St Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 –
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
The foundation of any parish community is laid down by the Apostles: the foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord. We the parish members build upon that foundation. The foundation is solid, a rock that can weather any storm. “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
Time will test what we have built, what our parish community is – whether what we built is gold or straw as St Paul mentioned. The testing will come and purify the gold or burn the straw, but we will be saved. What we built is you, the Body of Christ, our parish community. We build up one another. You are God’s holy temple, it is not the edifice, but the people that we have been building into a living temple. “Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4). God’s Spirit dwells in you, in us, and it is one another that we are to love, not church buildings as beautiful as they may be. The building is a tool for the upbuilding, the edification of us, God’s people.
St Irenaeus said, “Where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” We build the parish community around Christ, to be the Church, to be the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit.
At every Liturgy, the priest says: “Christ is in our midst.” Christ is here in the midst of the parishioners gathered together at the Liturgy. We gather around Him, we are built up into the Church, we are edified by Christ. We become His Body in the world doing His ministry for the world.
Jesus said, “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my Name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Christ is in our midst, and we are in Him. We have become His Body. It is not simply or only the consecrated bread which becomes the Body of Christ, we the members of the Church also become His Body and we pray for that at every Liturgy. We pray that the Holy Spirit will first come upon us the parish members and then upon the offered bread so that both will be the Body of Christ.
The foundation of the parish is Jesus Christ. We are to build upon that foundation.
St Paul never envisions the Church as a building nor as the clergy. He always speaks in the plural: “You (all) are the Body of Christ.”