With [the Resurrection] the new Temple will begin: the living body of Jesus Christ, which will now stand in the sight of God and be the place of all worship. Into this body he incorporates men. It is the tabernacle that no human hands have made, the place of true worship of God, which casts out the shadow and replaces it with reality. Interpreted at its deepest level, the prophecy of the Resurrection [in John , the destruction and raising up of the Temple] is also a prophecy of the Eucharist. The body of Christ is sacrificed and precisely as sacrificed is living. This is the mystery made known to us in the Mass.
Spirit of the Liturgy, 43
Reflection – Ratzinger invites us here into a deep contemplation of Christ (a bit too deep, perhaps, for the beautiful holiday weekend we’re enjoying in Canada!). But, Canada Day or not, here we are.
The image of Christ as the ‘place’ where we worship God, the true Temple is one we can spend a long time praying over. Don’t forget, too, that Ratzinger says that into this ‘temple’ he incorporates men—us. We are all made by grace part of this living temple, part of this ‘place’ where God is worshipped in spirit and in truth. All of this is the language of scripture, hallowed by its canonical authority and 2000 years of reception by believers. But… what does it mean, really? What is this Temple? Whose is it? What is going on here?
The Mass is certainly at the core of it. But notice: Ratzinger does not say that this mystery is the mystery of the Mass. He says it is made known to us in the Mass. The Mass, the Eucharist, reveals, makes visible and sensible, this mystery of temple and worship and our incorporation into Christ.
What is this worship? It is Christ’s sacrifice of Himself to the Father on the Cross. It is Christ’s obedience to the Father out of love for Him and for us. It is this penetration into the world of flesh and bone of the very Spirit of God, pure spirit, pure gift. It is the penetration into the world of death and sorrow of the Pure Life and Pure Joy of heaven.
It is the startling and entirely unexpected—unsought, even!—descent of God into the world, God into Man. Heaven had captured earth and the communion of love of the Trinity has entered time and space and history, has a name and a face and a story.
And so, against all our sensibilities and proprieties, the worship of God is the participation in the life of God, is entering the dance of love and life of the Trinity.
Historically this penetration, this capturing, this fusion of earth and heaven occurred in the Incarnation and on Calvary. Existentially for us, we see it and hear it and taste it in the Mass.
But we live it, too, or at least we are supposed to. Our love and obedience, however clumsy or halting or partial or grudging or poor, is worship. Our small efforts to serve, to forgive, to share, to suffer and die for the other—all of this is living out the mystery revealed to us in the Mass.
All of this is our ‘temple service’, our levitical office. This calls us very deep, you know. It’s not just that we’re all trying to be nice people doing nice things so we can have nice lives. That’s all… well, very nice, but it doesn’t get us very far. It’s not much good to us when the roof falls in, everything goes to hell and ruination, and we stand, kneel or lie prostrate in the wreckage of our lives or the of the life of the world.
We better have something a little deeper going on than being ‘nice’. And this deeper path is the one Christ opens to us. Worship, the entry of God into humanity and the consequent entry of humanity into God’s life and love. And so our little lives, so poor, so naked, so humble, become pilgrimages into the vast expanses of the Heart of God, a pilgrimage without end.
And it is every Eucharist, every Mass, that gives us the Living Food for the journey so that our love may not grow cold and our life may not falter and die.