A sermon of St Caesarius of Arles
Baptism makes every one of us into a temple of God.
My fellow Christians, today is the birthday of this church, an
occasion for celebration and rejoicing. We, however, ought to be the
true and living temple of God. Nevertheless, Christians rightly commemorate this feast of the church, their mother, for they know
that through her they were reborn in the spirit. At our first birth, we
were vessels of God’s wrath; reborn, we became vessels of his
mercy. Our first birth brought death to us, but our second restored
us to life.
Indeed, before our baptism we were sanctuaries of the devil; but
after our baptism we merited the privilege of being temples of
Christ. And if we think more carefully about the meaning of our
salvation, we shall realise that we are indeed living and true temples
of God. God does not dwell only in things made by human hands,
nor in homes of wood and stone, but rather he dwells principally in
the soul made according to his own image and fashioned by his own
hand. Therefore, the apostle Paul says: The temple of God is holy,
and you are that temple.
When Christ came, he banished the devil from our hearts, in order to
build in them a temple for himself. Let us therefore do what we can
with his help, so that our evil deeds will not deface that temple. For
whoever does evil, does injury to Christ. As I said earlier, before
Christ redeemed us, we were the house of the devil, but afterward,
we merited the privilege of being the house of God. God himself in
his loving mercy saw fit to make of us his own home. My fellow
Christians, do we wish to celebrate joyfully the birth of this temple?
Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by
works of evil. I shall speak clearly, so that all can understand.
Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as
beautiful as we expect this church to be. Do you wish to find this
basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth
of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes
that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works
shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified.
Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into
your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, I shall walk through