The Church of Many Rooms

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In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2).

I have shared before about a dream I once had of a Church in which there were many rooms. It was an old, wooden Orthodox Church, packed with people and with a service going on – but the service continued from room to room. The image has stayed with me for better than 20 years.

Frequently when I think of the heart, which is finally that Church in which we must all learn to worship, I remember this dream and the saying of Christ that in His Father’s house are many rooms (RSV translation). Most particularly I think this dream, for the inside seemed larger than the outside.

Human beings are more-or-less the same size – give or take a few feet and inches. But what we do not see in the other is the space within the heart. A spiritual space, and yet a space that is here, within us. I have quoted on my sidebar the saying of St. Macarius:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (H.43.7)

There is such a fullness present within the heart that learning to go there is utterly essential for us as believers. If we do not know the treasures that are ours in the heart then we will likely not recognize them when we see them set before us elsewhere.

St. Macarius does not mention the Church in his list of things within the heart, although it too must be there if the life and kingdom, the light, the apostles, the heavenly cities, etc., are all there. In the end, and even now as God makes the end to be present to us, the Church is all of these good things – for it is the very Body of Christ, it is the fulfillment of His eternal purpose:

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10.)

This eternal purposed is echoed again later in Ephesians with a slightly different twist:

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him (Ephesians 3:7-12). Emphasis added.

I have often spent time teaching Catechumens and others about the kinship between the Church in which we worship and the heart that dwells within us. I take time to talk about the Narthex, the outer court of the heart, its most public place, also to speak about the Nave which is the court of friends. There in the Nave are the majority of icons and the gathering of the people. But I spend the most time teaching about the area of the altar, which is the throne-room of God. That place in the heart which corresponds to it is the most intimate place within us. There we sup with God as He promised (Rev. 3:20). This is the place of great prayer.

And just as I have described three rooms within the heart, so we also discover that those rooms are larger than we dreamed. A room that is large enough for us to sup with God must indeed be larger than the universe! And so God means to make us larger, to teach us to have room in our heart for the whole world and more.

We have had our conversations about Churches, which we will not resolve by argument or counter-argument, for the Church is not an argument but a reality given to us by Christ. There indeed is salvation to be found, for there is Christ, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there.

Glory to God for all things!

5 Responses to “The Church of Many Rooms”

  1. Mary Lowell Says:

    Dear Father,

    I recognize Andrew Gould’s hand in the drawing set at the head of your remarks, plans for St. Joseph and Andrew Orthodox Church near Asheville, NC. But the greater context is the indestructible dwelling of the heart that you have so clearly described: our failures become triumphant, caught up into the New Jerusalem.

    Amen!

  2. Stacey Says:

    There is more space than the universe in our hearts, and when we speak from our center, our throne room, (as you have surely done), we enlarge the hearts, the world, of those that listen. Thank you for bringing me back to the heart of Orthodoxy.

  3. Athanasia Says:

    Dear Fr. Stephen, Father bless!

    Forgive me for posting this personal message on your blog but I couldn’t find your email address on here. No doubt, I didn’t look hard enough.

    When I saw the photo above the post, it caused all blood to drain from my face. As a child, I had a recurring dream, actually a nightmare. I was in a hall way with many doors and columns. I could not find my way. I could not get a door to open.

    The hallway looked exactly like the drawing above.

    I was Roman Catholic at the time.

    Very strange. I will need to ponder this.

    Where, may I ask, did you get the drawing?

    Kissing your right hand,
    Athanasia

  4. fatherstephen Says:

    It is an architect’s drawing for a possible Church in Atlanta, GA. Nothing more.

  5. fatherstephen Says:

    But, do not fear, God will open doors.

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