Word Magazine October 1964 Page 13
WHAT MY CHURCH MEANS TO ME
By Beverly Maloof — age l5
Church of St. John of Damascus, Boston, Massachusetts
First Prize Winning Oratorical — New England Region of SOYO
In answering this question, I first must express what I consider the church to be. I feel that the church is something we cannot define, for it has many meanings. One may say that he goes to church to pray and to be with God. Another may say that he attends church since society expects it of him. But no matter how you try to define church, it always refers to the people of God.
One important way in gaining God’s true love is to walk in His path, love Him, and serve Him from the bottom of your heart. St. Cyprian said, “He cannot have God for a Father who has not the Church for his Mother.” Those who love God and go to church to worship Him will gain His true love.
We all know that churches are temples of worship. But there are many forms and they all have their own symbolic meaning. A church constructed in the form of a cross is dedicated to the Savior and represents Christ’s Crucifixion to redeem sinners. A church built in an oblong shape to resemble a ship denotes that it is through the church that we are saved. A church constructed in the form of a circle signifies that the church, like a circle, is endless. In all of these cases, the church is the main path to the Kingdom of God.
I feel that the contents of the church are just as important as the church itself. Church symbolism dates back to the very beginning of Christianity. The anchor symbolizes a belief and hope in God. The Gospel is significant of the Word of God. The censor denotes the warmth of prayer, symbolized by incense. There are many more wonderful significant contents placed in our church, but the one closest to me is the cross. The cross symbolizes the Crucifixion of our Lord, through whom we receive our salvation. Whenever I hold the cross or wear it around my neck, I feel that the Lord is with me and will continue to be with me until I die. During the terrible hour of our Lord’s Crucifixion, love was there — His undying love for us.
Love is the key to happiness. Without love and love of your religion, there is not much to live for. Love is found everywhere throughout the church. St. John said, “If a man say I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen cannot love God whom he hath not seen.” Love was first emphasized by Jesus at the inauguration of the Last Supper. He loved everyone and asked no reward other than the spiritual satisfaction of knowing that His action was Godlike. To me, one should feel nearly the same as Christ did Himself. We attend church not only for the satisfaction of being there, but knowing that God is with us and we are honored to be with Him. My way of feeling this satisfaction is through Holy Confession and Holy Communion.
Before I receive Holy Confession, I ask myself many questions, but the most important one is: am I loyal to God and my church? Before answering this question, I first must answer other questions. I ask myself if I am an active member of the church school, abide by the Ten Commandments and respect the Seven Sacraments. Most of all, do I love my church? If all of these answer yes, I feel that I am prepared to receive Holy Confession. I feel that Holy Communion has a deeper meaning than receiving the body and blood of Christ. When the priest places the substance into my mouth, I feel that Christ is within me and that I am a new person. I receive a great feeling of hope and love. All of this would not be possible without my church.
The church has another very specific meaning to me. We all know that the church is the Lord’s house, but to me the church is the body of Christ, with each member having a specific function and obligation — all working together unto the same spirit and all characterized by humility and love. If we all live remembering that the church helps to bring us together as the children of God, we will live the life of true Orthodox Christians.
In conclusion, my Orthodox faith has helped me to discover Christ, to know him, and to love him. I pray I may be worthy of His love.