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We Gave Up Our Church Building For Lent

April 1, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
When the Lord used the image of a temple for His sacred Body the metaphor was possible because of the greatest achievement of the Jewish people. They had constructed one of the wonders of the ancient world, vast in its magnificence and unexcelled in beauty, the monumental and iconic edifice in Jerusalem for the worship of the true God who revealed Himself to Moses and their Fathers.
In Lent each year we hear again the Gospel of John’s second chapter, which recounts the cleansing of that temple, because of the conversation that follows this dramatic demonstration of the Lord’s zeal for His Father’s house.
“In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade’” (John 2:14-16).
The Jews challenge Him and He responds with a reference to His own death:
“ ‘What sign have you to show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’” (John 2:18-19).
They are baffled, thinking He refers to the massive temple building which took 46 years to build. And He will raise it up in three days?
As we know, He was referring to the death and Resurrection of His Body, the Tabernacle not made by hands, the true Sanctuary where the Father is worshipped “in spirit and in truth.”
Our churches, earthly temples in which we worship the Lord as one people, His people and His Body in the world, come and go. Sometimes they are taken away, even by our own misguided leaders as is the case in Rome right now. All but concelebrated Novus Ordo Masses are banned in the main church of St. Peter’s Basilica, the most symbolic and important temple for members of the faithful, the Church and Body of Christ throughout the world.
The many side altars of St. Peter’s, which before March 21 this year regularly hummed each morning with the low murmur of the prayer of the Holy Mass or with the audible singing and chanting of pilgrims worshipping together in small groups, are abandoned. Now the great church has fallen mostly silent, deserted and reduced for the most part to mere museum status, a perversion of its true purpose.
If there ever was a vile commercialization of a temple, this is surely it. With the banishing of so many priests and sacrifices from the central world symbol of the true faith, the Lord Himself has been largely exiled from His own temple.
Of the many penitential practices our local parish imagined for ourselves this Lent, of the many options we considered for denying ourselves various licit pleasures or conveniences in reparation for sin, giving up the use of our church building was not one of them.
But God has asked this of us.
An inspection of our 100-year-old plaster ceiling on Monday of Passion Week revealed what we suspected was true. Visible portions of the ceiling had been cracking for some time. The keys and lugs which held the ceiling to the lathing have broken off in a number of places. Bottom line: It presented enough of a safety issue that I had to make a very difficult decision. I closed the church building for reasons of life and health until the necessary work to stabilize the ceiling can be completed.
Our sacristan and his team moved many items to our hall, recreating a lovely temporary substitute chapel there, and we began using it two days later.
Of all the possible times for the inconvenience of being deprived use of our church building, this is the most challenging, with the complex and most important liturgies of the Church year just ahead in the next week. The beauty and majesty of the Easter Season will be muted in tangible ways as we celebrate in our humble church hall.
For the time being we will be able to gather upwards of 140 people for Mass together, as has happened in the recent past, outdoors only. We have been splitting the Traditional Mass families between two Masses on Sunday, at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., to remain within social distancing guidelines.
Our creative resources will no doubt be challenged as I offer the Holy Mass in an unconventional setting. Mass was being prayed in the hall, during restoration work following a furnace fire in the church, almost eleven years ago when I arrived as newly assigned as pastor of the parish. Now we are back in this space, used most frequently for Sunday lunch every week, once again for Mass as well.
For nearly half my priesthood I have offered the Holy Mass in many settings other than a consecrated Catholic Church. In our hall now I am “at home away from home” once again, a déjà vu of my active duty Navy and reserve deployments at sea and in Iraq, as well as in unblessed stateside chapels and multi-use spaces shared with Protestants, Jews, and many other beliefs in military assignments.
Though we are denied the use of our sacred consecrated structure for Mass we do not doubt that our providential Lord will multiply His blessings upon us. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We know what needs to be done to correct the problem and the Lord will also give us the patience and discipline needed to thrive in the meantime despite this or any other privation.
This Easter season we will have reason to contemplate, more powerfully then before, the indestructible Temple, the risen Lord. We will be the more deeply impressed with the reason for the Easter Season and the true Tabernacle worshipped in spirit and in truth, whether in our grandest churches, our most humble chapels, or wherever His true chosen people gather around the priest who offers today the true sacrifice of His Body and Blood in the Holy Mass.
A most blessed and joyful Easter to you, our readers, and our families. “Alleluia, He is risen!”
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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