The Cathedral Soul Is A Cruciform


St Paul's, London

Think upon these words of our Savior, "the kingdom of God is within you." It is little wonder that St. Paul should ask in all its sobering intensity his great question of Christians souls, "What, do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" A soul then is an holy inward kingdom, its invisible shape is that of a temple, a cathedral fit for God's own Spirit. It is, to put it plainly, a place -- a locale of eternal meanings within us. Herein we find a celestial geography, a cross-shaped floor where God in Christ is met.

shape of a cross

What kind of a place have I been making of you my soul? Do I enter your portals and kneel at your altars that I might worship my Lord? Jesus died to save you and so within you are places of love and inward beauty. I shall take up His grace and build you into His grandest cathedral. I tear down the shack I once unkindly offered the Wounded One.

Hear Him then, build devotedly, lift high your steeples of believing prayers -- for "what would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" So therefore, He who died for my soul solemnly presses into my craftsmen's hands the spiritual tools of my sacred duty to build, to work wholeheartedly by His grace, as St. Paul admonished, to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling!"

Thus -- He gives me love for my soul
for who could not love what Christ has paid for		
					so dearly?
Oh dear soul, my own, Christ hath died for thee,
	thus may it be:
		that cupid-like my mind shall love thee
			whom He so loved,
		and speak His peace deep, deep
						to thee!

that cupid-like my mind shall love thee ... dear soul,

				for Christ hath died for thee

Our ordinary way of thinking and speaking about any part of our being (body, mind, or soul) has strictly to do with the person we are (or we think we are). We use terms of being: I am tired out physically, my mind is of a very practical bent, my soul rejoices, etc. We are, after all, beings, and so we refer to ourselves as selves. In the grandest of all such considerations, it is all of our person (body, mind, and soul) we are that Jesus died and arose to save. Our soul's response to God's "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy" and Jesus' tender words "My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me" is the response of a personality:

"Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
(Charlote Eliott, from Hymnbook 1982, 693)

And yet, we dare not fail to realize that not only are we beings, we are also places. A butterfly may gently land on your resting hand, in doing so he has landed and rested upon that place called "you". Generally speaking, we are physically "places moving daily from place to place". We don't commonly think in such terms but nevertheless such terms are perfectly true and valid.

We oughtn't be surprised, then, if our Lord refers to the souls He has redeemed as being not just people but very special places, hallowed locations. It isn't any great surprise to a Jungian psychologist that one human psyche (soul and mind) is a universe of mystery and revelation; but then Jungian psychologists are a very small minority of men and women. Clegypersons are seldom ever trained from that perspective and so, as a general rule, they are nice people who really don't know what the hell (or heaven) is going on -- they're a remote lot at times. As for the vast majority of western people, they are materialists at heart who never suspect themselves to be anything more than a mind attached to a body. I am sadly convinced that though many speak of their souls, they honestly don't believe in such things. Atheism is not the only threat to our western civilization. Possibly the greater danger for most of us is that we doubt our spiritual dimension, that we are fuzzy about our having souls? Perhaps most western people who practice any form of religion including Christianity, while trying mightily to believe in and live for God, never actually suspect that He is to be met in a very personal place ... the places Jesus bought for us with His own blood, our souls. (Any who have been kind enough to read thus far must understand that some prefer to use the term "spirits" and I haven't any argument with that but I shall use "soul" in the sense that Jesus used it when He said: "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36 Interestingly the RSV of the Bible renders this term as life. We certainly can say that our spirit or our soul is our real essence, our "life".)

It is an inward world, a kingdom with a throne yet to be occupied by good or evil or mediocrity on any given day of our lives. It has a destiny because it is made out of "eternal stuff" but like any world, any kingdom, its destiny is either gloriously bright or gloomily frightful, depending upon its leadership and the sorts of principles it follows. It is a locale within us of eternal meanings and consequences. It is meant to be the kingdom of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit -- at least that is why God created it and Jesus died for it. We should take such a place inside of us very, very seriously.

A garden scene A flower garden should remind us of this place called a redeemed soul.

