On the Feast of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Mother of God, we blessed the new shrine we built in her honor and celebrated the Divine Liturgy there to seal the consecration of the place. And you know what? It happened! I mean, God took the place unto Himself and set it apart for his glory. How do I know that?
Well, first of all, from the efficacy of the prayers of the Church. One of the prayers for the blessing is quite striking in that regard: “Almighty and merciful God, who conferred on your priests above all others so great a grace, that whatever they do worthily and exactly in your name is regarded as being done by You: we pray that in your kindness You may be present wherever we are present and may bless whatever we bless. And at our humble coming, through the merits of your saints, may demons flee and the angel of peace be at hand…” God hears the prayers of his Bride the Church, for He Himself has inspired them.
Second, from the Gospel reading for the blessing of the place (which is also used to bless the foundation of a new church). After Jesus tells Peter that upon him (the rock) He will build his Church, He says that whatever he binds or looses on earth will be done also in heaven. Therefore what we ordained ministers of the Church have done in the Lord’s name, and as an official act of the Church, is recorded, accepted in heaven. Heaven takes notice, heaven responds; what we have done here is acknowledged there, and so it comes to pass—so much so that the line between the “here” and the “there” becomes quite indistinct.
Third, from my own experience (though such things must always be subject to wise discernment). There was a moment in the Divine Liturgy in which I became aware that the Lord was claiming the place as his own. As I elevated the Consecrated Lamb (Host), I somehow sensed that the Lord was standing right there in the middle of the shrine, saying, “This is mine.” He filled the place, and then filled our souls at Holy Communion.
It is unfortunate that so many people in “developed” societies have excluded from their consciousness or belief the possibility of divine intervention in human affairs. Ancient man knew a sacred space when he walked into one. When God chose to reveal Himself, He set aside certain places where He wished to be encountered and worshiped. And so it is today, for those who have eyes to see, hearts to believe, and spirits open to the grace of the living God. Our little shrine has become a window to the world of God, a place in which Jesus’ Mother is specially honored and hence specially present, a place where “the angel of peace is at hand,” a place where one can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).
Know then, that churches and other places consecrated to God are meant by Him to be windows to his world, places of encounter, places where our supplications are favorably received. In hidden places, like a little monastery in the forested hills outside a tiny town in a relatively unknown corner of northern