Since Theophany is the season of house blessing, here is a saying of St. John Chrysostom from a sermon he gave in which we are called upon to think about our houses. Of course, a house may not refer to the building we call home. A house can have a symbolic or spiritual meaning as well. In Orthodox biblical theology and festal hymns we sing about the “house of David,” the “house of Israel” and the “house of Ephratha” all of which are using “house” in a spiritual way and even though they also have a very real meaning which has nothing to do with one building that someone lives in. Here are Chrysostom’s words:
“If you desire ease and pleasure, seek neither; instead seek a soul full of patience and fortitude, for if you lack this, not only will the trial put you to shame, but you even more clearly will be the victim of your repose. It is not the attack of evils, but the listlessness of the mind which subverts our salvation, as Christ said:
‘Whosoever hears these sayings of mind, does them, I will liken him unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded upon rock. Everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does them not shall be likened unto a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’
Do you understand that it was not the attack of tribulation that caused the downfall, but the folly of the builders? There was rain here and rain there, floods here and floods there; here the beatings of the winds, and there the same. The houses and trials were the same, but the end was not the same, because the foundations were different. Thus the folly of the builder, not the nature of the trial, caused the fall of the one building. This discourse relates to a soul which gives proof by its work that it hears the divine word or rejects it.” (Sermon: Patience and Fortitude, O LOGOS PUBLICATIONS, pp 4-5)
Note Chrysostom’s wisdom as he applies to our lives the parable of Matthew 7:24-27 – it is not the tribulation that causes the downfall. Both houses experience the same tribulation – one stands, one falls. All of us in this world are going to experience tribulations. We do not escape such trials just because we are believers.
The difference between the two buildings in Christ’s parable lies in the decisions of the builders, or as Chrysostom puts it it is the folly of the builder which causes the downfall. He then says this whole discourse is really about the soul, which is another work, and each of us becomes the builder of our soul. So what are we establishing our life upon? Are we guilty of the folly of the builder?
Upon what are you building your house? What about the house of your soul?