46 years to build one project? And I thought that it took a long time to get something built here in Crested Butte. Imagine the contractors’ fees on that project.
The temple of Jerusalem, that the individuals referred to in the Gospel, was constructed by Herod. It was started in 20 BC and finished right before Jesus started his ministry. It was the center of Jewish life. It was not only the focus of religious ritual but also the repository of the Holy Scriptures and other national literature and the meeting place of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of Jewish law during the Roman period. The rebellion against Rome that began in 66 AD soon focused on the Temple and effectively ended with the Temple’s destruction on the 9th/10th of Av, 70 AD. That date, the 9th of Av, has great significance as it is known as the Tisha b’Av, Jewish day of mourning. This structure had so much significance to the people of Israel through out their history.
All that was known in the time of Jesus was that the temple was magnificent. It was huge and impressive and in one part of the gospel, Jesus treats it with the upmost respect, driving out the money changers. And in the other portion He says that he could destroy and rebuild it in three days. Understand the insult suggesting that it could be rebuilt by anyone in three days.
We know that He was not speaking of the temple structure but the temple of his body. In the second reading we hear that the temple Paul was also not talking about the temple structure but the temple of our body, “you are God’s building”. These analogies of relating building terminology to the Kingdome and Temples of God are all over the bible. We are the “stone rejected”, Jesus is the “cornerstone”. There are references to “the master builder” and a building’s sturdy foundation. There is even a reference, in Job 27, to a house being built like a spider web …. I don’t know what that was all about.
The scripture imagery of house construction has always made sense to me. Obviously. The imagery of the building foundation and the corner stones are wonderful examples of the importance of setting your relationship with God first so that other things can build upon it and fall into place.
As we heard the Temple in Jerusalem took 46 years to build, and that seems like a sort of long time, but did you know that it took almost 300 years to build Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 300 years! Dozens of generations lived and died in the shadow of the construction of that beautiful cathedral. They lived with it, worked on it and died next to it, but as it neared completion people were afraid to walk inside of it because it was thought that it had to be held up by witchcraft. To a society that thought a simple window in the side of their hut was the height of engineering advancement imagine the marvel of a 10-story flying buttress that left entire sides of the cathedral without any visible means of support.
Today is the feast day of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It is the oldest church in the world, being built between 311 and 314 (three years of construction, now that is starting to sound more like it). Interestingly enough, there is no one named John Lateran. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist are the name sakes and Lateran refers to the Laterini family that paid for it to be constructed.
The building is not what is important, what it holds, what it signifies and what it stands for is.
When I talk to students about architecture and building design, I talk about what a building holds, what it signifies and what it stands for, but I also talk about creating new realities. Without the building enclosure you would just be standing outside, and it would be cold, or windy, or rainy or snowy. Inside the building, is a created reality. Inside it is warm and comfortable and safe. Inside you do not have to worry about the outside elements.
The created reality inside the Notre Dame Cathedrals was one filled with colored light that soared up to the heavens. The reality of the Temple in Jerusalem was one of community, praise, and worship free from the hardships of the desert.
As I noted before, the second reading says that we are the temple of God. Inside us is that created reality that exists only through the hand of God.
Outside it may be scary and lonely but inside that temple it is comfortable, warm and safe.
As I said, these images of building and construction symbolism are very relatable to me. The image of the hand of a “Master Builder” working on the temple inside me is amazing and terrifying all at the same time.
In today’s alleluia verse we heard:
“I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord,
that my name may be there forever.”
That talks about this temple inside of us, what it holds, what it signifies and what it stands for.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you … for the temple of God, which you are, is holy”?
Jn 2: 13-22
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
November 9, 2021
November 9, 2021