For years the Temple in the Old Testament has fascinated me, especially its description in Ezekiel chapters 40-48. As I began to study its symbolism through the writings of St. Bede my eyes were opened to the understanding that every aspect of its description somehow points to Christ. The following article is a brief tour of the temple in the form of an allegorical story. Its purpose is not only to show how the Temple is a type of Christ but also to show that it contains a very important treasure of which we should be made aware since it is the very reward we, as Catholics, will receive if we remain faithful to Christ.
You were born blind and have only known darkness. A native of the City of Jerusalem in the early first century, you dwell on the streets near the Temple of the Lord. As you lie on a mat near the pool of Siloam the voice of an old woman captures your attention and invites you to come and see the Temple.
You ask the woman: how can I see the Temple of the Lord, I have been blind since birth?
The woman responds: I will be your eyes and will describe it to you, come and walk with me through the Temple of the Lord.
She leads you through the gate called Beautiful to the priest’s court in front of the Temple and one of the first things she describes to you is the Altar of Sacrifice. She tells you that the priests use this Altar to offer animal sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel and if the offering is acceptable then God consumes it with fire (2 Chronicles 7:1).
After describing this, the woman describes a bronze basin filled with water located beside the Altar of Sacrifice. She tells you it is for the priest’s ritual washings to make themselves clean before offering sacrifices to God. Then she notes that the bronze basin is upheld by twelve bronze bulls and you wonder about the significance of these things.
She then leads you to the front of the Temple and describes the two giant pillars. The old woman states that the two pillars are named Boaz and Jachin.
After this, the woman tells you that you are standing in front of the door of the Temple and she is careful to note that there is only one entrance to the Temple.
You say to the woman: I wish to enter the Temple but I cannot see the entrance, will you lead me through it?
She rejoices at your question and with great joy leads you through the entrance into the Temple.
Once you are in the Temple she describes the golden lampstands along with a table of Showbread where Priests place bread on a table. After this she describes an altar of incense where the priest offers incense to God.
Immediately following this explanation, the woman describes the walls of the Temple which are adorned with pictures of Cherubim and Palm Trees.
Your attention is then directed to the chest piece of the High Priest and it is noted that he has twelve stones on his chest piece representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
With an expression of great joy she says: but the greatest thing in the Temple is behind this large veil.
You ask: what is behind the veil?
She informs you that behind the veil there is a small room which contains the greatest treasure known to man. Being given such a response, you zealously ask the woman to take you to this room and describe the treasure to you. Delighted by your request, she holds your hand and leads you through the veil and begins to give a description of two great Cherubim which cover the extent of the room.
She then describes an Ark in the middle of the room and she says to you: open it and receive the treasure which has been yours since the beginning of the world.
You do not know what she means but she instructs you on how to open the Ark. Once you open the Ark you discover what feels like a jar. She confirms it is a jar and notes that it contains bread inside of it. Then you discover what feels like a staff, and she confirms your intuition.
After this, you feel what seems to be two tablets of stone and you become curious as to the significance of these things since you do not understand why someone would consider these items to be treasure.
At this point you ask the woman: what is the significance of this temple and everything you have described: the altar, the basin, the pillars, the entrance, the lampstands, the bread, the incense and especially this Ark along with its contents?
She does not answer but leads you back to the court of the Temple. As you stand waiting for an answer, she takes some of the water from the laver and pours it over your head. As the water touches your eyes, what appears to be like scales begin to fall from your eyes. For the first time in your life you can see and you rejoice that your eyes have been opened. The woman rejoices with you and says: when you were blind you were not ready to understand the meaning of the things I described to you but now you are ready to understand the significance of the Temple.
You ask the woman: who are you?
She replies: I am your mother, the Church of the Living God and I am here to lead you to your reward, the greatest treasure of all. I became a mother to you because I bore you in the faith when I baptized you and I am old because I have been here since the days of Adam.
She tells you that which you are about to see is beautiful in the eye of the Lord which is why the gate which leads to the Temple is called beautiful (Acts 3:2).
Holy Mother Church then takes your hand and leads you to the Altar of Sacrifice and says: this signifies Christ who was a sacrifice for your sins. The animals that are slain and offered to the Father for atonement signify Christ who was slain, resurrected and offered to the Father as atonement for the sins of the world. The fire that comes down from heaven to consume the sacrifice as a sign that it is acceptable is a type of the Holy Spirit who comes down from heaven upon the offering of bread and wine in the new covenant and transforms them into the Body and Blood of Christ, making the offering of the people acceptable to the Lord.
