And on Earth, as in Heaven

And on Earth, as in Heaven

By Michael Pirri

“Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered in to heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf…” (Hebrews 9.24-28) The modern concept of a church building is a development of the Jewish tradition of the synagogue and the temple. The synagogue is traditionally understood as a place for verbal prayer and reverent reading and discussion of Sacred Scripture. The temple, was a place to encounter the presence of God in a restricted, and limited way. Modern churches combine the two, they are a place to encounter God through the scriptures, and in the sacrifice of the Eucharist. The Sacred Liturgy is where we “take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and true tabernacle” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8). Our church buildings serve as a place for us to “see” the full community of liturgy: angels, saints, and the Trinity. In some ancient churches in Rome, inscribed above the doors, you’ll see PORTA CŒLI, Latin for Heaven’s Gate. The importance of the rituals and sacraments that take place in a church cannot be understated. Here heaven dips down to earth and we reach upward, and, for a moment, we see God face to face.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • 1 Kings 17.10-16
  • Psalm 146
  • Hebrews 9.24-28
  • Mark 12.38-44


For those interested in how human understanding of the Liturgy helps shape church architecture, there’s a great publication entitled Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis R. McNamara.