I think that many, if not most people here now were with us on Thursday for the re-Dedication of this Church. In that beautiful and lengthy ceremony, the Bishop anointed the Altar and the walls with Chrism. He anointed the Altar, because it’s a symbol of Christ, and of his saving sacrifice. He anointed the walls, because they are a symbol of his Body, his Church, us.
At the end of the Mass the Blessed Sacrament was placed in our fine new Tabernacle, henceforth to be clearly present at the heart of our Church for all to see.
(I hope it will soon be supplied with a veil. Incidentally, if you look at our web site, you will find there plenty of pictures of the whole ceremony, and a description of the Day, and Bishop Hugh’s very fine homily. There will be more pictures to go on, together with the film of at least edited highlights, in due course, I hope!)
To comment a little bit on all that: the focus of Thursday’s ceremony seemed to be on Christ’s visible, external presence: on what we can see and hear and touch and feel and even smell. Now though I want to highlight Christ’s interior, hidden presence: his presence within each of us. And I do that particularly today, since 8th November is the Feast Day of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.
Blessed Elizabeth was Carmelite nun who died in 1906, aged only26. She was a spiritual daughter of St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux, and the admirable John Ruysbroek, the 14th century Flemish Mystic. But in her short life Elizabeth also developed her own original teaching of genius, which remains an important and still timely gift to the whole Church.
The word “Elizabeth” has been understood, even if not too accurately, as meaning in Hebrew House of God. Blessed Elizabeth herself certainly accepted and rejoiced in that interpretation. And she took the Title “of the Trinity” because she was fascinated by that mystery, and by the realisation that the Trinity dwells within us: that we ourselves are God’s House, his holy dwelling place, the mysterious shrine in which he is fittingly worshipped and adored.
Jesus said at the Last Supper“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).
Or St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Do you not realise that you are a Temple of God, with the Spirit of God living in you? ... God’s Temple is holy, and you are that Temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17).
It is very wonderful to have the Blessed Sacrament now centrally in our Choir. That is such a great consolation and help to prayer, for we believe, we know, that Jesus is truly present here, in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. That is our faith, and it’s true.
But Elizabeth reminds us that God is also within. So we can and must find him not just “out there” - outside and above us - but also within ourselves.
Sometimes we feel like crying out to God Where are you? The response is that he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He makes his home in us: each of the Three Trinitarian Persons does so. And what does God do there? What he always does: each of the Three Trinitarian Persons loves one another - in us - and each of the Three Persons loves us - since God is all love, and can do no other.
Of course we can be oblivious of this, or we can drive God out by our sins. But also: we can live entirely in the light of this truth. Blessed Elizabeth, the contemplative, the woman of faith, the mystic, the lover, shows us how to do that: how to dwell always with God as he dwells always with us; and in that dwelling, rooted in faith, how to find perfect joy, even amid sufferings of every sort, and perfect patience, and perfect love.
Elizabeth’s message is wonderfully relevant in the light of our recent Church Dedication. Like the Church Building, like the Christ’s mystical Body which is the Church, we ourselves have to be places of adoration, of interior silence; places where God’s presence is lovingly welcomed; where his Word is heard; where his Sacraments are worthily received. Like the Church building, we have first to prepare ourselves for this great mystery by thoroughly cleaning ourselves up: adorning ourselves with the virtues, removing the vices, lighting up the torches of faith, throwing away whatever is unworthy, investing in the purchase of adornments that will be more fitting for so great a Guest.
Of course, like any Church building, even St. Peter’s Basilica, we can never be truly worthy of such a treasure, such a gift, such a condescension. But we can do our best to make ourselves as worthy as we can, and insofar as we do that, of course we are the gainers. The more we open ourselves up to this presence, the more we respond in faith and love, the greater will become our capacity to receive more.
Today’s Gospel reminds us not to be too much concerned with exterior show, with good appearances. They have their importance, but it’s not absolute, and sometimes, alas, they conceal a very different inner reality. What matters in this life then is not so much to be at rights with people, as to be at rights with God; for all things on this earth pass away. Even great symbols, such as a consecrated Church Building, must eventually pass away. But our life in union with God, our entry already into heaven on earth through our loving adoration in his presence: that will last for all eternity; that really matters, and if we are wise we will devote our best efforts to entering into it, and nourishing it, and rejoicing in it.