Christian contemplation - Part II: Know Thyself

We are the temple of God

Mother Agnès Mariam: “Let’s’ enter the second section, “know yourself.”   Contemplation is based on knowing who we are, because we have to enter inside ourselves to meet our Lord.  So who are we?  Saint Paul, when speaking of the “whole” person, says that we have three parts: a body, a soul, and a spirit, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved.” (1 Th 5:23). For Paul and the church Fathers, there was a tripartite division of the human.  Early Christian tradition proposes that the three parts of the human being correspond to the three parts of the temple, and there is biblical evidence for this, “you are a temple of God where his Spirit dwells” (1 Cor 3:16).  

There were three parts to the temple in Jerusalem.  In the old temple you had the olam, this is the open area where everyone could come—it corresponds to the human body.  Then you had the heykal, or “The Holies”, where only the Levite priests, or the sons of Aaron, could enter—it corresponds to the human soul.  And finally there was the debik, or “Holy of Holies”, where the high priest could enter once a year on the day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  The debik corresponds to the spirit.


The pneuma, or spirit, is the place in us that enters in God.  The point of contact with God is internal not external.  Thus the Lord says, “Behold! The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21).  Our spirit connects to God.                                        

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