The above quote is taken from St Nikolai Velimirovich’s book The Universe as Signs and Symbols. And it made me stop and ponder: if somebody could magically or mystically wave a wand over me and construct a temple using what is inside of my heart, what would it look like?
Since an Orthodox church is also called a temple, I thought I would use that for my metaphor.
WHAT’S IN MY HEART?
What kind of icons would appear? Would there be the saints, angels, and a Savior, or would there mostly be pictures of personal achievements that make me feel proud or, worse still, profane and vulgar ideas and memories?
Would there be people inside whom I deeply love and care for, or would it be empty because my pride and vanity, while falsely making me look like a caring person, would drive anyone away from truly dwelling inside? Would the door be opened, or would it be nailed shut with the remembrance of those who have hurt and wronged me?
Would the iconostas feature images from my life in Christ: starting with my birth in the Church to my ascension to meet Christ, or would there be more scenes of egotism and vulgarity lining the entrance to the deepest and innermost chamber of my heart: the altar.
On the altar, what would I find? A crucifix symbolizing my willingness to kill the old man, set aside my will for Christ’s, and suffer without complaint knowing I deserve my suffering? Or would there be worries and fears, work and family priorities, symbols of luxury and comfort, and a plan about how I want my life to look?
A HOLY TEMPLE OR A GRAVE?
St Nikolai also states that well decorated sepulchers (graves) symbolize the hypocrites. I remember one day spending a great amount of time in a large cemetery. There were simple little gravestones, and then there were luxurious sepulchers with a concrete foundation, marble walls, and a roof.
But even these were filled with dead men’s bones. And they symbolize my life when I perform good deeds and look like a really good, nice guy; but inside I am not vigilant with my thoughts nor are my motives for what I do as pure as I would like to think they are.
St Macarius once said,
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.
What is in your heart?