Dedication of Church – November 15, 2018
Today we celebrate the 152nd anniversary of the Consecration of our Church of Gethsemani by Bishop Spalding and the 52nd anniversary of the re-dedication of our church by Archbishop Kelly after the major renovations. It is a day which, as St. Bernard told us at Vigils, if we do not celebrate it, no one will. For it is a solemnity peculiar to ourselves.
But what we are celebrating is not just a building of bricks and stones. It is a celebration of that heavenly Jerusalem that we also heard about at Vigils. It tells us that in that heavenly city there is no temple, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. This shows us that this celebration is actually fulfilled in the injunction of St. Benedict that, in the monastery, we are to “prefer nothing to Christ.” This building is a sign and sacrament of the living Risen Jesus Christ, to whom we have committed our lives through our vows and through our Baptismal promises.
In actuality the consecration of this church is based on our original consecration in Baptism. There, we also were consecrated, we were anointed with chrism, just as the walls of this church were; we were given a candle just as the walls of this church are illumined by twelve candles, symbolizing the light of Christ which is given us through the twelve apostles. We were told by St. Paul that “the temple of God is holy, which you are”! Consequently this feast is a feast of ourselves as a people of God, consecrated to Him. Just as there is no temple in the heavenly city, so the true temple here on earth is ourselves.
Jesus expressed this also in the gospel today, when He told the Samaritan woman; “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The great temple in Jerusalem is no more; the church of Clairvaux is no more. And a day will come when this church of Gethsemani will be no more. But what will remain is ourselves as the full Body of Christ, the Lamb, so that truly “God may be all in all”. Or as Paul tells us in the second reading, “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, … in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
But that is not destined for some day far in the future. It is to be lived out in our daily lives. St. Benedict also tells us that nothing should be done in the oratory except the worship of God. And our Constitutions tell us that the monastery is to be a place for contemplation – for truly seeking God. We are the living stones which are to be built into this temple of the living God. And our daily lives are to reflect this fact. We worship in spirit and in truth by living out our vow of conversion of manners, showing this in our dealings with one another, our dedication to the Work of God – to which Benedict says that nothing should be preferred.
In this way, our celebration of the Church of Gethsemani is to be carried out each day of our lives. By living each day with an awareness of the fact that we are the temple of God, that we are to form the full temple precisely by our relations with one another, binding us together in the one Body of Christ, which is the temple of the heavenly city.