Thankful for An Eternal TempleFr. Barnabas Powell
I remember reading Aesop’s Fables and Mother Goose stories to my kids when they were little and actually would sit still while I read to them! These stories contained cultural lessons that have been passed down for generations. Humpty Dumpty, Old Mother Hubbard, The Hare and the Tortoise, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and so many others gave me a way to tell morals and lessons in a fashion that has been used forever to pass on cultural wisdom.
So imagine my surprise when I was talking to a group of 11 to 14-year-olds and I mentioned David and Goliath, and many of them had no idea what I was talking about. A generation has been disconnected from a communal memory through stories and the consequences for society may mean a whole generation of ill-prepared adults for mature living. The diabolical theft of the wisdom of our wonderful Faith by those who wish to “remake” society into the secular desert of their shallow immaturity can only happen IF we refuse to preserve and champion the timeless wisdom that makes humans into civilized and whole persons. God ain’t got no grandchildren! We have to prepare every generation to make this wisdom their own!
This is why I want you to handle the scriptures every day, and why I do this work. You being familiar with these stories equips you to apply wisdom to your everyday life. Today’s story is quite significant as we discover the power of the Eternal Temple. Thank God for that Temple!
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 9:1-7:
BRETHREN, the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people.
St. Paul needs to remind these Jewish converts to Christianity that there’s no going back to the Temporary Tent Moses had set up in the Wilderness after the Jews were liberated from Egypt. The very nature of their movable worship area was meant to be temporary. And even though amazing miracles occurred in the Tabernacle, these people needed to be reminded that there was something more to come that would mean the end of the Temporary Tent.
The regulations for worship in this “earthly sanctuary” were meant to teach the people how to relate and know God and how to relate and know each other. This was the beginning of the restoration of humanity to God’s true intentions for our creation. The Tent had symbols for light, gold fixtures, and miracle bread all meant to teach the people that God wants them to see the beauty and to know He will give them the true food they deeply need. The rhythm of prayers, the shape of the liturgy in the Tent, and even how the priests were dressed, all were meant to be signposts to deeper meanings and eternal wisdom. But the Tabernacle itself was created to come to the end of its usefulness and purpose.
All too often we get enamored with the trappings and get fixated on the outward rule-keeping and think this is all there is. But that always means there will be a Generation that will not know WHY the trappings are there, and the Generation after that forgetful Generation won’t bother with the trappings at all. This is why we Orthodox must always focus on the WHY of our rituals and pass on this purposeful embrace to the next generation. Catechizing you and your family is necessary if the Orthodox Faith is going to be more than merely a cultural decoration of a “Temporary Tent.” We have to look behind the beauty of the liturgy and the saints and the vestments and the candles and the incense to the Eternal Temple that is the Church of our Lord Jesus. And YOU are that Temple, not the buildings we build but the lives we see transformed by the Eternal wisdom of the Faith, once and for all, delivered to the saints.
We celebrate the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple today. Tradition tells us Joachim and Anna brought Mary to the Temple when she was 3 years old to live and be raised in the Temple so she could become the “Temple” of God in bringing Christ into the world. She lived in the Temple until she was 14 or 15 years old. The whole time she is being trained in the ways of God. She becomes used to being in God’s presence. She is formed in the Law and the rhythm of prayer, fasting, and feasting and all the sacrifices of the Temple. Her life is formed in such a way that being with God, serving God, and loving God becomes the only way she knows how to live. Her parents died three years before she left the Temple to be betrothed to Joseph. It was all those years of preparation, training, and formation in the Faith that made Mary ready for the cosmic ministry of becoming the Mother of God in giving birth to Jesus, God in the Flesh. She was formed to be the vessel from whom God took His flesh so that we would all see the dignity and purpose of each one of us to be the “Temple” of God in our times as well. An eternal Temple, not just a temporary “tent.”
Today, are you still stuck in the Temporary Tent, or are you discovering the wisdom preserved in our beautiful Faith that is meant to transform your everyday life? This awesome Orthodox Faith is the Eternal Temple of God’s People to draw everyone to live a Normal Orthodox Life!
P.S. Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.