My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which
you were taught, whether BY WORD or OUR EPISTLE" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Holy Tradition must be preserved by the Church, for God is its source. Holy Tradition is that which Jesus taught to the holy Apostles, and which they, in turn, taught the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in (a) their instructions as they visited the churches and (b) their sacred writings. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we adhere to Holy Tradition as it is present in the Apostles’ sacred writings and as it is resident in the Holy Church to which the Truth is promised. Saint John states, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:13-16). Because the Church is given this promise of being GUIDED "INTO ALL TRUTH", she trusts the work of "the Spirit" on behalf of those who have gone before: HOLY TRADITION.
One very significant tradition in Orthodox Christianity is the consecration of the church building immediately following its completion. "Consecration" is an act by which a person or a thing (i.e., building) is separated from secular or profane use and DEDICATED PERMANENTLY TO THE SACRED BY PRAYERS, RITES, AND CEREMONIES. Consecration in the strict sense is distinguished from blessing, benediction, or dedication in that consecration effects an INTIMATE TRANSFORMATION IN THE ESSENCE OF THE OBJECT AND THAT IT IS PERMANENT AND CAN BE NEITHER REVOKED NOR REPEATED. Within the Orthodox Church, the act of consecration can be applied to a bishop, substances of bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the descent and grace of the Holy Spirit during the Divine Liturgy, a fixed altar, a church, etc. From the earliest history of the Church, doctrine ordered that there be at least three bishops present for the consecration of a new bishop. The consecration takes place by the imposition of hands, as mentioned in the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles 13:2; Timothy 1).
From antiquity, the holy canons required that a new church be solemnly consecrated and dedicated to the Almighty God before divine services could be held. Consecration of an Orthodox church by the bishop or metropolitan includes anointing the church walls with holy chrism, the places anointing being by the sign of the Cross. The Consecration of a church (Εγκαίνια Ναού). The consecration of a church is a complex and long service that is filled with profound symbolism. Many biblical elements are taken from the Old Testament: the Consecration of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40) and of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8; 2 /Chronicles 5-7).
Once a building has been consecrated as a church IT MAY NOT BE USED AGAIN FOR A SECULAR PURPOSE. It is also understood that it cannot be sold to anyone outside the Faith for that would constitute ITS DESECRATION. Before construction begins, the local bishop lays a foundation stone that may or may contain holy relics of a Saint. After the construction of the new church has been completed the church building can be consecrated. While the consecration encompasses the whole church, the ceremony centers around the holy altar and holy altar table in particular. As salvation for an Orthodox Christian is union with Christ, called "Life In Christ", the center of this Life in Christ is the Holy Altar, the CONSECRATION OF A CHURCH IS, IN EFFECT, THE BAPTISM AND CHRISMATION OF THE CHURCH.
In the early Church when the Church was severely persecuted, the Christians met in catacombs (in underground burial places) where they celebrated the Holy Eucharist on the graves or tombs of the Martyred Saints. When persecutions against Christians ceased the tradition was continued by placing holy relics inside (in a crypt) in the Altar Table during the consecration of the church. This is a reminder that the Church was built on the sacred blood of the holy martyrs, and their faith in Jesus Christ the Divine Founder and Head of the Church.
After the Altar has been CONSECRATED, SANCTIFIED, AND ADORNED, THE ENTIRE CHURCH IS CENSED while Psalm 26 is recited. then, His Grace or Eminence the bishop or Metropolitan anoints with Holy Chism the FOUR WALLS OF THE CHURCH AND HOLY ICONS, MAKING THE SIGN OF THE CROSS ON EACH WITH THE HOLY CHRISM. The bishop then offers prayers for the ALTAR, CHURCH, AND FAITHFUL AND PLACES A LIGHTED VIGIL LAMP ON THE ALTAR TABLE.
What I find troubling in recent years is that Orthodox Consecrated churches are being sold NOT to another Orthodox congregation but to heterodox and others who are not even Christians, i.e., Muslims. It is wrong and against our Holy Faith and Tradition a clear desecration of the sacred Orthodox temple of worship. To tear or pluck out from the crypt the holy relics from the consecrated altar for the purpose of selling the church is a violation of all that which we as Orthodox Christians believe and hold sacred. It is truly a grave offense to God Himself to Whom the church was dedicated for His worship and by Whom it was consecrated. The practice of selling a Consecrated Orthodox Church is profane and must not continue and be condemned.
The late Blessed Ioannis Fountoulis, a Professor of the Theological Faculty at Thessaloniki University published five books on liturgical matters. His answers were always very detailed and studied and are considered by many as "The Authority" on liturgical questions. I suggest that those interested in learning more about the Holy Tradition and practices of the Holy Church turn to his writings.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George