3.20 Why is a church the house of God?
Jesus often visited the temple in Jerusalem, which he called the house of God his Father already at the age of twelve Lk. 2:49: He said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”. A church is meant to be a place of prayer, both alone and with others. In a Catholic church, Jesus is present in a special way, namely with his own body in the tabernacle.
Of course you can pray outside a church, but a church building can give you additional support in your relationship with God. This is why a church is consecrated by a bishop when it is first used, to be a place of encounter between God and his people.
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The Wisdom of the Church
Does the Church need places in order to celebrate the liturgy?
The worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any place because Christ is the true temple of God. Through him Christians and the whole Church become temples of the living God by the action of the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, the people of God in their earthly condition need places in which the community can gather to celebrate the liturgy. [CCCC 244]
What are sacred buildings?
They are the houses of God, a symbol of the Church that lives in that place as well as of the heavenly Jerusalem. Above all they are places of prayer in which the Church celebrates the Eucharist and worships Christ who is truly present in the tabernacle. [CCCC 245]
What is a Christian house of prayer?
A Christian house of prayer is both a sign of the ecclesial communion of people at a specific place and also a symbol of the heavenly dwellings that God has prepared for us all. In God’s house we gather together to pray in common or alone and to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
“It smells like heaven here.” “Here you can be very quiet and reverent.” Many churches surround us perceptibly in a thick atmosphere of prayer. We sense that God is present here. The beauty of church buildings directs our attention to the beauty, greatness, and love of God. Churches are not just stone messengers of the faith, but dwelling places of God, who is really and truly and substantially present in the sacrament of the altar. [Youcat 190]
This is what the Popes say
Beneath the vaults of this historic Cathedral, which witnesses to the ceaseless dialogue that God wishes to establish with all men and women... the words of the Psalmist describe the emotion filling our souls with an exactness we could hardly have dared to imagine: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps 121:1)... We truly rejoice to enter the house of the Lord, since, as the Fathers of the Church have taught us, this house is nothing other than a concrete symbol of Jerusalem on high, which comes down to us (cf. Rev 21:2) to offer us the most beautiful of dwelling-places. “If we dwell therein”, writes Saint Hilary of Poitiers, “we are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, for it is the house of God”. [Pope Benedict XVI, Homily in Notre Dame Paris, 12 Sept. 2008]