Description of the Church; The House of God

Description of the Church; The House of God

church steeple


As we have said in Lesson 11 On the Church, the word Church means a calling forth. In common Scripture usage the word signifies "the Christian society only, and the assembly of the faithful; that is, of those who are called by faith to the light of truth and the knowledge of God, that, having forsaken the darkness of ignorance and error, they may worship the living and true God piously and holily, and serve Him from their whole heart. in a word, The Church, says St. Augustine, consists of the faithful dispersed throughout the world" -The catechism of the Council of Trent.

Names given the Church in Scripture

I. The House of God

That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. I Timothy 3:15

Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God, Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord. In whom you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

St. Paul calls the Church, that is the gathering place of the Church as the "house of God." in the Old Testament the Tabernacle (A tent. A temporary habitation), was described as the House of God by God Himself when he was speaking to Moses concerning the Law.

Thou shalt carry the firstfruits of the corn of thy ground to the house of the Lord thy God. Exodus 23:19

Later the Temple was described as the House of God by King Solomon.

But now the Lord my God hath given me rest round about: and there is no adversary nor evil occurrence. Wherefore I purpose to build a temple to the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spoke to David my father, saying: my son, whom I will set upon the throne in thy piece, he shall build a house to my name. III Kings (I Kings) 5:4-9

In the New Testament we as Catholics become the Temple, the House of God.

Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are. I Corinthian 3:16-17 (again, see I Timothy 3:16)

A. A house has furniture.

The Temple/House of God in the Old Testament had furnishing which represented many things pertaining to us as Catholics.

Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat (cover on top of the Ark of the Covenant)

A symbol of God’s law, the Ark was made of wood covered with gold. The Ark was the throne of God where His glory rest on the Mercy Seat (top), a symbol of His mercy. The sacrificed blood was sprinkled on the Ark to cover the sins of the people.

The phrase “Mercy Seat” also means “propitiation.” Jesus is the propitiation for us today (Romans 3:25; I John 2:2.) His blood was shed to cleanse our sins. We come to God through Him and offer our spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5,9).

2. The Inner Veil

The Inner Veil hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies and was passed only once a year by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

Hebrews 10:19-20 teaches that this Veil represents Christ’s body which was given for us on the cross. When He offered up His spirit, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, thus allowing us to come at any time into God’s presence (Matthew 27:50-51).

3. Altar of Incense

Incense was continually burned at this altar that stood before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The High Priest was to make atonement on its horns once a year before entering the Holy of Holies.
The Altar of Incense was a symbol of prayer. Christians are to be continually in prayer (Romans 12:12).

4. Table of Showbread

A symbol of God’s providence, the Table held the twelve loaves of bread that were a reminder that the tribes were constantly in the presence of God and that God saw all that they did (Leviticus 24:5-9). The bread also reminded the people that God fed His people.

God provides what we need (Matthew 6:25-34). We as Christians are daily in God’s presence. We are to “feed on” God’s truth (Matthew 4:4). Jesus is the Bread of Life and we feed on Him when we partake in the eucharist. (John 6:35)

5. Golden Lampstand

Symbolizing light from God, the intricately patterned Lampstand was to give light continually, fueled by clear olive oil (Exodus 27:20)

Rev. 1:12-20 indicates individual parishes in a Diocese are represented by golden lampstands. Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Christians are to be a light to the world, also (Matthew 5:14).

6. Bronze Altar

The Bronze Altar stood in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. This is where the animals were sacrificed to cover the sins of the Israelite people.

Jesus’s death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He is pictured in all the sacrifices God commanded Israel to bring (Leviticus 1-5; Hebrews 10:1-14).

7. The Bronze Laver

It was here at the bronze laver that the priests washed their hands and feet before entering into and coming out of the holy place. The laver was made from the bronze mirrors of the women and filled with water for the continual cleansing of the priests as they ministered in the work of the Lord. (Ex 30:17-21)
It represent our own need for a cleansing as well. (Hebrews 10:22, John 7:38)

B. A House has a Father

"The Church is called a house, because it is, as it were,one family governed by one father of the family...."-Catechism of the Council of Trent

Not only do we have a God that is our Father, (Matthew 6:9 "Our Father who art in heaven,"), but he has given us fathers here on earth. That is the Pope and our Priest. The Pope being a Prime minister for God here on earth and one who should be considered our father on earth. "And he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda". Isaias (Isaiah) 22:21b. St. Paul calls himself a father to the people of the Corinthian Church.

For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.

I Corinthians 4:15

C. A House has a Mother

The Blessed Virgin Mary is our Mother.

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. John 19:26-27

St. Epiphanius, wrote “Against Eighty Heresies” where he affirmed: “Eve was called the mother of the living ...after the fall this title was given to her. True it is...the whole race of man upon earth was born from Eve; but in reality it is from Mary the Life was truly born to the world. So that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary became the mother of all living”

According to St Irenaeus, Mary "became a cause of salvation for the whole human race" (Haer. 3, 22, 4; PG 7, 959), and the pure womb of the Virgin "regenerates men in God" (Haer. 4, 33, 11; PG 7, 1080). This is re-echoed by St Ambrose, who says: "A Virgin has begotten the salvation of the world, a Virgin has given life to all things" (Ep. 63, 33; PL 16, 1198), and by other Fathers who call Mary "Mother of salvation" (Severian of Gabala, Or. 6 in mundi creationem, 10, PG 54, 4; Faustus of Riez, Max. Bibl. Patrum, VI. 620-621).

In the Middle Ages, St Anselm addressed Mary in this way: "You are the mother of justification and of the justified, the Mother of reconciliation and of the reconciled, the mother of salvation and of the saved" (Or. 52, 8; PL 158, 957), while other authors attribute to her the titles "Mother of grace" and "Mother of life". (1)

D. A House has Brothers and Sisters

St. Paul tells St. Timothy...

An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father: young men, as brethren: Old women, as mothers: young women, as sisters, in all chastity. I Timothy 5:1-2

There are verses after verses showing that those in Christ are brothers and sister. Not only is Jesus our brother, but all of us are spiritually related to each other.

So today ask yourself "Am I acting like I am the Temple of God, a House of God?" Is some of your furnishing, like the altar of Incense, which is a prefigurement of prayer to God, is it covered over with a sheet or become real dusty from lack of use? Scripture does say "My house is a house of prayer" Matthew 21:13.  what other furnishings have been neglected?

Are you under the Authority of your "Father" and "Mother"? Or are you being rebellious and doing your own thing? Do you pick and choose what you want to obey.

Do you treat your brothers and sisters with the respect and love they deserve? St. John says, "For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?". I John 4:20
Just somethings to think about.