He dwells among us: Becoming cathedrals of God

Cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he builds you into a beautiful sacred dwelling of his love

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the House of the Lord.”And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Psalm 122: 1-2

After many years of planning and 1,077 days of construction since our groundbreaking in 2015, the words of this psalm will finally be sung within our new cathedral as our procession passes through its doors on March 3 for the Mass of Dedication.

But it is not just a structure of brick and mortar that we will celebrate that day, but that of each soul. For each of us is a sacred architectural structure and a lifelong building project. As St. Paul counsels us, we are “God’s building….Each one must be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 9:9, 10).

An 11th century theologian, Hugh of St. Victor, taught that the aim of the Christian life is to build up a beautiful dwelling place for the presence of God. Reflecting on the dedication rite of a church, he says, “A house to be dedicated is a soul to be sanctified.”

He even describes the dedication rite in terms of it being almost like a church’s baptism. But with its dedication, as with our own baptism, the work of making it more and more beautiful does not cease on that day.

As a cathedral church typically requires about 70 to 80 years beyond its dedication to fully adorn and beautify, so, too, we must labor a lifetime to beautify and adorn our soul as God’s sacred dwelling.

In a spiritual sense, we should all strive to be a mirror image of a beautiful cathedral. Until Jesus looks at us and sees himself fully reflected back — his divine likeness in us — we have work to do. The more beautiful our soul is built up and adorned as God’s temple, the more fully we become who He created us to be.

Can any of us honestly say that the work of God in our heart and soul is complete with nothing left to work on? Think of how much care and attention we give daily to our body, adorning it so as to give a pleasing outward appearance. Should the coarse exterior of a cathedral be more beautiful than its interior? Of course not. And nor should our body’s adornment be more important than the interior temple of our communion with God.

Think of God as the Sacred Architect and General Contractor of the building project of our soul. He’s also the Construction Foreman with a whole team of specialized workers and subcontractors — the saints and angels. And not only that, but with His Blood, Christ purchased all the building materials that are needed for our sanctification — to be saints!

Nothing is lacking to help make our sacred temple more beautiful than the most magnificent cathedral in the world. But God will not work in our heart and soul without our desire and consent, as well as our daily cooperation. Our “yes” to God is needed every day for His “work orders” to proceed. Otherwise, the work project of our soul encounters delays and over time, these can cause our sacred structure to fall into disrepair and even ruin.

The Lenten season is a time for us to especially reflect upon the condition of our heart as God’s dwelling place and the work of building it up into a beautiful cathedral. What the psalmist says of the Temple of Jerusalem should be even more truly said of our own soul — “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of Hosts!” (Psalm 84:1).

And the stern words of Jesus that are inscribed on our cathedral’s cornerstone are a reminder to us of what our heart should above all be — “My house shall be called a house of prayer…” (Matthew 21:13).

With every great endeavor, there is preparation. The sacrament of confession and the daily examination of conscience is a wonderful way to help clean the worksite of our soul of all the debris that impedes God’s good work within us. Our prayers, fasting, and other mortifications, like work stands and scaffolding, give God’s grace elevated platforms to further His work’s reach within us.

By reflecting upon Christ’s passion and cross, his sufferings for love for us, we give image and prominence to an interior crucifix within our heart’s sanctuary and adorn our cathedral’s walls with the Stations of the Cross.

By reflecting upon Christ’s sacrificial offering on Calvary and upon the Eucharist, we give ornate form to a marbled altar within our heart, where we offer our own sacrifices and sufferings with those of Christ’s to the Eternal Father for the love of souls.

By reading and reflecting daily upon sacred Scripture, we build up our heart’s ambo, giving it an elevated place so that the Word of God and the Holy Name of Jesus echo continuously and can be heard in the farthest recesses of our heart.

With our prayers and desires to draw closer to God and the mysteries of our faith, we decorate our cathedral in beautiful mosaic images and perfume it with the sweetest incense.

And by calling upon Jesus, and longing for Him as Our Bridegroom, we gild in finest gold His tabernacle within us where His Holy Name dwells.

May this penitential season of Lent be a special time of grace and progress as you cooperate in God’s great construction project to build you up into a magnificent and beautiful cathedral dwelling of His love.

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