Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Augustine
Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up. (Jn 2:19)
“God’s temple is holy,” and you are that temple: all you who believe in Christ and whose belief makes you love him.
Real belief in Christ means love of Christ: it is not the belief of the demons who believed without loving and therefore despite their belief said: “What do you want with us, Son of God?”
No; let our belief be full of love for him we believe in, so that instead of saying: “What do you want with us,” we may rather say: We belong to you, you have redeemed us.
All who believe in this way are like the living stones which go to build God’s temple, and like the rot-proof timber used in the framework of the ark which the flood waters could not submerge. It is in this temple, that is, in ourselves, that prayer is addressed to God and heard by him.
But to pray in God’s temple we must pray in the peace of the Church, in the unity of the body of Christ, which is made up of many believers throughout the world. When we pray in this temple our prayers are heard, because whoever prays in the peace of the Church prays in spirit and in truth.
Our Lord’s driving out of the temple people who were seeking their own ends, who came to the temple to buy and sell, is symbolic. For if that temple was a symbol it obviously follows that the body of Christ, the true temple of which the other was an image, has within it some who are buyers and sellers, or in other words, people who are seeking their own interests and not those of Jesus Christ.
But the temple was not destroyed by the people who wanted to turn the house of God into a den of thieves, and neither will those who live evil lives in the Catholic Church and do all they can to convert God’s house into a robber’s den succeed in destroying the temple. The time will come when they will be driven out by a whip made of their own sins.
The temple of God, this body of Christ, this assembly of believers, has but one voice, and sings the psalms as though it were but one person. If we wish, it is our voice; if we wish, we may listen to the singer with our ears and ourselves sing in our hearts. But if we choose not to do so it will mean that we are like buyers and sellers, preoccupied with our own interests.
Expositions of the Psalms 130, 1-2: CCL 40, 1898-1900
Augustine (354-430) was born at Thagaste in Africa and received a Christian education, although he was not baptized until 387. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 395 he became coadjutor bishop to Valerius of Hippo, whom he succeeded in 396. Augustine's theology was formulated in the course of his struggle with three heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. His writings are voluminous and his influence on subsequent theology immense. He molded the thought of the Middle Ages down to the thirteenth century. Yet he was above all a pastor and a great spiritual writer.
**From Saint Louis University