Thus saith the Lord, ‘The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to me, declares the Lord; but this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.”
Many times in Africa I was given the opportunity to look up and gaze at the starry sky and be comforted by the majestic so-called ‘Southern Cross’, that magnificent constellation-cluster of four stars- that dominates the celestial firmament of our earth’s southern hemisphere alone. One could say that perhaps this is also a heavenly gift to the world of Africa, where the poorest nations of the world are located, two of which I was privileged to serve by the Grace of God and with the blessings of our Patriarch.
Gazing at it now from our dear Congo this time, a reasonable question arises in my mind: which is the most precious Temple in the world?
When in Madagascar, I was given the opportunity to conduct a Divine Liturgy in the countryside many times. I follow the same policy, out of necessity of course, here in Kisangani, in Eastern Congo. Whenever I celebrated a doxology outdoors and not in a church building, I experienced something unique at those wonderful vesper services under the Ambani keeli trees in Madagascar, or at the divine liturgies next to the natives’ huts, in the wake of the waves, near the Mozambique Channel. Now I am on the banks of our old father here, the Congo River, under the majestic palm trees of our land. All this composes an incomparable image in me. They repeat the same chant. They emphasize the one and only reality. They prolong the question within me and always make logic take the same path. A path that leads to the most beautiful Temples, which human hands could not possibly build and mechanical blueprint could never describe.
Let us not fool ourselves. It is neither the trees, nor the countryside, nor that truly unique starry sky, nor the waves, nor the rivers. But all this beautiful nature creates a unique setting around us, which brings us closer to God and His truth. Perhaps all this happens so that we can keep a humble attitude and return to reality.
Everything around us is sanctified and reborn before the unique Holy Temple of man. And it is this sanctification that is reflected in nature, in the buildings, in all those who want with humility and love to preserve these Temples in unity and love of Christ. That is why outdoor divine liturgies are truly unique experiences in church life when they are performed out of necessity to serve the faithful, especially the catechized brothers. It is an expression of sacrificial love for one’s fellow man, which truly perfects the built world and reduces it to its pre-fall ontological reality.
Then one can see the greatness of God, which really is incomparably superior to “the works of our hands”, however excessively we want to boast about them. All nature bears witness. The people around you confess through their very existence. We, spectators but at the same time sharers of this reality, admire for the “works of His hands”, the most beautiful Temple in the world, man:
“For you are the Temple of the living God. As God has said,“I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”(II Corinthians 6:16)
My dear brothers, these are some of the thoughts that cross my mind as I see our Sacred Church of Sts. Anne and Nektarios being gradually erected. Of course, the humble concern of the writer is to build a beautiful church, the first parish church of our Diocese, whose purpose is to become the means through which we will take care of and support these priceless Temples of souls and bodies, our native brothers in need. Thus, we will really build a Temple of the living God and not just a Church. At this moment we are in search of the remaining 20,000 euro for the completion of this Sacred Church of ours.
We have already purchased a plot of land near the existing one, and we are looking for a donor for its repayment. The amount due is 10,000 euro.
Around the church building, we have planned the construction of our first school, which will teach the poor native children our Faith, and also offer them access and opportunity in education. A Church without schools cannot exist. Let us not forget that. We make an appeal to whoever has the financial ability to contribute to the construction of “St. Nektarios School” The rough cost for the construction of the first wings is estimated at 50,000 euro.
Once again, we would like to thank the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessaloniki for their brotherly support in pursuing and strengthening our effort, and their paternal concern towards the person writing.
We pray to the Lord for our good-hearted donors, who have already entered the list of the benefactors of our Diocese and will be eternally remembered on the Altar Tables of the Churches, which, with the blessings of our Patriarch and your own prayers, we hope to see adorn our Diocese in the next years.
My humble prayer is one for all of us, with which I embrace you in the Lord and thank you from the bottom of my heart:
“Oh Lord, do not despise the works of Your hands!”
Archimandrite Polycarpos Diamantopoulos
Patriarchal Vicar of Kisangani