St. Chrysostom — why church attendance — why church buildings?

“This too might with reason be said to us: “Behold ye despisers.” For the Church indeed is in very evil case, although ye think her affairs to be in peace. For the mischief of it is, that while we labor under so many evils, we do not even know that we have any. “What sayest thou? We are in possession of our Churches, our Church property, and all the rest, the services are held, the congregation comes to Church every day.” True, but one is not to judge of the state of a Church from these things. From what then? Whether there be piety, whether we return home with profit each day, whether reaping some fruit, be it much or little, whether we do it not merely of routine and for the formal acquittance of a duty. Who has become a better man by attending (daily) service for a whole month? That is the point: otherwise the very thing which seems to bespeak a flourishing condition (of the Church,) does in fact bespeak an ill condition, when all this is done, and nothing comes of it. Would to God (that were all,) that nothing comes of it: but indeed, as things are, it turns out even for the worse. What fruit do ye get from your services? Surely if you were getting any profit by them, ye ought to have been long leading the life of true wisdom, with so many Prophets twice in every week discoursing to you, so many Apostles, and Evangelists, all setting forth the doctrines of salvation, and placing before you with much exactness that which can form the character aright. The soldier by going to his drill, becomes more perfect in his tactics: the wrestler by frequenting the gymnastic ground comes more skillful in wrestling: the physician by attending on his teacher becomes more accurate, and knows more, and learns more: and thou–what hast thou gained? I speak not to those who have been members of the Church only a year, but to those who from their earliest age have been attending the services. Think you that to be religious is to be constant in Church-going? This is nothing, unless we reap some fruit for ourselves: if (from gathering together in Church) we do not gather something for ourselves, it were better to remain at home. For our fore-fathers built the Churches for us, not just to bring us together from our private houses and show us one to another: since this could have been done also in a market place, and in baths, and in a public procession:–but to bring together learners and teachers, and make the one better by means of the other. With us it has all become mere customary routine, and formal discharge of a duty: a thing we are used to: that is all. Easter comes, and then great the stir, great the hubbub, and crowding of–I had rather not call them human beings, for their behaviour is not commonly human. Easter goes, the tumult abates, but then the quiet which succeeds is again fruitless of good. “Vigils, and holy hymn-singing.”–And what is got by these? Nay, it is all the worse. Many do so merely out of vanity” (The Acts of the Apostles, Homily XXIX).

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