Rebuilding This Temple

Today the Church celebrates the fairly unusual feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which as the Pope’s cathedral is known as the “mother church” of not only the Diocese of Rome but of the whole world.

One line from the Gospel for today’s feast really struck me: “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (Jn. 2:20).

Of course the Jews were talking about the Jerusalem temple, and Jesus was talking about the temple of His Body, but there’s much more going on here than a simple equivocation on the word “temple.”

I began to wonder, what “temples” do we have? Well, we have our own cathedrals and parish churches, all constructed or renovated–or possibly (and tragically) “wreckovated”–over the course of many years.

We have our beloved Church, the destoyed and raised Body of Christ spread through space and time. Nearly two millennia later, this “temple” is still being built and rebuilt, as she weathers our sins and scandals from within and the buffets and travails from without.

And then we have temple of our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Like the Jerusalem temple mentioned in our verse, I’ve been under construction for 46 years (close enough, with a standard deviation of plus or minus three years!). And yet, several decades after becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit in baptism, I am still very much a work in progress.

Our Lord says that in three days He can rebuild a destroyed temple. He can accomplish–and has accomplished–much more in three days (and He really doesn’t ”need” any time at all) than we can ever hope to accomplish on our own. He acts quickly and decisively in providing good things for us. What an amazing consolation and source of hope!

Today we celebrate the dedication of a building. But even more than that, we celebrate what the building represents: God’s gift of His Church as our Mother and Teacher, through with we receive the very life of God.

Maybe our parish church has been bulldozed and surely the temples of our bodies have seen better days, but the temple–the Body of Christ–has been built to last, and indeed the powers of death shall not prevail against it.

5 responses

  1. Would it be fair to say, Leon that many of these “wreckovated” churches are pretty “craptacular” architecturally?

  2. Leon,
    I have been searching for the requirements for “desacralizing” a church. The hometown (actually rural) parish of my youth has closed. The Bishop came for the final Mass and it has been stripped as far as I know. (My parents scored the statue of St. Joseph for me as it went unclaimed)

    I think the relics have been removed from the altar, but what else is required so the Church may be sold?

  3. I’m glad to hear you got St. Joseph!

    As you may be aware, CUF’s new headquarters will be at the site of what was a parish church. For that story, see The local parishioners were very happy to see the property stay in the hands of a church-related entity.

    Canons 1212 and 1222 talk about how a church can lose its sacred character. The decree of the bishop typically suffices in that regard. There can be issues regarding sacred and precious goods, but it sounds like the church has been stripped down. Is the altar still there? Usually there are other churches and chapels that can use tabernacles, altars, and the like anyway. I’ll let Eric from our Catholic Responses department weigh in with any further details.

  4. There was the decree of the bishop as he said the final Mass there. Sadly I live 800+ miles away and was not able to attend. The altar still is there, some are looking into moving it to a museum or elsewhere. As I said, I am pretty sure the relics where removed, but still to me the altar would be sacred based on having the Eucharist offer on it.

    I recall the first book of Maccabees where the faithful Jews tore down the altar that had been desecrated by the blood of pigs. But they kept the stones of the altar and set them aside until they could have a priest help them figure out how to treat them. So if that altar, although desecrated, was considered still sacred because of mere holocausts, how much more would the altar that held the Creator of the universe?

    And thank you for your response.

  5. You’re right, the altar deserves special treatment, and likely it will be moved to a museum or another church.

    Canons 1238-39 speak specifically of altars, and note that “altars, be they fixed or movable, do not lose their dedication or blessing through the reduction of a church or other sacred place to profane uses. Also, “both a fixed and a movable altar are to be reserved exclusively for divine worship and entirely exempt from profane use.”

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