On The Church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square today.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning! Today I would like briefly mention another image that helps us to illustrate the mystery of the Church: that of the temple (cf. Second Vat. Ecum. Council,  Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 6).

What does the word Temple make us think of? It makes us think of a building, a construction.

Specifically, many people's minds go immediately to the story of the People of Israel narrated in the Old Testament. In Jerusalem, the great Temple of Solomon was the site of the encounter with God in prayer; inside the temple there was the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of the presence of God in the midst of the people; and in the Ark were the Tables of the Law, the manna and the rod of Aaron: a reminder of the fact that God was always present in the history of his people, he had accompanied them on their journey, he had guided their steps. The temple calls to mind this history: we too, when we go to the temple [church] must remember this story, each one of us his own history, how Jesus found me, how Jesus has walked with me, how Jesus loves me and blesses me.

Here, what was foreshadowed in the old Temple, is fufilled by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Church: the Church is the "House of God", the place of his presence, where we can find and meet the Lord; the Church is the Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, who animates, guides and sustains it. If we ask ourselves: where can we meet God? Where we can enter into communion with him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the holy spirit that lights up our lives? The answer is: in the People of God, among us, who are the Church. Here we will find Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father.

The ancient temple was built by the hands of men: they wanted to "give a house" to God, to have a visible sign of his presence in the midst of the people. With the incarnation of the Son of God, Nathan's prophecy to King David is fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7:1-29): it is not the king, nor are we the ones who "give a house to God", but it is God himself who "builds his house" to come to live in our midst, as St. John writes in the prologue of his Gospel (cf. 1:14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his "spiritual home", the Church, made not of physical stones but of "living stones", which are us. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus: "You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also come built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God” (Eph 2:20-22). How beautiful this is! We are the living stones of God's building, deeply united to Christ, who is the cornerstone, and is also a keystone among us. What does this mean? It means that we are the temple, we are the living Church, the living temple and when we are together the Holy Spirit, too, is present, who helps us to grow as Church. We are therefore not isolated, but we are the People of God: this is the Church!

And it is the Holy Spirit with his gifts, who designs this variety, the richness in the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, where we offer not sacrifices, but ourselves, our lives (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). The Church is not an interweaving of things and interests, but is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple where God works, the temple where each of us with the gift of baptism is a living stone. This tells us that no one is useless in the Church, and if someone occasionally says to another: “Go home, you’re useless”, this is not true, because no one is useless in the Church, we are all necessary to build this Temple! No one is secondary. No one is the most important in the Church; we are all equal in God’s eyes. Someone among you could say: “Listen, Mr. Pope, you’re not equal to us”. Yes, I am like each one of you, we are equal, we are brothers! Nobody is anonymous: we all form and build the Church. This also invites us to reflect on the fact that if the brick of our Christian life is lacking, something is missing from the beauty of the Church. Some say, “I have nothing to do with the Church”, but in this way, the brick of one life is missing from this beautiful Temple. No one can leave, we must all bring to the Church our life, our heart, our love, our thought, our work: all of us together.

I would like then for us to ask ourselves: how can we live our being Church? Are we living stones or are we, so to speak, tired, bored, indifferent stones? Have you seen how unattractive it is to see a tired, bored, indifferent Christian? A Christian of this kind is no good, a Christian must be alive, joyful about being Christian; he must live this beauty of being part of the People of God which is the Church. Do we open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be an active part in our community, or do we close in on ourselves, saying: "I have so many things to do, it's not my job"?

May the Lord give us his grace, his strength, so that we may be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, the keystone of our lives and the whole life of the Church. Let us pray that, animated by his spirit, we may always be living stones of his Church.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, today we consider the Church as God’s temple. The great temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, a place of prayer and encounter with the Lord, was a prefigurement of the Church. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son who dwelt among us, is himself the definitive and living temple where we encounter God’s presence in our midst. Christ makes us, the members of his mystical body, "living stones" for the construction of a "holy temple in the Lord" (Eph 2:21), in which we exercise our baptismal priesthood by offering spiritual sacrifices. The Holy Spirit, in the variety of his gifts, unites us and enables us to contribute to the building up of the Church in holiness. In this great work, each of us has a part to play; each of us, as a "living stone", is needed for the growth and the beauty of God’s holy temple. Let us ask the Lord to help us to take an ever more active part in the Church’s life and mission, guided by the Holy Spirit and with Jesus as our cornerstone.

Holy Father (in Italian):

I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada and the United States. May your stay in the Eternal City confirm you in love for our Lord and his Church. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims: parishes, associations, confraternities, institutions, schools and various groups. In particular, I greet the faithful of the dioceses of Sessa Aurunca and of Caltagirone, accompanied by their respective bishops. An affectionate thought goes out to the Fr. Abbot Pietro Vittorelli and the faithful of the territorial Abbey of Monte Cassino.

I am pleased to greet Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi and all who are close to him on the occasion of his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination, and the 40th anniversary of his episcopate! It is a beautiful service that he has rendered with a father’s heart, with the goodness of a father, and with this heart of a father he has done so much good to the Church. This morning we celebrated Mass and there was a small group of priests who were ordained by him. The group was small: there were more than eighty of them! Just imagine how many he has ordained: let us thank him for all that he has done for the Church.

I greet the Daughters of the Church and the Sisters of the Poor celebrating their general chapters. I would like, moreover, as usual, to address a special greeting to the young people, the sick and newlyweds.

For each one I hope this meeting may constitute an encouragement to spread with enthusiasm the novelty of the perennial message of salvation brought by Christ.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]