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Author Topic: Balance between Church Externals and Provision for Poor  (Read 1541 times) Average Rating: 0
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Fr. David
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« on: February 25, 2005, 12:40:37 PM »

Rather than sidetrack an existing thread, I'll start something here based on this post from choirfiend:

Pedro,

The first and the best goes to God, tithe, harvest, materials, and spiritual efforts. The Church building is heaven on earth and should absolutely look like it. Plain, drab, unadorned buildings and materials aren't Orthodox. If all you have is wood, you'd carve it into adorned oblivion, but if you have brass and gold, you use it.

"Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then 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?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always."

First of all, I want to say that I'm not advocating bare-bones, sterile worship services or temples.  Choirfiend's right on this point; it's not Orthodox to do that.  Rather, I think, it's Calvinist.

My question is...isn't there a point where enough is enough, especially if those faithful around you are living in squalor?  I say this as someone who used to live in South America and saw the village Catholic churches with their amazing architecture, gorgeous statues, gold altars, etc...whose faithful came in rags to the masses.  The churches obviously had the money to help better their communities, but the majority of the funds were going into how the building looked.

Again, I'm not saying it's wrong to have a beautiful temple.  It's needed.  But isn't there a balance?  Can't we have beauty without going overboard?  And wasn't there a Russian bishop (I forget who; I heard it from Fr. John Matusiak, iirc) who basically called his diocese on this--the faithful were starving while the temples were gorgeous and he said all you really need is an alter, the priest and the faithful--and was pretty much run out of town because of this?

Just food for thought more than anything else, I guess.
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Robert
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2005, 12:52:00 PM »

You give the president the White House.
You give the King the castle.
You give the Sultan the palace.

It is only fitting to give the King of all the best temple of all.
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2005, 01:14:57 PM »

There's no reason you can't do both. Money spent on decorating a church is a one time expense; you buy an icon of St. Basil or St. Anastasia, put it up and that's it. If you took all the ornaments out of the churches and sold them it would feed the poor for a day or two.
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2005, 04:14:24 PM »

I agree with ALL of you guys!   Grin
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2005, 06:02:02 PM »

There's no reason you can't do both. Money spent on decorating a church is a one time expense; you buy an icon of St. Basil or St. Anastasia, put it up and that's it. If you took all the ornaments out of the churches and sold them it would feed the poor for a day or two.

Yeah, I know; it's not like most folks are constantly obsessing over their temple's decor, but there are some churches who just don't stop.  Like, exactly how vital is it that you "update" your icons to ones with gold foil background when the section-eight apartments next to the parish could really use a fresh coat of paint?

Quote
I agree with ALL of you guys!   Grin


 Roll Eyes  Gee, Bob.  Thanks.   Wink
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2005, 06:06:28 PM »

  I was under the impression that a lot of the more expensive stuff that a parish had came from donations in rememberance of some one.
But I know I've seen some churches and I think, "That isn't nice and it doesn't glorify God,  it's clutter."
  Also, our churches are built to last, we don't rebuild every few years.
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penelope
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2005, 10:06:42 PM »

Here is how Churches should be built. Grin
http://www.medsca.org/stav_intro.html
Nice and cheap too Wink
« Last Edit: February 25, 2005, 10:07:26 PM by penelope » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2005, 05:56:07 AM »

I can't help but remember that it was Judas who suggested that the spikenard used to annoint Jesus' feet should be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2005, 07:20:50 AM »

Even if I don't have enough to eat, I'll still bring my best for the Creator of the universe.

Kolya
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2005, 05:50:02 PM »

IC XC NIKA

I am not sure if he is considered a saint in the Orthodox Church, but I recall hearing of an early Christian by the name of St. Lawerance ( I believe that is his name).  He lived during the period when the emperors of Rome blamed even their bad acne on the Christians (okay, maybe not that far, but almost), and threw them to the lions.

At any rate, this emperor (or someone of the Roman govenment) heard of the riches of the Church; the gold chalices, vestments, etc., and decided to confiscate these goods for the empire.  Lawernce ran into the church, took all the the precious objects, and sold them, and gave the money to the poor.  When the Roman officials came to collect the goods, they were astonished to find nothing.  Asking Lawerance where all the goods were, Lawerance led them to the poor, and said, "These are the jewels of the Church." 

This to me, though an extreme, also shows a balance.  A Church should be built simply, yet dignified at the same time, without over doing or underdoing it, and what is left should help the community.  Of course, we shouldn't all run into churches, and steal the goods, but we should open our eyes to the poor.

Consequently, Lawerence was arrested, and was going to be burnt to death.  Yet in his good humor, while one of the sides of his body was being burnt, he screamed out to the soldiers, "You can flip me now, I am done on this side!"

I also recall Mother Teresa, truly a lover of the poor, who after winning the Noble Peace Prize, bought a new, and rather expensive, Tabernacle (I am not sure if it is called the same thing in the Orthodox Church), and was deeply critized, because the money could have been giving to the poor.  I think Mother had a wonderful concept of the balance.

Anyway, I don't know if this post helps at all, I really just like that story of Lawerance.

copticorthodoxboy
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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2005, 07:43:21 PM »

Coptic boy,

I think you're absolutely right when you give that example of Mother Teresa. That is indeed the proper balance. Most of the finery of the Church is probably of historical importance and rather ancient....I dont know how many churches have gold chalices, but I see a lot of brass.  Not many of the Orthodox that I know actually have riches in that way. At the same time, I dont forsee anyone selling the icon cover from the Tikhvin Theotokos to feed the poor in Moscow anytime soon. I think we are all called as individual people to give everything we can to the poor after giving the first to the Church. Let the Church do with that tithe what it will and let us individually contribe our time, money, effort, and love to the poor. The balance will be achieved.
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