Posted by: fvbcdm | February 27, 2014

Feast of Saint Anne Line (27 February 2014)

In the days of the Old Testament and up to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman army in the year 70 AD, the Jewish people thought of their religion as being centered in the Temple, which was where God dwelt in a special way with his people. That concept of geographical focus was so strong that every adult male among the Jewish people was expected, if he could, to go to Jerusalem and worship God three times a year.  Now, the farthest corners of the Holy Land were about a 4-days walk from Jerusalem, which meant that three times a year, the men from those more distant areas had to take about a week and a half off from their work to make the trip. And those who lived in what was called the Dispersion, i.e., those parts of the world outside the Holy Land, like Egypt or Greece or even Rome, were also expected to make those pilgrimages to Jerusalem if they could afford it.

Why was this? To ensure unity among the Jewish people.  To remind them that they worshiped the one and only God of Israel who dwelt with his people in the Temple at Jerusalem; to give them the occasion to listen to the teaching of the priests and levites in the Temple, to give them the opportunity to pray together and take part in the liturgical sacrifices of animals or produce which could only take place in the Temple.  Every town of any size where there was a number of Jews had a synagogue. But a synagogue was basically a school, not a church, not a place of liturgical, sacrificial worship.  The synagogue was typically headed by a rabbi (the word means “my teacher”), not a priest. The proper place for the priests was at the Temple in Jerusalem.

When Jesus died on the cross, the great curtain which hung before the Holy of Holies in the Temple was torn from top to bottom, thus symbolizing the end of God’s unique presence among his people in that room of darkness which represented the unfathomably mystery of God’s nature. And then, forty years later, the Romans under the command of Titus, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and leveled the Temple, just as Jesus had foretold.

What, then, takes the place of the Temple in the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ? The unity that he bequeathed to us is to be found in his presence in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the teaching authority of his vicar on earth, the Pope.  Thus we see that the geographical concept of God being HERE in this spot has given way to the theological concept of God being with us principally in his divine Son, Christ, who makes himself available to us in the Eucharist which we offer in sacrifice and receive in sacrament. And then, humanly visible in the person of the Supreme Pontiff, the successor of Saint Peter, who holds for us the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to use Jesus’s words. We need go no further than our parish church to find Jesus in the Eucharist and to hear the voice of Christ speaking to us through the words of our bishops and priests who speak in the name of Jesus. This is the unity of the New Testament. This is the “place,” for lack of a better word, where Christ dwells among us, teaches and sanctifies us, and unites us with him and with one another. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.


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