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Explanation of the 2017 Creative Festivals Theme

"My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Mark 11:17)

The entire quotation is as follows:

"Then He taught, saying to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?" 'But you have made it a den of thieves.'"

Jesus was referencing the quotation found in Isaiah 56:7-8:

"I will lead them to My holy mountain and gladden them in My house of prayer. Their whole burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar, for My house shall be called House of Prayer for All Nations," says the Lord who gathers the dispersed of Israel; "for I will gather a congregation to Him."

Comments from the Orthodox Study Bible:

"Those who bought and sold were trading in live animals to be used for sacrifices. The moneychangers traded Roman coins for Jewish coins since Roman coins, which bore the image of Caesar, were considered defiling the temple. The cleansing of the temple also points to the necessity that the Church be kept free of earthly pursuits. As each person is considered a temple of God (1 Co 3:16; 6:19) it is also a sign that our hearts and minds must be cleansed of earthly matters."

The entire temple was a sacred place, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in. The Courtyard of the Gentiles was the only place where Gentiles, or non-Jews, were allowed to pray. It was this courtyard that was being used to sell animals for sacrifices, thereby depriving the Gentiles of a holy place to pray. In addition, the animals were sold for exorbitant prices and the moneychangers sold coins at a very high rate of exchange.

How does this theme apply to us today? Our Church should first and foremost be a holy place of worship. We must demonstrate appropriate behavior while in church, show respect for our clergy, and proper reverence for religious objects, such as icons.

The Church is not a private social club. We need to treat all who come into our Church with love and kindness. Each of us must do everything we can to welcome others, whether they are Orthodox or non-Orthodox, young or old, or of different races or cultures.

Finally, just as the Church is a holy place, our bodies are temples of God. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus who dwells within us. We should do all we can to keep our bodies holy. As the post-Communion prayer of St. Simeon Metaphrastes states, "...Show me to be a Tabernacle of Thy Spirit only, and in no wise the dwelling-place of sin..."