‘A holy historical incident of major ecclesiastical interest, is that of Jacob running away from his brother Esau. On his aimless way, lonely, distressed and [with] nothing to look forward to, he rested his head on a stone and dreamt. There was a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it reached heaven, and behold the angels of God were ascending and descending on it, and the Lord stood above it and said, “I am with you”, (Gen. 28:12-15). Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place! How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Early in the morning, Jacob rose and took the stone which he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it and called the place BETHEL, i.e. “HOUSE OF GOD”.
…God wanted to illustrate two vital facts of faith in conjunction with his relation with the people. These are: His existence among them, and the accessibility of the heavens to man.
1. His existence among them: While Jacob was running away aimlessly, with no place to rest, and nobody to shelter him or offer him sympathy, God’s voice assured him, “I am with you” (Gen 28:15).
This point should be distinctly reflected on the church building. As Jacob found relief when he laid his head at the foot of the ladder, so it is with us at the steps of the house of God. Indeed, our souls rejoice, “Truly God is in this place”, and the inner Jacob within us hears God’s encouraging voice, through the building rite, saying, “I am with you”.
2. The accessibility of the heavens to man: Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending on the ladder and at the top of which the Lord was standing: as if God wanted to fulfil His wish of linking the heavenly creation with the earthly one through incarnation and crucifixion (the heavenly ladder). Angels descend to serve the people, and humans rise to join the angels in their worship… Such a magnificent exchange explains why the church is called “House of Angels”.
This is what was visualised by St. Chrysostom on contemplation of the incarnation. He said (1), “First the Lord sends angels to people, then leads the humans to the heavens, thus establishing a heaven on earth, so that heaven is obliged to accept the human creation”. ‘
– Fr Tadros Y. Malaty – The Church the House of God
(1) Sunday Sermons of the Great Frs, Vol 1, p 113.