After this she shows you the bronze basin filled with water located beside the Altar of Sacrifice and says, after one believes in the sacrifice of Christ they are first shown the waters of baptism, which are signified by this bronze basin upheld by twelve bronze bulls. Before you may enter the Temple you must first be washed in these waters as the twelve Apostles taught.
At this time, you are asked to stand in front of the Temple and Holy Mother Church says, behold the Temple of the Lord; she is a type of me, for as many stones were gathered to build this one temple, so too have many people been gathered to make the Church. She was built by both Jews and Gentiles, signifying that the Church is composed not only of ethnic Jews, but also of gentiles.
After this, you are once again shown the two pillars which uphold the Temple at its entrance. Mother Church says: these two pillars are types of the Apostles who were pillars of the Church, and there are two because some Apostles were called to preach to the Gentiles and others were called to preach to the Jews.
Then you are shown the entrance to the Temple and you ask why did you stress that there is only one entrance to this temple? Holy Mother Church responds: because there is only one way to heaven and that is through the Lord Jesus (John 10:9).
As you enter the temple Mother Church begins to rejoice and exclaim: you are blessed for you have entered the Temple of the Lord.
She begins to explain the meaning of the Temple’s mysteries but you are distracted by the bright light shining into the temple through the windows.
Mother Church asks you: what has captured your attention that you are no longer paying attention to my words? You explain, I am captivated by the beautiful light shining through the windows.
She explains that the light too has meaning and it represents the false beauty of sin which attempts to distract you from the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
You ask, what is the meaning of the palm trees and cherubim on the walls of the temple?
Mother church answers, the palm trees are a symbol of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, which itself is a type of the Eucharist since it too brings eternal life for those who eat of it. The Cherubim on the walls are a type of the angels in heaven who surround the throne of God and worship in His presence. They are a reminder to you that liturgy on earth is mystical participation in the heavenly worship.
What is the meaning of the chest piece of the High Priest which has twelve stones, you ask.
Mother Church answers, the twelve stones which represent the twelve tribes of Israel are a type of the twelve Apostles. They are on the chest of the High Priest because Jesus, who is the High Priest of the New Covenant, always has the twelve Apostles and their successors on His heart. (Exodus 39:8-14)
Mother Church directs your attention to the lampstands and then begins to explain their significance, saying: these signify that Christ is the light of the world Who shows us the way to heaven.
You ask Mother Church, but why are there lampstands on two different sides and why are they made of the purest gold? (2 Chronicles 4:7-21)
Holy Mother Church answers, The lampstands are on two different sides because the Light of the World, Jesus, is given to both Jews and Gentiles. They are made of the purest gold because Jesus is without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
You then asked: why do I see priests laying bread on this table?
She replies: this is a type of the priests who place bread on church Altars before the consecration during the Mass.
Mother Church then says, the veil that you see which I will lead you through is a type of the division between this world and heaven and it is only by my help that you will enter through it.
You ask Mother Church: explain the mystery of the treasure behind the veil, which you called ‘the greatest treasure known to man’.
She replies, the treasure is Christ Jesus Himself!
You ask but when I entered through the veil I saw an Ark and when I opened it I found a jar, a stone and a staff, not Christ. How then do you say that He is the treasure behind the veil?
Holy Mother Church says, Take note and remember that though your eyes have been opened you still need me to interpret these things. Behold the depths and the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33)! The Ark which contains the jar, tablets of stone and staff, is a type of Mary who contained Jesus in her womb. The jar with bread, that is the manna that came down from heaven, is a type of Christ, who is the living bread that came down from heaven (John 6:51). The stone tablets are the word of God which He gave to Moses, which are a type of the true Word of God (John 1:1; 14) given to the Church. The staff in the Ark is the staff of the High Priest Aaron which is a type of Christ who is the High Priest of the New Covenant (Hebrews 4:14).
See then that all these things in the Temple are a type of Christ and their purpose is to lead you to Him Who is your reward but you may only understand them through me whom it has been given to open the eyes of the blind and explain the mysteries of God. If you remain faithful and follow me, will lead you to Him, Christ Jesus, your eternal reward!