On the Necessity of Church Buildings

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

God is omnipresent and therefore does not need churches, which are always small for Him and cannot contain him. But man is limited, and thus needs a limited revelation of God’s presence. God condescended to this need of man and deigned that this church exist, granting it the grace of His particular presence. We know of only one state of man in which he has no need of churches: the eternal life in the New Jerusalem, under a new heaven and new earth… The seer of mysteries notes a special, distinguishing feature of New Jerusalem, namely there is no church there: and I saw no church there (Rev. 21:22)… But we are not yet in the New Jerusalem, which will descend from the heavens, and therefore need a church. Belonging to creation after the Fall, our own flesh, rough and unpurified, blocks our entrance into the holy, grace-filled presence of God. This is why it is necessary for His charismatic presence to reveal Itself to us in the holy churches. The heavens– where Christ, our Light, ascended– have not yet opened up and revealed to us the radiance of His glory. Because of this we need for the time being at least a small heaven on earth, as well as light– even though it may be hidden in a mystery. We can find all this in church, through prayer, the word of God, and the sacraments. (Homilies and Speeches, 4.2-3)