I attended a Greek ORTHODOX wedding last Sunday and it was my first experience with this old old orthodox faith. The Church itself was beautiful with hand painted icons larger than life adorning the sanctuary. While standing in the foyer waiting for the service to begin, I noticed the people who would be helping with the service (members of the body) coming in, and as they came in they would not speak a word, but STOP pick up a tiny thin candle and light it, place it standing and lit in a sand box of sorts with sand art in it; they would then proceed to a gilded copy of what I believe to be the Gospels where they would kiss the book, making a sign of the cross. This continued as they stopped at an Icon of Mary with the Christ child again STOP and kiss the icon (about a 24″x24″ painting), and again at another Icon stop and kiss the painting.
My first thought was WOW this is strange, and the wedding ceremony was just as strange, but as I thought about what was happening in the foyer it started to make sense in a way. Before coming into the presence of God in His sanctuary it was deemed very important to rid yourself of the world BEFORE coming in and focusing on one thing and one thing only, and that one thing is being in the presence of the living God in a place where the Triune God of creation is worshiped and adored above all other things in our lives. The presence of God is available to us everywhere but these principles were made very clear even though it may lend itself to vain repetitions of tradition, there is purpose here that we can learn from.
Psalm 46: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth.
Psalm 62:5 My soul,wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.
Jeremiah 29: 13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
Matthew 5: 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.
James 4:8 & 10 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you, cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts you double minded. 10 -Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.
While I may still see the rituals and iconography displayed in their faith as a bit out of balance, I do fear that we may stray too far in the other direction. We have an open and welcoming sanctuary that invites ALL to come into the presence of God with us, but it is still a SANCTUARY devoted to a living God and to His worship. May we always remember this and quiet our hearts by a simple prayer or a walk around the block or a time of quiet meditation over a passage of scripture, remembering always that many times it is in our stillness that God begins to move, moving in and through and for us as we seek His will and come into His house to worship.