Some years ago, I commented to a priest friend, "Your church is relatively old, but you are still adorning it with icons and beautifying it. When will it ever be done?"

His response was telling: "It's never done. Each generation adds a layer. That's the life of the Orthodox Church." This answer has always stuck with me.

To be an Orthodox Christian means to faithfully emulate the life of holiness in each generation. Just as we see it in the holy services, this faithfulness is seen vividly in the adornment of Orthodox churches throughout the world.

Many people - Christian, as well as secular - object to the idea that any cost or effort should be expended on something that is "merely" external: much better, they would argue, that our wealth and energy should go to some "practical" purpose, such as feeding those in need, or supporting education or housing.

The Lord Himself tells us that we will always have the task of caring for the needs of others, and indeed, this is a Christian obligation. Yet the Church Fathers tell us that the real wisdom lies in placing our energies and wealth at the service of God, for the salvation of our soul and the souls of others.

This is the very reason the faithful in ancient Israel gave of their best goods and produce for the care of the Temple of God; the same is true today, when faithful Christians honour Christ and His saints with the best and most beautiful material things. It is not because God needs any of this: it is simply the fact that the holiness of God is the most ultimately worthy of all our efforts and sacrifice. It is us as frail human beings who benefit from all these material gifts to Christ's Church, as we put to holy use the worthy material gifts given in humility to Christ's temple.

As one Orthodox writer said, we are not souls encased in cans: we serve Christ who is fully God and fully man through material and non-material sacrifices. It is in this way that we put our physical lives to work for the salvation of our soul.

As another priest put it, "Your money is your life". At the very least, it is certainly one good measure of our seriousness towards the God we claim to serve.

- FrG=

"Ours must be an orthodoxy of the heart, not just the mind."

-St.Tikhon of Zadonsk