The New Temple


MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD is celebrated on 1 January, the Octave of Christmas. (Fr Vincent pointed out in his Homily that this is feast the Latin Church lifted from the East. There it is observed on 26 December.) Mary is seen as a type of the Church because she opened her heart and her womb to the God of All Creation. One of my favorite titles for her is She Whose Womb was More Spacious Than the Heavens: the infinite God, Whom the heavens cannot contain, consenting to dwell within her. She is the fulfillment of the promise of the Tabernacle and Temple: he who dwells not in houses made by human hands dwelt, for nine months, in a house. Mary is the New Ark, the covenant written on the Tablet of Human Flesh coming forth from her; the new manna, the Bread of Angels stored within her; the symbols of the Priesthood carried in her. All that was foretold about the Virgin, fulfilled in her, unfolds to even greater fulfillment in the Church.

As the Temple (housing God’s presence) was to Israel, and Mary (housing the Messiah) is to the Church, so the Church (housing the Messiah’s substantial presence) is to the Whole World. And I don’t mean your local Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, or Brutalist physical plant either.

I mean you. We have a job to do, bearing God’s presence to the world.

The Fathers teach that as the soul is in the body, so the Church is in the world. The Church is, literally, the form of the world: what holds the world together, what moves the world closer to God – the ordered direction of all creation. And Mary, as the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, which is his body – as each member of the Church is also, on a lower typological level.

The name, “Israel”, is important here. It means to struggle with God: that is, against our own selfishness, concupiscence, and pride. Like ancient Israel, the Church is engaged fully in this process. We follow our elder brothers.

We do believe that goodness prevails, but the happy ending is not our focus. Our focus is the struggle to get there. Regardless of the result, the struggle itself is holy. If you strive for goodness, you’re in, even before you get there. If you’re trying to be better, even if you fall sometimes, you’re on the path. It’s all about the struggle.

Source (Retrieved 3 Jan 2023)

“The struggle itself is holy.” As we walk through the world daily, working out our salvation in fear and trembling, we are doing something not only for ourselves, but for the whole world.

As St Seraphim of Sarov said, “Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved.” Every one of us is called to this continual action of salvation on behalf of the entire world – even those who reject the offer. And, conversely, every sin draws down the world as well. God’s action is greater, of course, but it it often seems, as Tolkien said, a long defeat. Still, it is the action that is important.

As Mary’s assent to God allowed the Birth of the Messiah to save the world, so do each of us, as we struggle to make continual assent, allow God to continue that salvific action. Yes, he could do it all without us. But he has graciously invited us to participate in the Relationship of Son to Father. We act as sons healing the world.

Happy New Year!

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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