Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gaudy, But No God

You may think that I have gotten lazy and not posted anything on this dear website of mine, but au contrair, dear, dear reader (please read that with all of the anger it's due). Though I have been out of the country for the past month, I've made sure that I would have some stored-up articles ready to be posted every week. I simply have not announced them, o impassioned follower of Kingdom Eyes. I do believe I am allowed to take a vacation, no? (I really need to start being nicer.) I went to Romania.

Let's start off by saying that you need to stop everything you're doing right now, buy a plane ticket, and go to Romania. Like, right now. It's that great. I truly believe it is one of the most hidden gems of geographical and historical beauty that exists in the world. And yes, I know it is hidden because when I tell people my family is from Romania, they think I'm some Italian or something.

Anyway, woven into the history of this great nation is its involvement with the Eastern Orthodox church. Almost all of the great monasteries, cathedrals, and monuments scattered throughout Romania are Orthodox constructions, and they present a very unique and distinctive look and feel when compared to the religious buildings of other countries.

I won't dive into all of the difficulties and problems I have with the Orthodox church, but I will simply give an example that might get you to see what has molded my view of it:

My family had the opportunity to spend time with a group of Orthodox priests and monks, visiting various monasteries and churches. Contrasting with the often clean, un-cluttered look of Catholic cathedrals, stepping into an Orthodox church consists of first being affronted with the overwhelming smell that results from burning incense in a small room for hundreds of years. Once your eyes adjust to the light, you are bombarded with floor-to-ceiling, multi-colored, gold-laden depictions of Biblical characters and stories, painted in the same Byzantine art style that has existed for centuries. There you will find golden icons, relics, and artifacts which people touch, kiss, and rub their religious products all over for the betterment of their loved ones, all in accordance with their "holy tradition". But above all this noise, I was impressed with one important detail:

It was small.

This monumental building with all of its religious splendor could fit no more than perhaps 30 people inside of it. Don't get me wrong: from the outside, it was quite sizeable. But venturing to the inside, you find that man's attempt to create religious splendor crowds out the very people that would come to worship in this place. In the exorbitant amount of money spent to build and maintain this monstrosity of a building, there is no room for the needy and searching soul that might come to its doors.

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24)
O God, that we might not become obsessed with appearance and pride and forget the poor man who lives in brokenness. Let not our buildings and services become theater, but a home and a place for family to come and fellowship. Rebuke our desire for architectural and visual majesty at the cost of the orphan. If we must tear down our concrete so we may have bricks for the widow's home, let it be so.

You have already given us the most sophisticated temple, constructed by Your own hands; let us not frustrate ourselves in the futility of making something better.


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