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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[3 Kings 6–8. 2 Paralip. 5]

IN the fourth year of his reign Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord on Mount Moria in Jerusalem. He had ten thousand men employed cutting cedars on Mount Lebanon (Fig. 46). Seventy thousand were engaged in carrying the materials to the site of the Temple. Eighty thousand were hewing stones, while three thousand three hundred were employed as overseers of the work.

The vast number of persons employed corresponded with the grandeur and magnificence of the house of God, the general plan of which was that of the Tabernacle. In other respects, however, the Tabernacle could not be compared with the Temple, which was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. The house was built of stones hewed and made ready, so that when it was in building, neither hammer nor any iron tool was heard. Then there were besides porches and galleries running all around it, and two large courts for the priests and the people.

 

Fig. 46. Cedars on Mount Lebanon. (Phot. Bonfils.)

The porch before the Temple was twenty cubits in length, and ten cubits in breadth. The inner walls were lined with planks of cedar, on which were carved cherubim and palm-trees and divers flowers, all standing out, as it were, from the wall, so skilfully were they carved. All the furniture was of the purest gold. The walls and floor of the Holy of Holies were covered with plates of fine gold, fastened by nails of gold.

When, after seven years, Solomon had finished the Temple, he assembled all the ancients of Israel with the princes of the tribes, to carry the Ark of the Covenant in triumph to the Temple. And all the people marched before the Ark in an ecstasy of joy and religious fervour, making peace-offerings to the Lord at every step they took. The Levites played on the harp and cymbal and many other instruments of music, while a hundred and twenty priests sounded the trumpet.

And the multitude sang in one grand chorus: “Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth for ever.” Then the Ark having arrived at the gates of the Temple, only the priests who carried it entered in, and they brought it to the Holy of Holies, and the cherubim shaded it with their wings. And the majesty of God in the form of a cloud filled the Temple, so that the priest could not stand to minister, because of the dazzling glory thereof.

Then Solomon, arrayed in his richest robes, fell on his face before the altar of holocausts, and stretching out his hands he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God like Thee in heaven or on earth. If heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built! O Lord my God, hear the hymn and the prayer which Thy servant prayeth before Thee this day, that Thy eyes may be open upon this house night and day, that Thou mayest hearken to the prayer which Thy servant prayeth in this place to Thee. Mayest Thou hearken to Thy people when they pray in this place. Mayest Thou hear them and show them mercy.”

Solomon’s prayer being ended, fire fell from heaven und consumed the holocaust. Seeing this, the Israelites fell prostrate on the ground and adored the great God of heaven, who wrought such wonders before them, and they went away praising His awful name. The Lord appeared a second time to Solomon and said: “I have heard thy prayer, and I have sanctified this house which thou hast built; and My eyes and My heart shall be always there.”

God is infinitely Great or Immense and is not subject to the limits of space or time, for both were created by Him. He is present everywhere in heaven and on earth, but neither heaven nor earth can contain Him who is infinite and immeasurable.

God is Good and Merciful. The Levites sang: “Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth for ever.” The story we have just read shows forth His goodness. He came in the cloud and took possession of the Temple, to dwell there in an especial manner. He was pleased with Solomon’s prayer and sacrifice. He appeared to Solomon and promised Him that the Temple should be a holy place, and that He would hearken to those who prayed therein.

Exterior worship. Our worship of God must have an outward expression; for everything which moves our hearts (as, for instance, anger) shows itself outwardly. The Israelites expressed their worship of God by solemn processions, by canticles, by praying aloud, by genuflections, by uplifting of the hands and by sacrifices. And God was pleased with these outward expressions of worship, because they came from the heart.

The necessity of places of worship. God needs no house nor church, but we must have places where we can worship Him in common and praise Him and ask for blessings; so that it is on our account that God requires places of worship. For this cause He Himself designed the Tabernacle and later on the Temple. The Israelites could worship God everywhere; but in the Temple He was present in an especial manner, to listen to prayers and grant graces, and they were therefore commanded to visit the Temple. By the second Commandment of the Church, visiting churches is imposed on us as a duty.

The Sanctity of Catholic churches. The Israelites had only one Temple: we have many churches. Although the Temple at Jerusalem was exceptionally beautiful and costly, the poorest Catholic chapel is far holier and richer, because in our churches the holy Sacraments are dispensed, and because, above all other reasons, our Lord Jesus Christ, with His Divinity and Humanity, is there present and, in the Mass, offers Himself for us to His Heavenly Father. As St. Chrysostom beautifully says: “If we could open the heaven of heavens, we should find nothing greater or more holy than that which reposes on our altars.” We ought to have the utmost veneration for our churches, and visit them diligently and devoutly. King Solomon threw himself on his knees in the outer court of the Temple and raised his arms to God in prayer; and shall we be ashamed to kneel down before the Blessed Sacrament and devoutly clasp our hands?

The Consecration of churches. Our churches are solemnly consecrated. Thereby they are sanctified to be the property and dwelling-place of God and the abode of grace. In memory of its consecration or dedication, and as a thanksgiving for the benefits it has brought to us, it is usual to keep every year the feast of the dedication of a church. On that anniversary we have more cause than had the Israelites to say: “Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth for ever.”

The Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. God was present to the Israelites in a visible cloud in the Temple; and therefore the Temple was in very deed “a dwelling-place of God among men”. Now, after God had become Man, would He have removed Himself further from us than He was from the Israelites? Are we to have no dwelling-place of God in our midst? Is nothing to be left to us Christians but the bare memory of God made Man? No! It would be inconceivable that God, after His Incarnation, should be less approachable than He was before it! Jesus Christ would not leave us orphans; therefore He has remained with us, being present on our altars under the visible appearances of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament. There He is in the Tabernacle, His Eyes and His Heart beholding those who come to adore Him. If Jesus were not present in the Most Holy Sacrament, then those who lived under the Old Testament would have been better off than we who are living under the New Testament, and we should, perforce, envy the Israelites with whom God was present in at least one Temple.

APPLICATION. Visit your Divine Saviour present in the church. Visit Him this very day. Pray to Him with devotion and faith, and thank Him for the love which makes Him dwell with us, offer Himself up for us, and give Himself to us as the food of our souls.








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