Why is the Orthodox Church afraid to acknowledge that Christ ( God ) is actually 'in' Her, not just in a metaphorical ( mystical? ) way, but in Reality, and has cemented the Bond of Marriage with Her? Are we here simply to do the will of our Heavenly Father, or have we become One with Him that we might enjoy Him forever, like an old Married Couple? Are we here to simply reflect and symbolize His Glory, or are we here to be His Glory and shine it forth into every dark place?
Our lives should show forth His Glory, as the Psalmist wrote in his 19th Psalm, 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork'; yes, arguably, our clothing, demeanor, and even architecture should reflect this Divine Purpose, but just like the practice of Circumcision, Passover & the keeping of the Feasts ( and Sabbaths ) under that first ( covenant ), and Baptism & The Lord's Supper in the New Covenant, if these symbols simply reflect a dutiful observance, while inside, the observers are 'full of dead men's bones' ( 'Whitened Sepulchres'-Matthew 23:27 )!
Symbols are helpful; there is nothing intrinsically wrong with symbols! They help us to understand why a certain set of actions is required, or suggested. For instance, a school crossing sign tells us that school children often occupy a certain place at times, and the sign is painted yellow to make us understand that we should use extreme caution in proceeding into that space! Signs are very helpful in other areas as well, and can even save lives! Imagine that you are in a large unfamiliar city ( even a small one ), and you suddenly find yourself in a life or death situation, and need to find an ER or hospital quickly; following the blue hospital signs, one can usually be found fairly easily! Of less importance, but still very helpful, if one needs to find the airport in any given city, or even just to find the way back to the interstate, by following the signs, one can eventually find the way to their desired destination.
The Architecture of the Church, especially in centuries past, symbolizes very well the Beauty of Zion! David wrote again, in his 48th Psalm, 'Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, [ is ] Mount Zion [ on ] the sides of the north, the city of the great King'. The City that John described in Revelation 21 as, 'descending out of heaven from God' and 'having the glory of God' was/is beautiful indeed! This Beauty, though symbolized in John's use of metaphor, and evident still today in the actions of God's People, was never meant to remain as such, but always & only pointed to the Reality, which was 'Christ in you, the hope of glory', as the apostle Paul told the Church in Colosse.
Does one form of architecture better symbolize more clearly to a watching world, the Beauty of the Reality of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth? Does a certain type of clothing, as opposed to another, better represent or reflect the Reality of Christ in Us? It might seem so, and in fact there is nothing wrong with building or dressing symbolically, but is not this Reality better represented by a Life Lived in Communion with that Blessed Presence? Are we, as the People of God, not the Reality of which John wrote? The Author of Hebrews said as much when He wrote, 'But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than [ that of ] Abel'.
If we are focused on the Symbol rather than the Reality, we will, as did the pharasaical Jews, be found to have turned the Temple of the Living God into an idol, saying with them 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord [ are ] these'. Even His own disciples said, 'Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings [ are here! ]' ( Mark 13:1 )
This is much of the problem in today's Church; with futurism so rampant, the belief that Jesus did not return when & how He promised, and thus that the Marriage of Heaven & Earth has not yet taken place, the People of God, for the most part, are still living as though the Glorious Presence of God is only in some building, some structure that man has devised, rather than accepting the act that He did return when & how He promised, and now dwells as One with ( in ) His People, who are now 'leaves of the tree......for the healing of the nations' ( Revelation 22:2 ). As the True Temple of the Lord, we can much better present the Truth of the Reality to the 'world' around us by Living in the Blessedness of the Presence before them, than could ever be represented by some building, no matter how beautiful or glorious!
Let us determine to live such a Life before a watching 'world' that men & women everywhere will 'see' our good works and glorify our Heavenly Father; let us not rely on mere symbols to shine forth His Glory, but let our Love & Communion be the Evidence of the Reality!
Charles Haddon Shank