When we think of a temple in its most common, worldly form, what images come to mind? If you’re at all like me, the first response of imagination is to call up stone, steel, and glass; I think of the wondrous grandeur of those architectures that aspire to reflect and reinforce the apparent plans of divine providence that give perfect, yet dynamic shape to the world we inhabit. In considering ourselves as temples, we tend to shy away or dismiss altogether such concrete concepts but perhaps we should linger here. For what is sought in building up these temples of stone is indeed the same as that which makes temples of flesh: the natural, divine unity of the spiritual and material worlds.
Just as houses of God must be informed by the apparent plan of Creation and developed, stone by stone, through physical exercise, toward manifesting to the world the glorious virtue of God,
so too are we called to inform, develop, and exercise our conscience and, with God’s help, to grow in virtue.
The indwelling of the Spirit—in our temples of flesh and of stone alike—is that of a gentle guest and friend who inspires, guides, corrects and strengthens.
Just as the humble recognition and remembrance of God transforms base materials into a house of worship,
so it is that in humility we recognize that God’s mercy transforms us and leads us to moral action.
When we live as Temples of the Holy Spirit, we live in the temple of prayer and worship at all times. The Spirit teaches us to pray, prompts us to act, and enlightens us that we might live as “children of the light” by all that is good and right and true. Though the world would insist on its own truths [or an utter lack thereof], the Temple of the Holy Spirit offers sanctuary to those who would know the “great difference” between the “two ways, the one of life [and] the other of death” and who make the “deliberate choice…to live the good” (Didache).
A sanctuary, however, is not a rampart or battlement;
it is only in humble admission of our own sinfulness
and of our dependence on God’s mercy and grace that we are made temples.
We cannot launch attacks against our neighbors from a place of self-righteous certitude, for only in prayerful quietude can we hear that “still small voice” urging us to do what is good and to avoid evil. Instead we must tend to our temples, seek their cleanliness and perfection, and open their doors wide to all who seek sanctuary. Ours is a continual work of preparing for the unexpected guest, while honoring that present guest whose departure we hope never to see. Insofar as this work of preparation and honor guides our lives, so shall our lives be moral.
—Written for a class in Catechist Formation