Like Living Stones
"Like living stones, be yourselves built up into a spiritual house." (1 Peter 2:5)
Issue No. 1, May 27, 2001
Why a Church?
Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. (Mt. 28:20)
Jesus gave His disciples this tremendously consoling promise just before His Ascension into Heaven. Our Lord fulfilled this promise in four key ways:
These four manifestations of Christ’s continuing presence in the world come together in the Churches which Christians build and dedicate to the worship of God. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (¶1180) states, "When the exercise of religious liberty is not thwarted, Christians construct buildings for divine worship. These visible churches are not simply gathering places but signify and make visible the Church living in this place, the dwelling of God with men reconciled and united in Christ."
Jacob’s dream of a ladder reaching to Heaven prompts a feeling of awe: "This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven" (Gen 28:17). God tells Moses to remove his shoes, "for the place on which you stand is holy ground" (Ex. 3:2) The Tent of Meeting is where God lives among His people. When the movable Tent becomes the permanent Temple, it is so beautiful that the Psalmist "yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord." (Ps 84:2)
Jesus sanctified the Temple by His presence; but for the first three centuries, most Christian worship spaces were private homes or even caves. After persecutions ended and Christians could worship publicly, they created sacred worship spaces by building permanent Churches.
In these, they installed Altars for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Tabernacles for the reserved Sacrament, stained glass windows for the story of salvation, icons to point to holiness, and places to kneel and adore the God of Heaven.
To Catholics, the church building is not just a meeting hall for assemblies or an auditorium for sermons and religious music. It is a house of prayer, of Eucharistic Sacrifice. God’s presence makes it a place of Heaven. We remove our spiritual shoes. We are on holy ground.
A Living Temple
But the Church building is more than all that. Think of it as a large icon. Everything about it should tell us what we are to be as "living temples":
St. Maria Goretti, one of the four Saints whose relics will be included in Altar, understood what it meant for her body to be "a temple of the Holy Spirit." (cf. I Cor. 3:16, 6:19) Though only 12, she preferred to die rather than allow the purity of her body, the Spirit’s temple, to be violated by a rapist.
As we prepare for the Dedication of our Church—and just as important, the re-dedication of our lives—to Christ, let us ask St. Maria Goretti to pray for us, that like her, we may be faithful to Christ, even to death.
In order to participate more fully in this great occasion, choose any of the following activities that are appropriate. Please make the prayers a high priority, for
"Nothing is equal to prayer, for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy…"St. John Chrysostom
Come, Holy Spirit!
Let the fire fall!