The word “church” refers to a public place of worship and is derived from the Old Saxon word of kirika which is similar to the modern German word, kirche.
These Germanic derivatives come from the Greek work kyriakon, meaning “a thing belonging to the Lord”. A church is a defined space or structure set aside especially for the worship of God. The word “sacred” taken from the Latin sacer, meaning “to be set apart,” “dedicated,” or “hallowed” for divine use.
A church is erected for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and other divine services, but also to suitably reserve the Blessed Sacrament; thus a church is the holiest place on earth. In the Old Covenant, only the Lord’s spirit or as in Hebrew the Shekhinah, meaning to “settle” or “dwell” was “reserved” in a single place, the Great Temple in Jerusalem. In the New Covenant, the Lord’s Real Presence both spiritual and corporal dwells in many temples throughout the world.
A church is not merely a particular type of building. It must also be specially blessed, or dedicated to God for His worship. There exist two solemn, yet distinct, rites for dedicating a church. The first rite is the consecration of a church, a rite that must be performed by a bishop and which amongst other ceremonies includes the anointing of the walls with holy oil and the consecration of the high altar. In order for the church to be consecrated, several criteria must be met. First, the church must be constructed of stone, cement, or even brick. Second, the high altar must be made of stone and be fixed in place, or immovable. Third, the land or building cannot have a debt or lien against it, such as a mortgage, for the sacred may not be repossessed from the Church! If a church building cannot fulfill these criteria, even if only temporary, the second rite is used, called the blessing of a church. This rather simple rite consists of blessing the structure and the altar with holy water, and while this rite should be done by a bishop, a priest can also be delegated to perform this rite.
The few words, Terribilis est locus iste, are the beginning words to this lovely prayer….Terrible is this place, it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven, and it shall be called the Court of God. How lovely are Thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the Courts of the Lord. This prayer gives us a sense of the tremendous significance of a church building, a place where Heaven touches Earth, and where our Almighty and Everlasting God truly dwells.
To learn more about Where the liturgical actions take place – The church building, listen to Learning about the Roman Liturgy with Louis Tofari on Magnificat Radio at www.magnificatmedia.com at 10am, 1pm, 6:30pm, and 10pm, CST, USA ~ “Living Our Faith”© . To purchase books and materials mentioned on Learning about the Roman Liturgy with Louis Tofari visit this link: Romanitas Press
Listen below to the beautiful introit of Terribilis est locus iste