fellowship (and that's pretty much all for the youth).  The vast majority is utilities and salaries. 


Quote
Especially if the church members are capable of supplying the needs of the church.  Such as bakers, bee keepers (wax), etc.
Really?  We are blessed to have parishioners in almost every line of work needed within the parish (except bee keeping, apparently).  They are extremely generous and do things for free or for discounted prices (even with a generous discount our new air conditioning unit is going to cost upwards of $500,000!).  And yet, we still need $1M a year just to function. And that's not even accounting for all the things we'd LIKE to be able to do! 

Sorry, my friend, but it costs a LOT of money to run a parish these days.

Personally, I think this conversation has descended into the ridiculous.  There is no reason that we cannot have beautiful churches AND minister to the needy and the poor.  We're SUPPOSED to do both.  If we're too cheap to cough up enough to do both, then that's a spiritual failing on our part.

Thank you! I was waiting for someone to step in there and pinch hit on this one.. Churches have ALWAYS been expensive institutions to run, Lord Have His Mercy, even in medieval eras in rural parishes just the sacramental flour and wine required considerable effort for the parishioners to be able to contribute for their Divine Liturgies, aside from also having to maintain the living for the necessarily celebrant priests and deacons (and hopefully even a school teacher for the kiddies) and all this were the obligatory tithes to maintain the worship cycles of the Orthodox Church.  Let alone the modern version of this as has been mentioned above with utilities/maintenance/insurance/salaries/charities/celebrations the costs for even a medium size parish of a few hundred can easily run into the millions, let alone the costs of building a church complex from scratch!

This is how the economy of the Church operates, we parishioners gather the financial fruits of our labors and efforts in the day to day world and contribute a portion of these towards the maintenance of our spiritual life as well through the Church.  This is more so an opportunity to enter into the economy of the Divine rather than a mere obligation, and it is part and parcel in connection with our charity as well.  It is simply not an either/or issue, they are deeply interconnected.  For example, say the Church gives up ALL its resources to feed the poor, inevitably there will still be more poor to feed, and yet there will be no Churches to feed them spiritual food for Eternal Life and to offer a place of Grace to cool our heels and lick our wounds from our day to day lives.  Where will the Divine Mysteries come from then, who will preserve and administer them if not the Church in the Grace of God through our own sanctified efforts?  It is as Christ said, "What is more holy, the offering or the Altar which sanctifies the offering?" (Matthew 23) 

Stay blessed,
Habte Selassie
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« Reply #54 on: May 27, 2011, 09:19:07 AM »

It seems to me that there is an equal and opposite question.

A few posts ago I attached a photograph of an Orthodox church at Briki (Greece), in which I for one see beauty and where I would be pleased to pray. A few miles along the road, outside the village of Drialos, is the Orthodox church of St Peter (O Agios Petros), and because my wife and I like visiting old churches, we went inside. We were gravely disappointed! It is still in use - as evidenced by the usual artifacts like candles, oil, etc.. But the whole church stank; mold was growing up the walls; the frescoes were peeling off. In short, it was a place of neglect and decay - but not a disused church falling into ruin.

Now this was Greece, one of the heartlands of Orthodoxy. We were puzzled as to why the local people, who use the church, should allow it to fall into such a distasteful and disgraceful condition. I am not really even talking about expense, for it would cost little more than some manual effort to clean it and freshen it up.

Can anyone explain this to me?
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« Reply #55 on: May 27, 2011, 09:35:52 AM »

Can anyone explain this to me?

Not really. It's one church in a small village in Greece. Who knows why? Perhaps the population is aged, perhaps there is no money, perhaps there is no regular priest. There could be any number of reasons.

After all, would you be able to tell us why the roof wasn't repaired on a small evangelical church in Sussex, without talking to the parishioners or the pastor?
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« Reply #56 on: May 27, 2011, 04:26:13 PM »

In response to above concerning church budgets, visit my home of Lynchburg VA....tell you what just look it up...see what I call the mountain of power (IE Thulsa Doom's mountain from Conan). Its the falwell empire.

Basically, I can say that many mega-churches do have literally millions at their disposal because many either are ran as a business, or have businesses attached to them (book stores, clothiers, heck...even whole colleges).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_university

yeah, seriously....

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« Reply #57 on: May 28, 2011, 04:33:18 AM »

would you be able to tell us why the roof wasn't repaired on a small evangelical church in Sussex, ...?

Let us assume it was an independent church, or Baptist, or Congregationalist, because in these churches the local members are responsible for upkeep of the building. In some denominations (e.g. Methodist) the denomination central body has authority.) The chapel is owned by the legal trustees, who can be individuals, or a denominational body (such as the Baptist Union), but they are not usually involved unless the decision is taken to sell the building, or perhaps to build an extension. Then recall that, as a whole, England (where Sussex is, and where I used to live) has turned its back on God and prefers to live without him. I have read that about 2% of the population go to church frequently. This means that the upkeep of a lot of chapels is in the hands of a handful of loyal old people living off meagre pensions. Some years ago I read that the average Baptist church has 25 members; seeing there are some large thriving ones, this means there are lots which now have congregations of half a dozen people, all aged 60, 70 or older. That is why the roofs and other parts of the buildings are so often not maintained. It is, I think, a very different scenario from Greece, where Orthodoxy is so much part and parcel of the culture, and where the churches are cherished and loved. That was what mystified my wife and me when we stopped on our way to Drialos and went to look at (and in) the church "tou Agiou Petrou".

Perhaps I should have put this on the thread "An Outsider's Impressions of Orthodoxy", but it is not an impression so much as a question from one baffled.

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« Reply #58 on: May 28, 2011, 05:58:25 AM »

It is, I think, a very different scenario from Greece, where Orthodoxy is so much part and parcel of the culture, and where the churches are cherished and loved.

You may be surprised at just how little the average Greek cares about Christ -- I am not saying that in judgment but by way of explanation.

Thank God for those who are on fire for his truth.
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« Reply #59 on: June 03, 2011, 09:46:22 AM »

In some parts of the world the church or synagogue might be the only beauty the poor have access to. Also, the articles that add beauty to worship are one time expenses; if you sold a gold blessing cross or a silver Torah crown you might feed some for a day, but after thta money's gone they'll still need help and the ornaments will be gone.

Have you been reading Maxim Gorky by chance?  In one of his books he says just that.  As a poor boy going into the church was the only beautiful sight in his miserable existence in late 19th century Russia.
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