Thursday, 8 December 2016
40th Anniversary of Church, West Moors; Immaculate Conception
Today we, as a parish, celebrate 40 years of our having a church to celebrate Mass in.
Some of you who have been here a long time have told me how they remember the old wooden church, that became too small to be fit for purpose.
Other have told me how they remember celebrating Mass in the hall, before the church as built -a space big enough, but not worthy enough.
Today we recall that a church was built, built to be space worthy enough for the Holy Mass. I’d like us to take a moment, therefore, to reflect on the importance of building a place for Mass, building a place to pray.
In the frantic, hectic pace of our modern world, modern architects often build ‘mutli-purpose’ spaces -so we eat, watch TV, relax, cook, all in the same extended area. I would suggest to you, however, that there is something dehumanising about this, something too rushed about this -and that this ‘multi-purpose’ approach to buidlings certainly doesn’t hold with respect to prayer.
When archaeologists dig up old cities there is something that we find in every civilisation:
There are different buildings in the city for different functions;
there are different rooms in a house for different purposes.
The gymnasium, the bathhouse, the sleeping quarters, the eating area for the family to gather etc
And, in every civilisation, there is place put apart to pray, a temple.
Archaeologists don’t ask IF there will be a temple, merely what KIND of temple it will be -it’s a basic part of our human nature to have a place set aside for the sacred, a place set aside to pray.
In the Jewish religion, our Old Testament roots, this was very emphatically laid out -God decreed what size the walls would be, of what materials etc
And, when we look at our early Christian history we see the same pattern:
Even when the Church was in hiding and persecuted in ancient Rome, the early Christians set aside houses for worship.
And, when the Christians grew and became the majority, they did this with great splendour, building massive basilicas: It wasn’t just sufficient to have a SPACE put aside, it needed to be a SUITABLE space, a DIGNIFIED space.
The Christian Church is the place where heaven touches earth.
The Christian Church is the place where man reaches out to God,
And where God comes down to man: In a way that has no parallel in any other world religion, God becomes flesh, here on the altar, under the appearance of bread.
And for such a thing to happen, we need a worthy place: a church building.
Which is why a church was built here.
The Word become flesh, here on this altar, here in this place.
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception: we celebrate the truth that Our Lady was conceived without sin, and lived without sin.
That happened in order that her womb might be a worthy dwelling place for the Word to become flesh.
The Lord prepared, from all eternity, a place to dwell. As we heard in our second reading, from Ephesians, “before the world was made, He chose us” (Eph 1:3) -and this applies especially to the womb of the Blessed Virgin, His dwelling place.
I’d suggest that this gives us a suitable image for the need to prepare a place for Him to take flesh in the Eucharist -the need for a Church.
To sum that up:
Today we celebrate having a church building.
We need, as humans, a place to pray, a place set apart from the hustle and bustle of modern noisy life.
We need a place, as Christians, that is worthy for the Word to become flesh in the Eucharist
Our Lady’s womb was the worthily-prepared place for Christ to become flesh 2000 years ago.
A church is a dedicated place for the Word to become flesh in sacraments, still today.
And that is something worthy to give thanks for.