One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 26 : 4
Between the fire at Notre Dame, Holy Week, and Easter, I have been reflecting on the beauty and importance of churches as they house the perfect, broken, and glorious Body and Blood of Jesus. Holy Week is marked with a lot of time in church, and I was blessed to be able to go to mass earlier in the week along with the services accompanying Maundy Thursday (and Eucharistic adoration late that night), Good Friday, Saturday’s Easter Vigil, and Sunday’s Easter mass. I was able to pray in front of an altar where Jesus’ Body in the Blessed Sacrament was held; I gazed on the Stations of the Cross all around the walls of the church, and I saw Jesus going to the cross. When Jesus enters churches as He does in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, these places are made sacred. Churches are holy places because the incarnate Son of God who suffered, died, and lives for us still offers Himself up for us in the Eucharist in these very churches–all so we may enjoy union with Him even now on earth.
As places that are set apart for God, churches reflect the beauty of God dwelling with His creatures on earth. Churches are created to point us to God. They are designed that we would recognize His presence in the world among us and see that we ought to humble ourselves before Him in awe. Beauty in churches points us to God and bring us to ponder His mysteries and adore Him, which we are able to do before Him in Eucharistic adoration.
Dismissing churches as only buildings denies that the material world is important. This kind of thinking implicitly promotes the idea that our faith is purely spiritual and has no meaning in the physical world, which could not be any farther from the truth (such thinking has its roots in the ancient heresy of Gnosticism). God became man in the flesh, not as an illusion and not only spiritually, but He really, truly became human. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:53-54). We are not to take this saying as a nice metaphor, but as something He really meant us to do so we may have true and everlasting life. Christ actually suffered and died, and He really rose from the dead in His glorified body, showing that we, too, through life in Him, will be raised in the same way. Christ’s glorified body reveals the glory of all of material creation.
When Notre Dame was burning, a priest, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, went into the fire to save the Blessed Sacrament and Jesus’ Crown of Thorns inside the church. He went back not for sentimental value, but because of their physical importance; there was something physically worth saving from the fire. Churches are temples of God, which mean there is something holy within them. The beauty is that the very One who is so Holy does not remain hidden from us, but reveals Himself to us. We get to adore Him, be present among Him, and even come humbly before him that we may receive God into our own bodies, not just spiritually, but physically, for our lives depend on this Food from Heaven.