Unless I am a perfect fool, I'll get to know this place quite well. After all, it is the real or essential me that comes bubbling up now and then through my mind. It is a place of supernatural topography: of mountains to the sublime and valleys of peaceful rest. It is also a place of dangerous cliffs, of ghastly swamplands, of dark mysterious caves. It has gardens so sweet they shall, once discovered, make us long for our heavenly home, yet most of our gardens are disgracefully overgrown, littered, and untended, thus reminding us not at all of that wonderful promised land? These are meant to be areas of calm and warmth, just awaiting kindness' plantings. The once placid streams would sadden us if we saw their ugly pollution at this time, if we saw the "creatures" of love and mercy gasping and dying in these once crystalline waters. They shall all live again if we submit it all to Christ as we ought! What a place to dwell, what a perfect place to revive by His grace and build into His cathedral.

Moutain scene The inward landscape of our souls.

Then I ask, "What kind of place have I been making of you, my soul?" Never could any question ever asked me prove as eternally important as that one. It is asked, and I hear myself asking it, only because Jesus has pressed His grace into my heart (the tools into my hands, so to speak). He did this long before my heart attacks, long before my birth: He did this at His resurrection. He meant from all eternity to make us prayerful souls! Hear Him: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

How humbling then to hear Him say: "You have not chosen Me but I have chosen you!" (John 15:16) When, as children, we learned that we ought to read the Bible and pray so we could go to Heaven, that should have been an inkling of the truth of St. Paul's words: "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)

Studying the Bible in the light of Jesus' resurrection is to study a new, a daring, a most exciting and living volume. With the apostles and nearly 2,000 years of the holy church we also learn to expect to see our Beloved just around the next formerly obscured passage or in the midst of a text turned paradisaical oasis which once was considered to be drier than desert dust. The holy allegory and the ever present inspiration of the Holy Spirit changes not only how you study the Bible, it changes your soul. What building materials, what gem-like stones of grace and holiness they send up the scaffolding yet around your soul! The great prophecies of old Judaism suddenly ascend not to Israel-land but rather Heavenward and Jesus, the Risen One came "not to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5: 17-18) -- All this, all of it, is building your soul right now if you will only use the holy tools and blood-bought materials He provides you. Hallelujah!

And that same merciful grace pressing our hearts says, "Pray! Pray! Pray!" as the cathedral walls are built within you. The more we pray the more we contend against the darkness, for to pray is nearly always a battle in this fallen world against unbelief that surrounds our culture. But it is to be prayerful souls that we are called, nay -- we are absolutely predestined to be so by holy edict! Expect no peace at any time until you surrender your inward kingdom to the "beauty of holiness", that is, to prayerfulness!

A prayerful soul builds great high altars within and there the Risen One officiates. A prayerful soul is flooded with blissful light emanating from a billion windows upon God's heaven. A prayerful soul is, with St. Paul, "determined to know nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified". A prayerful soul realizes little by little its eternity; it is large with a celestial largeness, compassionate with a Christly compassion. Whole mountain ranges, whirling galaxies of joy, angelic choirs all inhabit the prayerful soul of the redeemed.

A prayerful soul is ever prayerful (a reverent frame of mind and heart prevails) but when it prays on purpose, it prays whereof it knows. It is therefore in this life and the next the pupil learning, rehearsing, and then, under the Master's tutelage taking the wonderfully occasional adventures of believing, heaven-sanctioned, inspired prayer. We pray always, yes. But then there are times when the whole of our cathedral becomes one with His Great Prayer at the right hand of the Father's glory. In this present Sodom it may well be that the prayerful souls are the ten righteous for whose sake God is sparing catastrophic judgment.

The prayerful life makes all of life into Christ's sacrament. We learn to see, to hear, to understand differently by it. Because inside us He makes everything meaningful; outwardly everything and everyone gains His hidden sacramental meanings. Life itself becomes a curtain behind which heaven and hell are hidden. The prayerful life keeps us "beamed into" the heavenward part of us.

Finally, of my poem concerning the mind becoming as cupid to our Christ-bought souls keep in mind that ours is an inward marriage as Christians. The mind is given the soul. Aside from the inward impulses of the Holy Spirit to the soul and the unconscious language of that same soul such as dreams, exalted moods, numinous reverence, ecstatic utterances) it is through the mind and by the mind that she is sent the gifts of Holy Scripture and kindly, compassionate, tender words. The mind is set to look for his soul's best interest therefore St. Paul's words are always germane: "Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" ( Philippians 2:5) The ancient proverb is ever true: "As a man thinketh, so is he."

that cupid-like, my mind shall love thee Cupid . . . dear soul, for Christ hath died for thee.

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